Garden Update; Preserving the Harvest

by formerchef on June 24, 2010

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In a perfect would garden harvest would come in easy amounts, just as you would buy the same food at the grocery store; a few tomatoes every couple of days, one zucchini a week, one eggplant, etc. Real life is not so simple and gardens are not so easy. Instead, I’ve had a surplus of zucchini and yellow squash and little else. In a couple of weeks, my tomatoes should come in and given that I have six eggplants, I’m expecting quite a few from there all at once too. I tried to stagger my planting, but I’m not sure how successful that will be.

So, what does one do when faced with ten pounds of zucchini? Eat it, of course, but only so much at one time. Give it away? Yes, we did that too. My husband even got texts from a coworker asking for more squash. But preserving the harvest is important too. Why buy canned or frozen vegetables when you can make your own?

While we might do some canning this summer, my first order of business was freezing. In fact, we recently bought a medium sized freezer for our garage. I cannot tell you how excited I was about this. Unnaturally so, I’m ashamed to say. Still, this winter when I’m pulling out jars of home made pesto, bags of fresh-frozen garden vegetables, or portions from the half a pig we’re going to buy, I won’t be so embarrassed.

Last Sunday I spent an hour or so prepping, blanching and shocking about 5 lbs of zucchini. Here’s how I did it:

10 Simple Steps to Freezing Zucchini

  1. Rub the skin of the zucchini with a kitchen towel to remove any loose dirt and the little prickly hairs on the skin.
  2. Cut off the stem ends and then chop the zucchini any way you think you might use it in the future. I cut it up three ways; large chunks for soups and stews (like the Moroccan garbanzo bean stew), thinner half rounds for stir frys and pastas, and diced for just as a side dish with a little melted butter.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  4. Get a large bowl and fill it with ice and water.
  5. Put the chopped zucchini in the boiling water in batches, separated by size or cut so that everything cooks at the same rate. Blanch in the boiling water for 1-4 minutes depending on the size.
  6. Scoop out with a slotted spoon into the ice bath (called shocking the vegetables), until cold.
  7. Remove from the ice bath onto paper towels to get the excess water off (you don’t want to create ice cubes).
  8. Repeat the blanch and shock process, returning the water to a boil and replenishing the ice in the ice bath as needed.
  9. Lay the vegetables out on a sheet pan in a single layer so they can freeze as individual pieces. I put mine on a silpat sheet so help prevent them from sticking to the pan, but it’s not necessary. If you put them in the bag or container without freezing individually, they will freeze in a solid lump. This way, you can only use what you need when you want it.
  10. Freeze and when solid, transfer to storage bags or containers for long term storage.

Expense Update: What price the joy of a home grown vegetables?
Ongoing total for Summer 2010:
No new purchases since last post on 6/04/10
To see the start of the accounting process and why I’m doing this, see When Does “Growing Your Own” Become Too Expensive?
*273 is for hay, alfalfa, compost and fertilizer to fill the garden beds and for this year’s building supplies, and $67 on plants.

Ongoing 2010 Harvest Total:
Yellow Squash-7.25 lbs
Green Zucchini-8 lbs
Japanese Cucumbers- 11 oz
Tomatoes- 8 oz
Assorted herbs-small amounts of Mint, Oregano, Basil, Cilantro, Tarragon, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…

1 Myra June 24, 2010 at 6:34 am

I now regret not planting a zucchini plant! Do you think this preserving method would also work with Japanese Eggplants?

2 formerchef June 24, 2010 at 6:58 am

I don’t know, I haven’t tried freezing eggplant yet. My concern is that it would get too mushy if you blanched it. You might try steaming it, or sauteing it, so it does not absorb too much water and get soggy.
I plan on making ratatouille if I have extra eggplant and zucchini at the same time.

3 Sharon Miro June 24, 2010 at 9:05 am

Myra, you can freeze eggplant–but I think it’s much better cannned in the manner in whihc yo wnat to eat them: eggplant can be done as “caviar, or caponata, pickled or lots of other ways–

K: NICE job on this..they look delicious…and will be perfect this winter.

4 lo June 24, 2010 at 10:48 am

I’ve never frozen summer squash in this fashion before (though I’ve shredded it to use for zucchini bread and such. How is the texture of the squash when you thaw it?

5 formerchef June 24, 2010 at 11:50 am

It’s pretty good, just make sure not to over cook it because it’s going to cook again when reheated later.

6 Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) June 24, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I miss having a plethora of zucchini! We grew so much of it when I was growing up. We’d shred it and freeze it for zucchini bread.


7 Jill June 24, 2010 at 7:42 pm

I don’t think blanching would work either. I freeze eggplant that I’ve breaded and par baked. (Dredge in flour, egg then seasoned crumbs. Pop it on a lined cookie sheet and bake. Transfer to a lined cookie sheet after it cools completely and freeze. Fill a ziplock bag or Tupperware and pop it in the freezer.) When you want some eggplant parm, just put the slices on a lined sheet and bake until crispy. Freezing prepared dishes would be my other suggestion.

8 formerchef June 24, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Jill-That’s another great idea on what to do with extra eggplant, thanks!

9 Sharon Miro June 24, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Been thinking about the eggplant–and have come to the conclusion that blanching and freezing won’t do … Here’s another eggplant suggestion that I had last week, and it is REALLY good. Slice the eggplant or zuccini into 1/4″ slices and dehydrate thouroughly. These can then be stored for several years in airtight containers. You can rehydrate them in water for several hours, then pat dry and pan fry in olive oil–drain on paper towels, and salt. They will NEVER make it to the table-so tasty…

10 Anise June 25, 2010 at 10:13 am

Do you have my family’s zucchini tian recipe? David should remember it, or I can email it; it’s a lovely and yummy way to use up a lot of zucchini all at once in a vegetarian main dish.

11 Charles G Thompson June 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I’m loving following this. Such a wonderful project to be a part of (and very jealous about your garage freezer and the pig you’ll be getting). There’s nothing quite like a just picked vegetable out of one’s own garden. I remember as a child our garden always seemed to produce more zucchini than anything else.

12 Tiffany June 26, 2010 at 6:54 am

Had no idea it was that easy.

13 Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen June 26, 2010 at 2:06 pm

This is so exciting! We just started harvesting lettuces and a few radishes! We didn’t plant any summer squash either this year. However we do plan to do a lot of canning and preserving this year too. I am looking forward to the purchase of our freezer as well! 🙂

14 Rose Forever July 28, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Yummy veggies! I really like the way you organized your garden. I got problems on my zucchini too and your post really helped me a lot. I’ll try your suggestion on my zucchini problem. Thanks for the post.

15 crystal small August 10, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Nice garden. Your Zucchinis are really healthy and it is a real problem if they produce enormously. I also do zucchini preserve and it is a good way not too make your zucchini rotten. Sometimes I add them too salads and it also taste good.

16 Linda August 22, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Japanese eggplant freezing: just slice ’em and back ’em and stick ’em in the freezer! Just as easy as freezing peppers, and the stir fry up really well!

17 Katie M. July 4, 2011 at 8:09 pm

This may seem like a very silly question, but why can’t you freeze them without blanching them? Do they spoil if you just chop them up and but them right in the freezer?

18 formerchef July 4, 2011 at 11:05 pm

It’s not a silly question at all. In fact, I wish I knew the answer. I think it might work, I just don’t know the results. I’ll have to try it and if you do, let me know!

19 Seanne August 5, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I believe that the blanching destroys enzymes that would act to lower the quality of the veggies.

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