The basil in my back yard is finally growing well. The plants have bushed out beautifully from pinching the plants back regularly. All of the pinching has given me plenty of fresh basil to work with. My favorite way to use it is in making pesto. Make your favorite pesto recipe and put into ice cube trays when finished. Freeze for several hours, then pop the cubes out of the trays and put them directly into freezer bags for later use. My family loves making pizza during the cold winter months using pesto as a sauce instead of a tomato sauce. The fresh taste of summer comes rushing back with each and every bite!
It’s getting to be that time of summer again; tomatoes everywhere. After you have eaten your fill of tomatoes it is time to start preserving them. Remember that unblemished fruits and vegetables make the best quality preserved foods.
Freezing tomatoes, to me, is just about the easiest vegetable (or is it a fruit?) to preserve. I drop the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds, slip off the skins, and then place the tomatoes on a cookie sheet to freeze overnight. After they are frozen solid, I place the tomatoes into a large freezer bag. That way I can easily use just one or two tomatoes in soup next winter.
Soon there will be more sweet corn available than we can eat. I plan to freeze some so we can enjoy that good Iowa sweet corn this winter. Use the easy directions listed below after you have husked removed the silks and trimmed the ends of the corn cobs.
Whole kernel corn: can be frozen by blanching the kernels before removing them from the cob. Blanch the corn for 4 ½ minutes, cool in ice water, and then cut the kernels from the cobs.
Cream style corn: follow the above directions but only cut the kernel tips. Next scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to remove the heart of the kernel and form some “cream”.
Corn on the cob: Blanch the ears for the time listed in the chart. Cool the cobs in ice water. If you don’t cool the corn long enough the corn may become mushy and have a “cobby” taste. Cooling the corn requires a longer time than blanching.
small ears (1¼-inch diameter)
medium ears (1¼-1½-inch diameter)
large ears (over 1½-inch diameter)
Is the garden producing more vegetables than you can use right now, or have you been tempted by the beautiful produce at the farmers market? Here is a quick “how to” on blanching vegetables for the freezer.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a small amount of produce (typically a quart or less) to the pot. When the water returns to a boil, set your timer. If you use a colander or metal basket you can place the vegetables into the boiling water easily and remove them quickly when the timer rings. Next, plunge the vegetables into cold or ice water for at least as long as the blanching time. This step will stop the cooking process. Drain the vegetables, package them, and freeze. Remember to use freezer containers or bags and not storage bags. The freezer bags and containers are not permeable to the air in the freezer and will protect your vegetables until you are ready to eat them.
Hint: If you want to have “free flowing” vegetables like those you buy at the store, freeze the vegetables on a tray or cookie sheet overnight and then place them in the freezer bags.
Blanching time for vegetables varies with the type of vegetable. This link will take you to the University of Georgia’s website—The National Center for Home Food Preservation. This page has a lengthy list of vegetables and the appropriate blanching time for each.
Yes, the rhubarb is up in my garden and now I must be patient for it to grow to maturity. At that point the stalks can be used in tarts, pies, sauces, jams, jellies, puddings and drinks. My favorite way to use rhubarb is to make it into a crisp – it tastes as good as a pie but has far fewer calories since it has no crust. I tend to like my desserts a little less sweet, so feel free to use only as much sugar as you need for your taste.
Wait to harvest your rhubarb until the plant is three years old. This allows the leaves to grow and produce food for good crown and root development. During the third year, harvest only for a four week period. Wait until the stalks are 10 to 15 inches long, then grasp the stalk below the leaf and pull up slightly to one side. Remove leaves by cutting slightly below the leaf and discard them. Since the leaves contain a moderately poisonous oxalic acid, they should never be eaten.
If you have enough rhubarb to freeze, when it comes time to use the frozen rhubarb, measure while it is still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander and use the fruit in your recipe without pressing the liquid out.
The taste alone encourages me to cook with rhubarb, but the nutritional benefits of rhubarb are also significant. Rhubarb is high in calcium, lutein, vitamin k and antioxidants.
A year ago this month I was busily baking cookies for my son’s wedding. I became quite proficient at making large batches of dough, shaping into cookies and freezing them to be baked at a later date (for fresh-baked cookies any time).
If you have an event coming up that requires a large number of home baked cookies, you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze to be baked fresh in time for the event. Dough can be shaped before freezing by arranging on cookie sheets, placing in the freezer for one hour to quick-freeze and then transferring the cookie balls to a freezer container or bag. Most cookie dough can be kept frozen for up to six months. Include baking time and temperature on the freezer label. To bake, place frozen cookies on baking sheets and bake, without thawing, as directed. A few extra minutes may need to be added to the total baking time.