Friday, July 2, 2010

A Tutorial: Freezing Veggies

Do you ever have veggies that just sit in the fridge until they are inedible? I think that happens when you just have too many (or not enough time to cook it all). Sometimes when we come back from the farmers market, we have veggies left over. We eat some of them, but when there are too many to eat we usually freeze them to stock up for the winter. We also freeze or can a bumper crop of any one item and, to make sure our winter is full of variety, we freeze and can the final harvest of all kinds of veggies. I think more people would do this if they knew just how easy and fast it can be - so this entry is a step-by-step tutorial for how to freeze greens and tomatoes. Shall we get started?

The Tools

From left to right: A large pot of boiling water, freezer bags, tongs, a large spoon, a ladel, and canning tongs (we won't use those this time since we are just freezing).

Tip: We like to use the quart size freezer bags so that we have individual meal sized servings. Having to thaw large portions just to get a serving size can be difficult. We get 2 - 3 servings from one quart size freezer bag.

You also need a second large pot or bowl filled with ice water close by.

Greens: The following process will work for any cooking greens. (Spinach, Kale, Chard, Bok Choi, etc.)

The greens need to be blanched before they go into the freezer. Blanching is when you boil the vegetable for an allotted amount of time and then immediately dunk it in cold water. Boiling the greens kills the active enzymes that are constantly decomposing the plant matter, if you were to just put them straight into the freezer, they would spoil even at the very low freezing temperatures. Dunking them in cold water immediately stops the cooking process.

Preparing the Greens

For kale, we take the leaves off of the tough stems.


Stems (stems go straight into the compost or chicken yard)

Chard stems are delicious to eat so we just chop up the whole bunch into more manageable pieces.

The Process

1. Place leaves into the boiling water.

2. Stir to make sure they are all submerged, cover if it is really full.

3. Boil for 2 minutes.

4. Use the tongs to place immediately into cold water.

5. Strain the greens and fill your freezer bags.

Tip: When filling your bags, let all the air out and flatten the greens inside the bags. This way you can stack them in your freezer and take up as little space as possible.

6. Don't forget to label and include the date!

Greens will be good in your freezer up to 12 months.

That was easy, right? It is a very similar process with lots of green veggies - peas, green beans, and several others. The blanching times vary from 1 - 3 minutes. On to tomatoes!

Tomatoes should be peeled before freezing. The skins don't taste good after being frozen and peeling them will help them store for longer too. All you need to do to prep your tomatoes is take off the stems and wash them.

The Process

1. Drop the tomatoes, whole, into boiling water and let them sit for 2 minutes.

2. Transfer to a large pot or bowl of cold water. Let them sit in the cold water for a few minutes, tomatoes retain heat really well.

3. Peel the skins off and discard. (Feed to chickens or compost! :) )

4. Remove the tough spot from where the stem used to be. It is easiest to just use your hands, but a knife would work too.

5. Ladle the (mostly) whole tomatoes and juice into freezer bags. Just as with the greens, get as much air out as possible and only fill them to the point where they will sit flat.

6. Label and date.

Tip: Labeling is sometimes easier to do BEFORE you fill the bags.

Tomatoes, like greens, will be good in the freezer up to 12 months.

Here is what they look like stacked in the freezer!
We sometimes put 4 or 5 of the smaller bags into larger, gallon sized bags to avoid freezer burn and make it easier to organize.

When you are ready to use your frozen veggies, you can thaw them and cook them exactly how you would if they were raw. Or, you can dump them in to soups or stews frozen and they will thaw as they cook!

I hope this inspires you to start putting some veggies up for the winter. It is a great way to keep from wasting food and to save a lot of money! There is nothing like preparing a meal on a snowy February day and having everything you need right in your freezer.

(By the way, we prepared all of these bags of veggies for freezing in less than one hour.)


  1. I loved this blog post. We roast extra bell peppers that we can't seem to use quick enough and freeze bags of single serving sizes. Have you tried to do this with asparagus or summer squash? Do you know if that will work? Thanks! I hope you have more blog posts.

  2. Yes it will work! You just have too look up blanching times if you are doing it from raw veggies. :) You can also do things that don't like freezing (like basil) in sauces (like pesto)!

  3. At the end of every summer when the basil starts getting "woody" we chop it all off an make pesto with the remaining basil. So far we've made it the past two winters with fresh pesto! And we use some of it in fresh marinara to freeze. Thanks for the tip! I can't wait to try this with other veggies.

  4. Hey that's great! We are doing pesto this year too since we are growing a ridiculous amount of basil. Let me know what kind of veggies you freeze! FYI Peppers and Onions can be frozen without being blanched, cool huh? :)