We have a huge garden and I'm wondering what to do with some of the produce that we have an abundance of to preserve it for the late fall and winter. I don't want to can; I've never done it and I don't want the added expense of starting it right now. Has anyone ever frozen tomatoes, cucumbers, or zucchini? Any suggestions on how to prepare them before freezing would help.
Tomatoes can be frozen as is. They will be a little watery when you defrost them, but if you have bushels to deal with I think it is worth the convenience. And the skins will slip off when they defrost. Cucumbers and zucchini will be a mushy mess if you freeze as is (yuck!) without being combined with something else. Like made in to a zucchini bread or the like.
Suggestion, experiment with making salsa or spaghetti sauce or other tomato based items in the freezer and put the zucchini (finely chopped) into it and see if you like the flavor and the texture when it comes out of being frozen. Just make a small batch and see how you and your family react to it. Everyone's taste is different.
Not sure about the cucumber as an addition to salsa, but you might like it. Just make the salsa as dry (strain the extra juice out with a colander or strainer) as possible or when you thaw it out it will be very loose and watery, but, hey, maybe you like it that way? Experiment.
Consult a good cookbook like "Putting Food By" or the "Joy of Cooking" or as your country extension agent for advise on freezing garden produce. They know a lot and your tax dollars pay their salaries, use them as a resource. Warmest Wishes.
As above tomatoes can be put in the freezer in many ways. I know of no ways to put cuke in unless some type of cold processed pickles (only for certain types of cukes). Have you thought of making pickles?
Zucchini can be sliced, breaded, and frozen in a single layer (ie: on a cookie sheet) and later placed in a freezer bag, for frying at a later date (this is also how you would do okra); shredded, drained, and placed in a freezer bag and frozen, for bread, etc.; or chunked (size depending on use in recipe) and placed in freezer bags and frozen.
I like to make Italian zucchini-tomatoes, celery, onion, green pepper, and zucchini with spices, and a little sugar and freeze it that way also. (07/31/2004)
I grate my zucchini and put in containers for freezer bags after draining the liquid well. This way when I want to make zucchini bread or zucchini cake it's done. I also freeze my tomatoes whole or chop for sauces and soup base. There is a great freezer recipe for freezer cucumbers and it tastes great. (08/01/2004)
I have frozen tomatoes before, and it was very successful. I core them, and place them in a freezer bag or container. I don't wash them, because that would make them get soggy. I have frozen zucchini, but not very successfully, but I suppose it could be done if you were to salt them and allow them to sit after being salted. That would draw the water out. The same thing might work for cucumbers.
I have also frozen things like green beans and snow peas, with no problem. I just pull the strings off of the snow peas, and pull snip a tiny bit of the ends of beans off. I have roasted peppers (red peppers,) and put them in a jar with olive oil, but they do not last very long.
Canning is a great thing to learn. I would love to learn. But canning tomatoes is a tricky proposition. Tomatoes carry botulism and so you run the risk of getting horribly sick unless you follow the protocol to the letter. If you have a large garden, with a huge quantity of produce, canning and freezing could save you a substantial amount of money come winter.
Another thing I have done with tomatoes is to dry them. I did it in the oven, and sprinkled them with a fair amount of salt so that the salt would draw the water out. I left them in the oven at a very low temperature for the better part of the day. When I took them out of the oven, they were just like sun dried tomatoes, and could be reconstituted by immersing them in water. I used them in several recipes, and they were really good. If you have spices, you can dry those as well. Simply cut the herbs and tie a string at the bottom end of the bunch and hang them upside down to dry. I have also done this with hot peppers. I turn them into ristras or a hanging chain of hot peppers. It makes a great gift.
You can stock up on canning supplies at yard sales and flea markets also. As far as the botulism in canned tomatoes goes, when I started canning many years ago, I took a course offered by our farm extension service. They told us to add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (no sugar) to each quart before processing as a preventative. You do not taste it and I never had a problem and felt secure with the process. Like you, I was new to canning and a little leary from all the stories. It is really a simple process, but makes one appreciate the 28oz. cans of tomatoes when they go on sale 3/$1.
Yes, we do the tomatoes in the freezer, we just put them "as is" in bags and bring em out all winter long for making spaghetti sauce, chilis, I even throw them in my meatloaves. Best way is to put em in the nuker and thaw them, then just mash em, skins and all (cuz that's where the vitamins are hiding). Then throw them in while you are cooking, or in the meatloaf fold into ground meat and bake. We have 2 freezers now, one for veggies and one for meats and home cooked TV dinners.
Our veggie freezer is full already (08/05) and its overflowing into the other one. Yes, we freeze our string beans (so EZ I wouldn't think not to). Just leave ends on, wash to clean, air dry on towels and put em in Ziplock bags. Peas we blanch for 3 minutes and throw onto cookie sheets let freeze then break up and into Ziplocks.
We also make "meatless" spaghetti sauce in our preserving jars and yes we make sure to watch for botulism by keeping them in a "cool dark place", because yes tomatoes are dangerous. Canning beans is even more so because they won't "tell" like tomatoes do.
I have raised zuchinni and crooknecks across the front of my yard by the street for years. The dozen plants in the 65 foot strip yield about 400#. We let them get big, we haven't found that small ones are one bit better, just more work. Grated in the processor and frozen just defrost, use one egg per cup, a little chives are nice, season to taste and cook with a bit of olive oil like a hash-brown pattie. Pureed, we put about four cups (quart bag) in two Walmart 97 cent cake mixes, your choice spice cake and cinnamon swirl make a good combination. Why fool with the mess, just leave out the water maybe, add 1/2 tsb. baking powder if you want more rise. Offer a child a zucchini, that will be a no. A muffin on the other hand and you have them eating something very healthy and they don't know it.
By Farmer John
Gardening is the way to go with today's food prices skyrocketing. I suggest you find a good book on processing garden vegetables, such as "Stocking Up" by Rodale Press. My husband and I have been using this book since the 70's, and I hear there is a new version of it out now. It has absolutely everything in it you want to know about freezing, canning, or processing any garden foods, and then some. I look stuff up in it all the time during the year.
By the way, tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to can or freeze, and the acidity in them is a natural preservative. Botulism is more common in dishes with meat in or from using veggies that were going bad already. You need to can or freeze only perfect veggies to insure a quality product.
I chop big tomatoes and halve small ones sprinkle with Italian herbs and a splash olive oil, slow low roast about 2 hours, stir once, blend and freeze. I use this all winter in soups and sauces, very concentrated flavour. You can add eggplant and capsicum if you want to. They all roast well and the caramelized flavour and hardly any juice are very good. I've done it for years.
By Jane S. Western Australia
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