End of Season Freezer Tour

We officially had the first frost of the season, which means the bulk of the preservation season is over. I do still have some carrots, beets, and broccoli alive in the garden, but the tomatoes and peppers are toast. Sad, but luckily now we enter the phase of eating all these goodies which is also great! Being so busy this summer, I didn’t do nearly as much canning as last summer, but one thing that helped some with my time crunch was having a freezer this year. A chest freezer is really a great investment if you have the space, and I have not even noticed a change in the power bill. At this time of year it’s a great idea to go through your freezer, sort it, and determine what you have so that you ensure you actually eat those things throughout the winter. I just went through mine, so thought I’d give you a tour of it!

On the bottom here you can see that I had a very successful berry season. I tried to layer the bottom of the freezer with the berries, since I have so many, then have one of each bag more accessible, and I can grab another as needed.


On top of the berries I have some vegetables and meat that I froze this summer. Home grown broccoli vacuum sealed using my new food saver, corn from the local farm stand that I got when they were having an awesome sale, tomatoes from near the end of the season when they were growing slowly so I accumulate them until I have enough for some sauce, and some meats that I bought either on sale or in bulk from Costco.


On the next layer we have in that bag a turkey carcass which I plan to take out when I have more time and make stock with, we also have some corn dogs (mostly the boy – but everyone can’t be perfect in what they have in the freezer right?) and in the basket some bread and the last bit of smoked salmon from this summer.


All in all I think I did pretty well on berries (more than enough probably!) but would have liked to freeze a little more in the way of veggies. I do have winter squash that I still plan to cook, puree and add to my freezer stash, and once that carcass is out I’ll have a little more room for that, but overall I think the season was a success – the freezer is nearly full after all. I did also eat some of the things I preserved earlier this season – as it should be! Now go check out you freezer, and don’t let that stuff in the bottom sit there for the rest of eternity – eat it!

What things do you like to preserve by freezing? How was your preservation season this year?

Freezing Vegetables

This spring I bought myself a great present – a freezer. Thanks self!! Therefore, I have been doing a lot of freezing preservation this summer in addition to my usual canning. I must say I am love love loving it! Freezing is very easy, and some things of course do much better being frozen. Can you imagine canned broccoli? Ick, that would be gross. Anyways, there is basically just one very simple step needed to prepare vegetables for freezing. Most vegetables need to be blanched before freezing to stop the action of enzymes that will cause the quality of food to degrade. Blanching helps preserve texture, nutrition, and flavour of vegetables. One of our lovely master food preservers tested the utility of blanching by doing a batch of broccoli both with and without blanching and it really matters! Without blanching the broccoli had a much stronger, less desirable flavour. So don’t skip it! Here’s how:

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Step one is to harvest high quality veggies and process them as soon as possible. This year I actually had a successful broccoli crop – wooo! But by myself I am certainly not going to eat 5 heads at a time, so I froze a bunch.

Wash and trim your vegetables as you would plan to use them when you eat them.

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Blanch vegetables in boiling water or in steam. PNW 214 is a great resource for looking up how long different vegetables need to be blanched. For broccoli it is three minutes in boiling water or five minutes in steam. I love my blanching pot for this. Bring the water to a boil, add veggies, and start the time when the water returns to a boil.

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Cool vegetables under cold water for about the same amount of time as you blanched them.

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Dry and freeze! That’s all there is to it. With many things it works best to first spread things out on a baking sheet and freeze them, then package them once they are frozen. For best quality, package things in airtight containers. Air causes freezer burn and food quality to degrade more rapidly. I just got a FoodSaver to go along with my freezer (and by that I mean it went on sale at Costco so I impulse bought it) and something like this really helps maintain quality. If you don’t have one just try and remove as much air from bags as you can. I admit that I’ve sucked air out of berry bags with my mouth… silly but actually fairly effective. Don’t say I never suggested more economical methods 😉

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Have other questions about freezing? Ask me or check out the National Center’s FAQs here.

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 2

I promised to post about master food preserver class each week, so here is what we learned in last Thursday’s class! I took 116 photos in class during week 2, and it didn’t feel like enough, so you know it must have been a good class! And of course it means this post will basically be a picture show. 😉 This week we covered freezing, fruit pie fillings and soft spreads. So I would like to start off with some fun facts that I learned in class that you may or may not already know.

– The best way to freeze if you are going to do a bunch of stuff, is to turn your freezer extra cold (down to -10F) the day before so that things freeze quickly. Frozen goods should be kept at 0F or below, so once frozen return the temperature to 0.
– Vegetables should always be blanched before freezing to stop enzymes that would otherwise cause changes in colour, texture, flavour and nutritional value. Recommended blanching times vary by vegetable and range from 1-10 minutes

One thing we covered for freezing was freezing convenience foods. So we did just that, and will eat these food later in the class! YUM.

One convenience food we froze was a “meal in a bag”:
-1 chicken breast cooked and diced
– 2 cups blanched veggies (or frozen ones)
– 1 cup pasta cooked until almost done
– seasoning packet in a separate baggie (such as 2t chicken bouillon, 1/2t garlic powder, 1/2t onion powder, 1/2t paprika, 1t parsley, 2T parmesan cheese)

Freeze it all up in a baggie. When you want to eat it, dump it all in a wok, stir fry it up and … presto!

Chicken for the meal in a bag.

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Blanched veggies for the meal in a bag.

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Combine it all and freeze. A great idea if you have a free weekend day and freezer space!

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Another convenience food we froze was twice baked potatoes. nom nom nom.

Bake potatoes, halve, and remove innards to a large bowl.

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Mash and mix in milk, sour cream, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese.

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Refill, top with more cheese if desired, then freeze on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to freezer containers. When you want to eat it, bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes.

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The last convenience food we did was cookies. Works with most cookie recipes.

Mix up the recipe.

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Mold into balls (and in this case dip in sugar – yum!)

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Freeze on a cookie sheet and then transfer to a freezer container. When you want to eat them bake without thawing at 400F for 10-15 minutes.

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Fruit pie filling (and juice hiding in back)

Most fruit pie filling recipes for canning call for clear jel. What is clear jel anyways? It’s a starch used for thickening, and is basically a modified corn starch. You shouldn’t used regular corn starch or other thickening agents in canning, because they are not specifically designed for canning like clear jel. Clear jel has been modified to make it more heat stable, so it can take the heat of the canning process. It is also stable in low pH, like the pH of fruits. It makes products more shelf stable, and doesn’t separate over time like other starches can. It can be reduced in recipes too if you don’t want quite as much. If you don’t like the starchy pie fillings though, don’t try and can a pie filling recipe without it. Either follow a recipe for canning fruit in syrup, and then drain the syrup to use it in pies, or freeze the fruit instead!

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Soft spreads

Fun fact. Do you know the difference between a jelly, jam, conserve, preserve and a marmalade?
Jam – made from crushed or chopped fruit
Jelly – made from fruit juice
Conserve – made with two or more fruits and nuts or raisins
Preserves – made with whole fruits, or large pieces, in a clear, slightly gelled syrup
Marmalade – made with soft fruit and citrus peel in a clear jel

In class we made the following soft spreads. Click the names to link to the full recipe posts.

Blueberry lime jam

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and all canned up.

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Jalapeno pepper jelly.

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Strawberry lemon marmalade.

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And strawberry rhubarb jam.

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So many delicious treats! And the day’s excellent haul.

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