You can learn a lot about a person by their… freezer. Yes, take a look in anyone’s freezer and you might find three types of people. The person who…
- Has a few freezer-burned bagels, a bag of peas (used as an ice pack) and something they’re not really sure about from the holidays two years ago
- Is using it as an extension for their bar (I know where you can find an unopened bottle of limoncello)
- Has meticulously packaged and labeled meals they have lovingly and thoughtfully prepared so they can enjoy seasonal produce even in the dead of the winter
I have to admit, I’ve always been somewhere between 1-2. But there’s nothing I miss more come January and February than some bright summer vegetables. And while the Calendar may say fall, you can still find these favorites such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and zucchini for the next few weeks at the farm.
If your goal, too, is to transfer over to “Persona 3” territory, throw out the old and make room for some new. I spoke with Alison J. Bermack of Cooking With Friends in Essex County, New Jersey. When she told me she lead a party teaching 17 women how to make and freeze farm fresh family meals a few months ago, I thought she might have some good tips for The Grazette readers. Here’s what I’ve learned:
You Can Freeze Just About Any Produce…
If you blanch it first. Blanching stops the enzymes that keep vegetables ripening, helps get rid of dirt and bacteria, brightens color, slows vitamin and mineral loss, and wilts and softens the vegetables so they are easier to pack. So cook it quickly, cool it quickly and get it in the freezer, ASAP!
Create for Fillings, Full Casserole Meals or Soups
Alison has some great recipes on her website that may do well with freezing, so be sure to check that out. I for one am dying to try her creamy corn empanadas. And if a food prep party sounds like something you’d enjoy doing with a handful of your closest friends, she’s your woman!
After you blanch & cool your produce, you can stop right there and be done with it. BUT Alison had some really great ideas that will make getting dinner on the table easy. Think of your ingredients in terms of fillings for empanadas, dumplings, ravioli, enchiladas, etc. and you have 75% of the meal pretty much done for you. Or actually freeze whole casserole meals like vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmesan, chicken pot pie, chili… just do a Google/Pinterest search for freezer meals and you’ll probably end up with 50 or so ideas. Just sub in the fresh ingredients when the recipe calls for bagged frozen produce and you’ll be golden.
Be Strategic in Your Planning
This is the most important, because I’m sure its not the first time you’ve read something about preserving. I know I’ve thought about it many times, but this time I’ve already set aside a day next weekend where I am going to (1) Make a list of the meals and dinner ingredients I want to fill my freezer with (2) Go out & stock up on my favorite produce and containers to keep everything in and (3) spend the entire day making a mess in the kitchen. Commit a day to the process and you will save yourself much time and frustration when winter rolls around.
Alison may have a few spare freezers to keep her frozen bounty in, but most people just have one or two. So this is why being strategic is so important! Now is the time to preserve the things you will miss most and the seasonal meals you cook most often – not the time to try new and adventurous recipes. Here’s what I will be freezing:
- Slow herb-roasted tomatoes and peppers
- Blanched corn kernels for purees
- Breaded & baked eggplant
- Shredded zucchini and blanched zucchini cubes
- Small hot peppers (whole – no need to blanch)
And then I will do another round of prep with fall’s produce: blanched broccoli, cauliflower, chopped spinach & kale, and Brussels sprouts (these I am most weary about being good to roast after frozen, but we shall see!)