Blueberries and black raspberries get plunked straight into containers. It takes a little more prep work for strawberries. Before they head to cold storage, they get rinsed, halved and macerated.
With peaches, the golden orbs first have to be dunked in boiling water so the skins can be easily removed, but then it’s just a matter of cutting wedges off the pit, drizzling the succulent slices with lemon juice to prevent browning, sprinkling some sugar on as a preservative and into the freezer bags they go.
My husband and I were old pros at freezing summer fruits long before we embarked on this adventure to landscape the front yard with edible plants.
First were the black raspberries. We had inherited two patches from our property’s previous owners. More than likely they were just weeds that had sprouted near old tree stumps. But, with a little love and pruning, we soon coaxed nearly two dozen quarts a year off the thorny brambles.
Next, our daughter and I started trekking off each summer to area farms to pick strawberries and blueberries. We’d chat and nibble and fill containers for an hour or so before heading home, swooning from the sweet fragrance in the hot car. A few hours later, bags of bright red or purply-blue summer goodness would be layered in the freezer.
But freezing most vegetables is a whole ’nother animal.
Sure, chopped up peppers and shredded zucchini can be siphoned into bags with little fuss, but snap beans and Swiss chard and edamame and broccoli need to be blanched first.
It sounds so simple: After partially cooking the desired vegetables, cool them quickly and freeze immediately.
But our results have been less than stellar. Hollow, chewy beans. Woody broccoli. Mangy greens. And the freezer takes on a cruciferous smell. Not exactly appetizing when you’re scrounging for dinner items.
We’ve composted our failures, but it’s still such a waste.
This year, we vowed to figure this out. First I picked my mother’s brain for tips. Then I all but interviewed Kevin’s 96-year-old grandmother, Malvie. How much do you blanch at a time? Do you steam or boil? For how long? Do you time it from once it’s in the water or after it comes to a boil? How do you get the rinse water cold enough?
Both women have the advantage of ice-cold well water that eases the process considerably. We have to add dozens of ice cubes and chunks of ice frozen in plastic containers for our city water to be cold enough to halt the cooking process.
We’re trying again.
Partly out of pride, partly because there’s no way we can eat all of our garden’s bounty right now.
We actually had steamed green beans alongside scrambled eggs and toast the other morning for breakfast. (It turned out to be a fine combination. Odd. But tasty.)
We’ve determined that our errors have been many, but mostly we’ve been reluctant to boil the vegetables long enough.
When they’re fresh, we prefer them steamed, grilled or sautéed, still with a bit of crunch. Like al dente for pasta.
But, for proper blanching, we evidently need to err on the side of soft.
It’s a fine line.
But with mom and Malvie’s know-how on our side, I’m sure we’ll soon be old pros.