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Preserving Vegetables: No Canning Required

September 20, 2013 | By | 3 Replies More

preserving vegetables

Pantry riches

Are you just so over everyone talking about canning, attending canning classes, and bragging about their latest pantry addition? Well, not me! Three years ago, I discovered the joys of canning thanks to a wonderful book, Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krisoff, which features updated recipes and small batches.

I quickly tore through the book, starting with basic canned tomatoes and graduating to preserved sour cherries (unbelievable spooned over vanilla ice cream), ginger-honey apricots, cardamom plum jam, tomato basil jam with sherry vinegar, and strawberry lavender jam. It started to pile up quickly – four jars of this, five pints of that, over and over again and well, you get the idea.

The result of canning, a pantry stocked with all sorts of goodies fresh enough to enjoy anytime, appeals to a primitive part of me that likes to hoard food. Like a squirrel putting away acorns for the winter, every jar I put up represents food security and independence from low quality produce shipped to my grocer from thousands of miles away in the dead of winter. If you haven’t discovered this feeling, at least you won’t get addicted. Someone said exactly that to me once when I admitted not knowing how to play Candy Crush Saga.

preserving vegetables

The Big Chill fridge is a cool part of the Tomato Envy kitchen

This summer, I missed the canning boat because we were living like transients during our home renovation and were mostly without a functional kitchen during the peak summer months. Now, tomatoes at the local markets aren’t as bountiful and my favorite jam fruits are all gone. And, not everyone enjoys spending hours over a hot stove canning. That doesn’t mean you can’t get into preserving vegetables for winter eating – no canning required.

Buying vegetables while they’re in season means you’re getting the best quality at the best price.

preserving vegetables

My canning pot is perfect for blanching corn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend, in between painting every surface in our new home with Mr. President, I froze batches of roasted tomatoes, beans, and sweet corn (to learn how to freeze corn, read this). I’d tell him that I was going to the basement to clean up my brushes and buckets and instead, I’d freeze a couple quarts of vegetables! The keys to successful freezing are:

1. Blanching the vegetables first – Many vegetables contain enzymes that over time will destroy the texture and flavor of frozen foods. Blanching involves cooking your vegetables first in boiling water for a few minutes and then plunging them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking immediately. Remember, you’re not really trying to thoroughly cook your vegetables, you just need to kill those enzymes.

2. Removing as much air as possible from your freezer bags – I have a Food Saver, which sadly has already decided to stop working. Before I had that, I used Ziploc freezer bags. With regular freezer bags, you can add your food, seal the bag nearly all the way and then insert a straw and suck out as much air as you possibly can before sealing all the way up. If you live with a man with a sophomoric sense of humor, he will get a big kick out of watching you do this!

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

preserving vegetables

Roasted cherry tomatoes

These are just about the easiest thing in the world, and what my husband would call “a good value” because they taste amazing with very little effort. You can get them going, pop ’em in the oven and go find something else to do.

Toss assorted cherry tomatoes with a little olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. I bake mine at 275 degrees for about 4-5 hours. Roasting tomatoes “low and slow” brings out their sweetness and they will begin to caramelize. If, after letting them cool, you can resist eating nearly all of them, you can freeze them.

For the very best results, place the baking sheets right into the freezer for a couple of hours before removing the tomatoes to the freezer bags so the tomatoes won’t just end up as one big mass. I usually skip this step because I don’t mind if they’re all frozen together. Once thawed, they’re perfect for topping a mid-winter pizza, pureeing into a sauce for pasta, adding to a frittata, or topping bruschetta.

When blanching anything, use the same amount of time for the cold plunge as for the boiling.

Frozen Beans

preserving vegetables

You’ll never settle for supermarket beans again!

 

 

 

I can crank out a few bags of these early in the morning, before work. For greater efficiency when trimming, line up several beans with the stem ends all together and chop those ends off all at once.

 

Set a big pot of water to boil over medium high heat. Trim the tough stem ends from your beans and prepare a large bowl of ice water, setting it near your pot of boiling water. When water is at a rolling boil, add a big batch of your trimmed beans and, stirring several times, boil for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beans from the boiling water and plunge them into the ice water, pushing down to submerge. Leave them in the ice water for 3 minutes. Pack the beans horizontally in the freezer bags, remove as much air as possible. label and freeze.

preserving vegetables

Neatly packed beans for the freezer

For fresh eating and sauteeing, I prefer the texture of just-picked beans. But, I love to make soups in the winter and frozen beans are a perfect addition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Category: Food, General, Tips & Tricks

Comments (3)

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  1. Petra says:

    Hi Brande! Was on your great site again. I couldn’t do much canning this year either…we are moving from NJ to VT going back and forth a lot and not enough time to take care of our garden. The few tomatoes I did plant were enjoyed be the deer I suspect.
    Anyway – I wanted to share one thing with you: when you freeze things in bags a great way to get almost all the air out…
    – fill and close the bag almost all the way
    – insert a straw (drinking straw or whatever it’s called correctly)
    – suck the air out
    – and this is the tricky part: once all the air is out remove the straw and simultaneously seal the bag all the way (after a couple of trials you’ll get really good at it!

    Enjoy your canning and freezing! Happy squirreling!

    • Brande says:

      Good to hear from you, Petra! Yep, I do the thing with the straw – it’s the only way to get the air out! I hope you get settled again soon. This year has been like that for me too, and it’s really hard.

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