1.) Freeze - Yes, even the produce you thought impossible.
- Garlic Who knew? But garlic is very versatile when it comes to freezing. You can freeze raw. And you can freeze whole, unpeeled bulbs, individuals cloves (peeled or unpeeled), or chopped garlic. I prefer to just freeze whole as I believe it does loose more flavor when chopped up first. When defrosted you can dice, mince, or slice super thin for fresh garlic out of season. I have noticed that garlic flavor permeates my entire freezer if I don't either triple freezer bag it or store it in an airtight container.
- Zucchini - Summer squash gets a bad rap when it comes to freezing. Too much water content means too mushy to freeze. But I've discovered that if you shred them using a cheese grater they freeze pretty well. Take your shreds and drain excess water using a colander. Then gently squeeze out any extra water using a paper towel or even your bare hands. Try freezing in smaller, 1 quart freezer bags. The smaller size allows you to freeze just one or two cups in each bag. Make sure you use a Sharpie marker to label your bags with the exact amount put in so when used for pancakes, fritters, zucchini muffins, or bread; you know exactly how much to add.
- One last tip? When you defrost, drain the water again in a colander. Squeeze dry those shreds using a paper towel in the sink. This will decrease the water content making them easier to work with.
- Celery - Celery is heavily sprayed and therefore loaded in pesticide and other harmful chemicals. And if you've a celery fan like I am and put it in all of your soups and stews, organic can get pricey. Non-organic costs about $2.79 a bunch and organic is over $4 even in-season. Sometimes you can buy on super sale for a $1 each, but those are chemically-laden. Bleh. It might surprise you how easily it freezes. I like to chop mine up so it's ready to plop in my chili or chicken soup. And the ease factor can't be beat. I do about 5-6 gallon freezer bags each time. Then I just sever the frozen chunks of what I need off from the bag and dump them into the simmering pot. The rest goes right back to the freezer for next time. Each 1 gallon bag lasts for about 4 or 5 soup uses. It doesn't get any easier than this!
- Tomatoes - My MIL freezes her tomatoes whole with much success in freezer bags. I've sliced them up and lightly sauteed them with garlic, onion and fresh herbs including basil and oregano. Then I freeze that mixture in Ziploc bags for a tasty topping out of season. When re-heating on the stove, I'm sure to add a few fresh herbs again. Keep in mind that frozen tomatoes work best in soups, stews and sauces from their frozen state. It's the easiest way to save your harvest. In fact, their bright flavor might even be better in the dead of winter when needed. Just don't expect to freeze a July tomato and have it still taste exactly like a July tomato in your salad in January, it won't.
- Onions and peppers - When you think about it, you can buy frozen onions in bags at the grocery store. Sometimes you buy solo, sometimes they are combined with peppers. Neither are tasty in your omelettes or soups because they have zero flavor. Why not chop and freeze your own for later use? Dice, mince, slice, whatever your size preference is and freeze in small bags. I'd still freeze separately to give you flexibility of use.
- Carrots - One year I had a humongous carrot crop. Too many carrots to use right away and I couldn't give them away. So I chopped them up and froze in bags. The result? Every time I went to make a soup or stew that required carrot, I just pulled the bag from the freezer and dumped in. It was thrilling. Making chicken noodle soup...the celery, onion and carrot was ready-to-go in my freezer and I could pull the three bags out in a minute. Instead of taking an hour, I could assemble a big pot of soup in just 10 minutes, no immediate chopping required. This is really special when you have a head cold, want homemade soup now and don't have the energy to do all that chopping!
2.) Make baby food
Take your steamed excess green beans, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and even cucumbers and peppers and puree them for baby. You can use sterilized old baby food plastic containers with lids or just buy new ones in the smallest size possible. They're cheap. After you make your puree, freeze for future use. They will be received with great joy! Trust me. Create new flavor combinations minus the additives and sugars the store-bought variety always has.
3.) Dry those herbs
4.) Make use of those U-Pick Farms and buy cheap produce to freeze
5.) Save the seeds, spuds, cloves for next year!
Bonus spin - Dessert Pies!
With two plentiful apple trees and two pears trees on our property it's a nice way to use a few apples as "they go downhill." And I was shocked at how cheap and easy it is to make your own pie crusts. Ridiculous that I was buying the very inferior store-bought kinds. I'll share my crust recipe come fall!