The sun-drenched colors, the succulent flavors; summer vegetables make me want to dance! In my opinion, a person can’t have too much of a good thing when it comes to summer season vegetables. But, often in the warmer months, even though I don’t have my very own garden, the produce bin in the fridge runneth over. When I see a sale on corn for under a quarter a cob, I can’t pass it up. When my parents bring me surplus zucchini from their urban community garden, I welcome the windfall. I can’t pass up a farmer’s market or roadside stand without pulling over to check out the local selections. You get the idea and it’s inspired a ton of great recipes, like my Green Chile & Pork Stuffed Zucchini.
This week, I had more veggies on hand than my family could scarf down in a week. So, rather than sit there and watch them wrinkle and rot, I decided to take a few extra minutes and prep the abundance for the freezer. Not trying to go all Little-House-On-The-Prairie on you but “putting up your vegetables” for the winter, or whatever time of year, is a great way to reduce needless waste (did you know 40% of America’s food goes uneaten?) and enjoy the fresh flavors of the season later.
Getting your veggies ready for the freezer is easy; the main point to remember is that most vegetables (except for herbs, green peppers and, in my opinion grape tomatoes) will need blanching. Blanching is just another term for par-cooking vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time. The process of blanching stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color, texture and vitamins. The type of vegetable and how big of chunks it is cut up into (if at all) dictates the amount of time to blanch. The University of Colorado Extension Services has some good tips on how to prepare, blanch and pack your veggies for the freezer.
How to Prepare a Jumble of Fresh Corn, Zucchini and Grape Tomatoes for the Freezer
- Husk and remove silk from corn.
- Rinse grape tomatoes and set aside. I skip blanching and put my grape tomatoes straight in freezer.
- Slice zucchini into 1/2 inch slices; cut slices into quarters.
- Boil large pot of water.
- Add corn and blanch (boil) for 5 minutes.
- After 1 minute, add zucchini and blanch for 4 minutes along with corn.
- While veggies are blanching, prepare a big bowl of ice water.
- Remove zucchini and corn with tongs or a slotted spoon and place in ice bath to stop cooking process.
- After a few minutes, remove veggies to clean towel to drain excess water.
- Use sharp knife to remove corn kernels from cob.
- Lay veggies (including tomatoes) in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet.
- Freeze vegetables for several hours, until hardened.
- Repackage vegetable mix into zip-top bags, leaving a little bit of room at the top for expansion.
Even though it might seem easy to dump blanched vegetables into a container for freezing, they’ll all end up hardened together into one big lump. That’s why tray freezing is so cool (pardon the pun) and totally worth the extra step involved. Whether you want a small portion or a large portion, you can scoop out exactly what you desire if you’ve tray frozen your vegetables before pouring into a freezer bag. Vegetables blanched and then frozen in this manner will have a life of at least 12 months in a freezer set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wondering how to cook this mix of tomatoes, corn and zucchini? Just thaw out a portion from your freezer stash and toss into a skillet that has been heated with oil good for sautéing. I like grape seed oil. Cook on the stove top for just a few minutes until heated through, but not overcooked and soggy. For flavor, toss in some garlic, chopped herbs and a dash of soy sauce. The mix also works great in other recipes and could easily be incorporated into my Crustless Calabacita Quiche!