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Storing your excess vegetable harvest without canning
Basil , tarragon, oregano, and similar herbs are easy to store. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can collect fresh rosemary and sometimes oregano year round. The annuals, though, need to be prepared in order to have fresh tasting pestos in the middle of winter.
You can freeze the whole leaves of most herbs. Or you can hang them in a cool basement to let them dry, then store in jars. But the tastiest way is to use a food processor to prepare a fine mince. Put the chopped herb in a freezer container, then add olive oil, pressing down the mixture to eliminate air pockets. Freeze, then add a thin layer of oilive oil on top to cover any exposed leaes and prefent freezer burn. Now when you need fresh basil, you can just use an ice cream scoop to remove the exact amount you need. This is a much better way than preparing and freezing a complete pesto, since the cheese and ground nuts don’t do as well in the freezer
If you have enough room in your freezer, the absolute easiest method is to put the tomatoes in a bag, vacuum seal them and toss in the freezer. Zip type freezer bags will work, but a vacuum seal system will elt you keep those red globes for up to a year.
When ready to use, just defrost in a microwave, or the old fashioned way. When defrosted, the skins peel off easily, leaving you with fresh ‘stewed’ tomatoes that can be used for salsa, gazpacho or any cooked dish.
If you don’t have a lot of room, you can use a food processor first, and then freeze the puree and freeze.
Another variation is to grill the tomatoes, then freeze them.
Chard & other Greens
Greens are packed with fiber, vitamins such as A, .B1, . C, . E, and. K, and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, plus important antioxidants such as lutein. If you freeze immediately, the enzymes within the plant will continue to work, resulting in over-ripened food. Avoid this by blanching – the quick cooking destroys the protein–chained enzymes while preserving most of the hardier chemical compounds that are vitamins.
I process mostly chard, since our spinach bolts quickly here in the Pacific Northwest. Pick fresh, crisp leaves, wash and drain them. Cut out the larger ribs if you wish. You can prepare them separately, use them for stock or discard.
Using about 1 gallon of salted water to 1 pound of chard, bring the water to a boil in a large pasta pot or other large cooking vessel. Drop in the chard, return to a boil and cook [blanch] for about 2’ minutes until the veggies turn bright green.
Meanwhile have a large container of ice water prepared. Place a strainer or collander in the sink and pour out the blanched greens, being careful not to get scalded by the steam. Immediately douse the cooked greens in the ice water, adding more ice if needed. Let them sit for another 2’, then drain and press dry or use a salad spinner.
You can freeze as is, or chop or slice. I usually place them in individual sized portions of about 1 cup. Then use the vacuum sealer and store in the freezer. Great for gratins, spanakopeta or palak paneer.
Three choices here – you can hang the peppers, using a sewing needle to string them together into ristras, then just let them dry. Great for soups and stews.
You can cut the peppers in half, remove seeds and vein, then freeze on a cookie sheet. Afterwards store in vacuum packed bag. When you need a few, just open the bag and takee out what you need, then reseal the bag. They'll easily keep until your next year's peppers are ready..
My favorite way is to first grill them - I just grill more than we need for our dinner when I’m doing other grilling, then vacuum seal and freeze the leftovers.
Even those larger zucchini and yellow squash can be saved for winter – cut into thick slices of about 1”. Put them in a large plastic bag and toss with 1 T of olive oil to coat. Then grill til down. They’re excellent right off the grill, but also can be vacuum sealed and frozen
The squash puree makes an excellent base for winter soups and stews.
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