Friday, September 5, 2008

Freezing Fall Fruits and Vegetables To Save Money and Be Frugal

Shortly after the beginning of last month I made a goal not to do any more grocery shopping until the cupboards were bare. Well, I am proud to announce I achieved that goal, though not without some assistance from friends who gave me leftover goodies from parties, boxes of fresh figs and a whole grocery bag of delicacies.* I tell you, I have the best friends in the world!

Anyway, I completed the cupboard cleaning by taking pretty much anything that was left and packing it up with me went I went up north over the holiday weekend. (I should have taken a photo of the refrigerator - it was M-T!) I even thawed out and prepared the last of my frozen meats so even the freezer was bare. It was a pretty nice feeling actually.

This month I had to do some quick emergency shopping for some non-food items - toilet paper, aluminum foil, allergy meds and so on, but I am starting to think a lot about fall grocery shopping. I am a big supporter of local farmer's markets. I also feel strongly about eating seasonally and making the most out of each season's harvest. But winter is coming on here shortly and there aren't a lot in the way of veggies during Michigan winters. Last winter I subsided primarily on the many varieties of canned and dried beans, but this year I am looking to do something a bit different. I am going to purchase certain fall fruits and vegetables and attempt to store them so I can use them through the winter.

A couple of years ago I did this with corn. At the time I was making several recipes that called for frozen corn - soups and that sort of thing. I decided it was foolish to buy frozen corn when I had amazing sweet corn at my fingertips. That year I blanched several ears of corn, cut the kernels off the ears, then laid them out on a cookie sheet in the freezer. When frozen I stored them in a plastic freezer bag. This meant I could easily open the bag and take out what I needed and re close it again and pop it back in the freezer. Tuesday, on the way back from the cabin, I stopped by a roadside stand and picked up sweetcorn - 13 ears for $2.00. How can you beat that?

Items that I plan to store: strawberries, melons, carrots, corn, cabbage, potatoes and onions.

Strawberries and Melons - I've frozen strawberries before but not melons. It should be interesting to see how they do. My plan is to not to try and thaw them, but instead use them frozen for occasional smoothies. With strawberries you can just wash, de-stem and dry them, then freeze. Again, I have read that freezing them on cookie sheet in a single layer first then adding them to freezer bags makes it easier to remove just the quantity you need - they aren't frozen together in a giant strawberry snowball. The melon is a new one for me. I read on this website that you can freeze them in a simple sugar syrup. I am willing to give it a try, but I probably won't do more than one or two melons.

Carrots - For carrots you simply need to cut the tops off them and store them in the back (the coldest) part of your refrigerator. Do not wash! (Washing shortens the life span.) They will store for months and apparently organic carrots even get sweeter. Beets can be stored the same way, which is very tempting to me - I love beets!

Corn - I've already given you my recipe for frozen corn - blanch the ears for 3 minutes or so in boiling water. Remove and cool in a large bowl of ice water. Cut the kernels from the ears (you will want a big bowl for this - it is a bit messy) and then freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen pour into a freezer bag.

I've also read that you can do whole ears this way - blanch first and then chill. Wrap each ear individually in plenty of plastic wrap, then pack into a freezer bag. It seems like it would work, but for my purposes (soups and so forth) I would rather have them already off the ear.

Cabbage - I love cabbage. I think it is because I never had to eat it as a kid! Cabbage can stored in the back of the fridge for up to 3 months in a plastic bag. Who knew? Apparently the leaves can get a bit wilty, but those can just be removed.

Potatoes - I try not to eat a lot of potatoes anymore. They just are not the healthiest of vegetables. However, I think I might put a few away just to see how they do. I am going to store them individually on a tray in the basement. They can keep 2-3 months that way.

Onions - I use a lot of onions. I am going to try to pick up some "storage" onions and keep them for the upcoming months.

I know that all of these foods are available year round at my local grocery store, but that really isn't the point for me. I like shopping locally - I like knowing who has gown my food. I also really like the idea of picking up a few extra veggies at the market when I am there and finding out how to store them so I can enjoy them when the snow flies. Next year I would love to learn how to can! Anyone want to learn with me?

There are a quite a few resources for learning how to store food. Here are some I found helpful -

Eat 'em Up:

Farmgal - Freezing Fuits and Vegetables (There are also links to canning and dehydration on this site.)

Farmer's Almanac - Approximate Freezer Storage Life of Food (Not just fruits and veg. but also meats, dairy and breads.)

Garden Guides - Freezing Vegetables

No Dig Vegetable Garden - Freezing Vegetables (This site has a nice index of blanching times for vegetables.) - How to Store Vegetables in a Typical Suburban Home (A great guide for root vegetables especially!)

Photo by altopower

*Thanks to Maureen, Philip and Tommy


Catie said...

I am going to freeze fresh herbs. Chop 'em up, throw them in ice cube trays with water, and then throw the cubes into baggies. Perfect for soups and sauces!!

And I know how to can! Tomatoes, at least..... I'd love to do a canning session!

Dawn said...

SWEET! Tomatoes scare me the most! Let's get together and can up some 'maters Miss Catie.