It has turned to fall over night where I live. It is low 60s, windy, and rainy. SO rainy. Makes me want to cuddle up in my robe with a big glass of cabernet sauvignon. This happened a few weeks ago too. We had a strange high 60s/rainy/crappy week in August and I went all fall on everyone. AKA- I bought a pumpkin and butternut squash, roasted them up, and made soup with caramelized onions and fresh grated ginger. Matt came home with a fall variety beer pack. We drank our pumpkin beer and ate our pumpkin soup and all was good in the world. Then the next day it was 90 degrees and continued to stay in the 90s for the next week. All my pumpkin soup was the very last thing I wanted to even think about eating when it was that hot out. So, I popped it all into the freezer. Now I feel like I should get it back out. But I think tomorrow is going back up to the 80s, so I will just let it ride out the storm in the freezer until it is officially cooler for a while.
I hope you enjoyed the first part of my freezer post and found something helpful in all of my ramblings. I know most people probably don’t devote this much time and effort to their winter food prep, but even just a little here and there is still really helpful. So, for today, I am going to start with herbs and greens. There is nothing like having fresh herbs and greens in the freezer all winter long. The other plus is that they really don’t take up all that much space because you can squish them flat in freezer bags.
Greens are one of those things that are so easy to grow, and so easy to freeze. Just break off your greens and throw it in the freezer. If you are freezing something like kale with large stalks, remove the kale from the stalk prior to freezing, it will make it a lot easier. I frequently freeze kale, swiss chard, collards, french sorrel, etc. I probably have at least 10 bags of greens in the freezer right now that I grew over the summer. The best part? They are so easy to use in the winter. You can just break a chunk right off, give it a few chops, and throw it right into your dish. I don’t defrost the greens, just use them straight from the freezer. I add greens to spaghetti, lasagna, rice & quinoa dishes, etc. etc. all winter and you get that health boost for the months when you need it the most. A tip for what to freeze, you can only freeze sturdy greens, you can’t freeze romaine or other lettuces, they will just turn to mush when you go to use them. Sturdier greens keep their integrity when you use them.
I freeze herbs in sandwich baggies in short stems. A lot of herbs, like thyme and rosemary, are often used by throwing the whole stem into the dish and then pulling it out later, so I like to keep them on. It is also easy to tear the leaves from the stem if you need to at any point also. For basil and oregano, I try to rip the leaves off of the stem, since you almost always just use the leaves. The only herb I haven’t had any luck freezing is cilantro. Which is a real shame, considering how much I love cilantro. And this cilantro dip. For whatever reason though, cilantro just seems to turn straight to mush in the freezer.
So what else do I freeze? Berries and fruit! These take up quite a large portion of my freezer. I love making smoothies all year long, so I freeze lots of local berries that I go out and pick from local farmers. Another great thing to do is to see if any farmers markets around you sell “seconds fruit” or “reduced fruit” aka-fruit that has a little imperfection here or there but is otherwise perfectly good. Like these peaches in the picture below. I got this whole 8 qt basket of local, delicious peaches & nectarines for 5 dollars because they have 1 soft spot here or there. People aren’t going to pay top dollar for this “imperfect” fruit, so it is sold at a discount as not to waste it. Let me tell you, this is the way to go if you are buying fruit to freeze. You can save a ton of money and just cut around the bad parts, you don’t really lose much quantity of fruit at all.
As far as what fruits I have tried freezing so far? Right now, I have raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, cantaloupe, and bananas. I think that is it, lol. A fruit freezing tip for you, when you are hulling your strawberries, or slicing your peaches, or chopping your watermelon, lay them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours until the fruit is frozen, then throw it into your freezer bag. What is the point? If you do this extra step, you will have individually frozen pieces of fruit in baggies. Which, if you are making smoothies, makes it super convenient to just get a handful of strawberries out at a time. If you don’t do this, you will have a whole gallon freezer bag mass of strawberries that you try to chip away at with a knife when you want just a few berries. I used to think it wasn’t worth it to do this extra step, but honestly, it makes it so much easier when you go to use your fruit. Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries don’t seem to have this problem. I just throw them into the bag as I pick them and they come out individually with no problem.
Another side tip, as far as smoothies go, freeze your smoothies! I have this amazing skill where I can never make the correct amount of smoothie. Aka- you would think I was making smoothies for an army when really, it is just for me. Not to worry, I throw the leftovers in mason jars. (with at least 1 inch head space to allow for the liquid to expand during freezing!) I work Sunday mornings at 7:30 AM and I almost never get up in time to cook a nice breakfast. I am normally running around with the dogs who want to play outside for hours (I get up at 6 AM with them, you would think I have enough time, lol). So I have started getting a mason jar smoothie out Saturday night, putting it in the fridge, and voila! Sunday morning breakfast is delicious and healthy!
I hope there was a little something you could take from that. Head to the farmers market and grab the last of summers goodies! Happy freezing!