Friday, September 02, 2011

Kalyn's Favorite Tips for Freezing Garden Tomatoes, Fresh Herbs, and Vegetables

Tips for Freezing Garden Tomatoes, Fresh Herbs, and Vegetables
All my best freezing tips to help you keep the garden goodness around a little longer!

If you're growing your own vegetables and herbs, you're probably starting to feel that longing to keep the garden produce around a bit longer.  My favorite way to preserve garden goodness is by freezing things like tomato sauce, fresh herbs, pesto, and other garden sauces to use during the winter.  I've written a lot of posts about freezing things from the garden, and since it's a big holiday weekend when folks have extra time I'm collecting them all here hoping folks with gardens might find them useful.  Then I'm taking the rest of the weekend off to have fun!

(By the way, I know there are other vegetables or herbs that can be frozen that I haven't tried yet, so if you're a blogger with different tips than mine about freezing garden produce,  please feel free to share share those links in the comments.) 

Let's start with How to Make and Freeze Tomato Sauce.  My method doesn't require a food mill, although you can strain the sauce if you want to.  I love to use this plain tomato sauce in soups and stews during the winter.   

If you have fresh tomatoes and basil in your garden, I recommend making Sausage and Basil Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes and freezing it in containers to eat over pasta or use to make lasagna when it gets cold outside.

If you're growing Roma tomatoes, you'll want to read How to Make Slow Roasted Tomatoes.  This is something I love to have in the freezer and your house smells amazing while you're making them.  You can also use these to make Chunky Pasta Sauce with Sausage, Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic, and Basil.  (That sauce could be frozen if it's made with freshly-roasted slow roasted tomatoes and fresh basil, although in the post linked above I made it with frozen slow roasted tomatoes and frozen basil.)

One of the most popular posts on my blog is How to Freeze Fresh Basil.  I use this chopped frozen basil that's coated with olive oil all winter long in soups, stews, and pasta sauce.  (I bought these little containers at a store that's no longer in business, but any small container with a snap-tight lid will work.)

If you have an abundance of basil you might also want to make Basil Pesto with Lemon for the freezer.  (That post also has Ten Ideas for Using Basil Pesto, so make a double batch so you can eat some right away!)

Another sauce made with fresh basil that freezes beautifully is French Pistou Sauce.  This doesn't contain nuts or cheese, and it's often used as a topping on vegetable or bean soups in France. 

If you have an abundance of fresh sage, you can make Sage-Pecan Pesto, which is nice for serving over  roasted vegetables or stuffing chicken breasts.  (Sage is a pretty strong flavor, so be sure to taste the pesto at the end and decide if you want to add more cheese.)

Something new that I made for the first time this year and loved is this Chard and Garlic Scape Pesto, shown here in mini-muffin tins ready for the freezer.  This is good on pasta, but I also like it stirred into rice or scrambled eggs.  (If you have chard but no garlic scapes, the recipe has a suggestion for making it with minced fresh garlic.)

Another popular post (despite some pretty horrible old photos) is the one on How to Freeze Fresh Herbs:  Rosemary and Thyme.  I never have to buy fresh rosemary or thyme in the winter, because I always have it in the freezer!

I also have a post about Freezing Thai Basil, Sage, Tarragon, and Mint.  (All froze very successfully, but I didn't find the frozen Thai Basil to be something I used nearly as much as the frozen sage, frozen tarragon, or frozen mint.)

If you're lucky enough to have an abundance of green, red, or yellow bell peppers in your garden, read my post about How to Roast Red Bell Peppers on a Barbecue Grill, and then chop up the roasted peppers and freeze them.  (I'm not that great at growing bell peppers, so if anyone has pepper-growing tips lay them on me in the comments, please!)

And if you're growing any kind of spicy chile pepper just follow the instructions for How to Roast Anaheim Green Chiles on a Barbecue Grill, and they can be frozen once they're roasted.  I didn't grow any hot chiles this year, but I think Poblanos are on my list for next year's garden!

My Favorite Freezing Tool:
Finally, one of my best freezing tips no matter what you're freezing is to seal the food inside a plastic bag using a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer before you put it in the freezer.  I've had a FoodSaver for more than 20 years and couldn't imagine how I would get by without it.  (Blogger Disclosure:  FoodSaver probably doesn't even know I'm alive, and the company has certainly never paid me or given me free merchandise to mention their products on my blog.  I'm now on my second FoodSaver, a standing model that holds the bags inside, and I like it even more than the original one I had for many years.)

Happy Labor Day everyone, no matter where you are . . .
That's all my freezing tips for now, so let's get this Labor Day Weekend started!  If anyone is planning to have Labor Day parties instead of freezing their garden produce, you can see my favorite summer party foods in the Recipes for Summer Holiday Parties.   Although Labor Day is the symbolic end of summer in the U.S., there are also good reasons why we celebrate it.  And if you have a good job and maybe even get Labor Day off, this might be a nice weekend to make a donation to help others who are not quite so lucky.

42 comments:

Pam said...

This has to be my favorite post of yours ever!!! I am going to harvest and freeze some herbs tomorrow! Love, love, love the header!

Kalyn said...

Thanks Pam. I think I'm making slow roasted tomatoes tomorrow!

Barbara Bakes said...

Great tips! I love that you change up your header.

Kalyn said...

Thanks Barbara! And it is only because I have a talented brother that I can change it once a month, plus Jennette who changes it for me! So thankful for them!

natalie said...

helpful post!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

So many great tips here! It's nice to have all of this info collected in one post.

Kalyn said...

Thanks Natalie and Lydia. I was hoping it would be helpful.

kelley said...

I like the idea of using the ice cube trays to individualize the portions. I do a bunch of canning but never thought to freeze marinara. Great tips.

elizabeth said...

Dear Aunt Kalyn,
Your wonderful garden posts always make me want to grow a garden.
Elizabeth

Barbara said...

Great tip on the basil Kalyn. Whenever I buy a bunch I end up throwing half of it out as it spoils before I've used it all. Will freeze in future.

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

My Garden is a bit small this year, but I will be getting a few of the cheap end of season big bags of tomatoes to make up marinara sauce. LOVE the idea of the ice cube tray pesto!

Kalyn said...

So glad people are finding this useful. And how fun to get a comment from my adorable niece Elizabeth, who I haven't seen for far too long!

Cookin' Canuck said...

Thank you so much for this awesome post, Kalyn. My extra herbs always go to waste at the end of the season. This year I'm going to do some serious freezing!

Kalyn said...

Dara, so glad it's helpful! You'll love having herbs in the winter for soups and pasta sauce, I promise!

Lauren said...

Great tips, Kalyn! Thank you for sharing this with us. My basil always ends up going to waste at the end of summer (making me very sad). And now I have a real overabundance of parsley, too. Thanks again!

Kalyn said...

Lauren, I hope you enjoy the frozen basil! I'm going to experiment with parsley pesto this weekend.

Gina @ Skinnytaste said...

Great post! I always freeze my herbs, love uing them throughout the year! ANd I dry my oregano by hanging them upsdide down until they dry. Then I crush the leaves and put them in jars.

Kalyn said...

Thanks Gina! I need to try drying oregano, because that's one herb I do use quite a lot dried.

Deborah said...

This makes me wish I had a huge freezer - and a garden this year! This is definitely a post I'm going to bookmark for future reference!

Kalyn said...

Deborah if only you lived a little closer, I would love to give you some herbs!

Joshua & Ashley said...

Thanks so much Kalyn! I love to freeze my herbs! It makes me really miss the summer in the winter!

Kalyn said...

That's just how I feel too!

SixtyIsForty said...

Arrghh! I gave away my last bag of tomatoes since I am taking off for California tomorrow for a week. I really love the idea of freezing the sauce and do not like canning. Would the sauce cook okay in a slow cooker for the 6 hours?
Great post, Kalyn.
Thanks.

Kalyn said...

Wanda you could cook the sauce partly in a slow cooker, but you might need to reduce it in a pan on the stove at the end. It's the slow reducing and cooking the water out that makes this sauce so good.

FabFrugalFood said...

You have inspired me to go out and buy a Food Saver - I bought a freezer about a year ago and still have some space - so THANK YOU for your timely post!

Donna

kellypea @sass & veracity said...

LOVED this post, Kalyn! So many good ideas to try. I actually freeze my tomatoes solid (like berries as well) then put them in freezer bags, weigh them, and have them on hand for soup, sauce, etc. later. Easy way to keep fresh things around. My goal is to have as much space as you do to grow (or get more pots!)

Kalyn said...

Donna, you will LOVE the FoodSaver! I can't say enough good things about it.

Kelly I have heard about freezing tomatoes whole but haven't tried it. I think I'll try that this year, thanks!

Jeanette said...

Love all these tips - I've never frozen roasted peppers before, but I have frozen roasted tomatoes. You are lucky to have a brother and Jennette (I like that name ;)). help you! Love the canning header.

Kalyn said...

Jeanette, I am a bit of a freezing maniac this time of year. (And yes, Rand and Jennette are the greatest!)

amandacathleen said...

I just found your blog today and am enjoying going through your posts!
This was my first year growing bell peppers and my 12 plants did really really well (well after I fenced them in, a groundhog nibbled the tops of of thankfully only 3 plants) A friend of mine gave me a tip, mix 3tbsp Epsom salts to a gallon of water, fertilize how you normally would either with miracle grow or compost (you can also make compost or manure tea). My peppers would be big enough to make stuffed peppers if only my kids liked them!

Kalyn said...

So glad you are enjoying it! Thanks for the tip about epsom salts; will definitely try that on my peppers!

ChichaJo said...

Oh my goodness Kalyn! Awesome link round up and tips!! Now, if only I had a garden to produce excess herbs and tomatoes! I am starting to cultivate some herbs in my tiny balcony...if I have a bumper crop I know where to look :)

Kalyn said...

ChicaJo, thanks. Here's wishing you a great crop of herbs!

Awesome Dawson said...

Fantastic post, Kalyn! I, too, like those small containers you showed with your basil...but use them to freeze roasted green chiles every year.

Couldn't find any at BB&B or online, but I eventually found some 4-oz ones at my local kitchen store. They were marked as baby food containers so you might keep that in mind. They're also dishwasher-microwave-freezer safe, which is an added bonus IMO.

Kalyn said...

Dawson, great idea to look at a kitchen store for those little containers. Glad you enjoyed the post.

michele said...

My mom would freeze fresh basil from the garden. It would last through the winter and we had the wonderful taste when she used it.

Kalyn said...

Michele, isn't it great. I've been doing it for years.

Joy said...

I take a look at Kalyn's Kitchen this morning and click on a link about freezing herbs and who's the first comment from? Pam. Kalyn, I love your blog and love Pam's blog (and not just because she's a good friend of mine). SOMEDAY, (hopefully next spring) I am going to grow herbs and actually DO some of the things that you ladies make look so fun and easy and beneficial. Please keep blogging!

Kalyn said...

Joy, how fun hearing from a friend of Pam's. I just adore her and love her blog. I do hope you get a chance to grow some herbs and cook with them; so fun!

Elizabeth said...

This is great, Kalyn. The only things I'd add would be

1.) to eliminate the icecube tray for pesto. We've started to simply mound big lumps of pesto into a piece of plastic wrap, tightly close it and put THAT into a ziplock bag to freeze. When we want to use it, it's really easy to unwrap the pesto lump, cut off the amount we want with a sharp knife, rewrap and put the remainder back in the freezer

2.) Freeze washed and towel-dried Roma tomatoes whole. My sister's vegetable vendor told her about this last year. She says it works brilliantly. Of course, the tomatoes can only be used for making sauce because they pretty much turn to mush when they're thawed but they are as fresh tasting as if they had just been vine picked.

Jamie said...

Good golly, is this a great post, Kalyn! I have a tiny French freezer and nowhere to store anything bigger than a small sandwich bag or tupperware but I should definitely make some of the different pestos and freeze in tiny containers! And pasta sauce! Wonderful!

Kalyn Denny said...

Jamie, absolutely. It's so wonderful to have some frozen pesto or pistou during the dead of winter!

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