Many of us keep vegetables, as well as berries and other small fruits, in the freezer. But some of the things that live in my freezer may be more surprising: grilled and chopped onions and peppers, baggies filled with cubes of pestos and other purees, herb butters, stocks, and even cherry tomatoes.
With freezing, the primary issue is often space: If you’re limited to a fridge-and-freezer unit, you have to be highly selective. In my 500-square-foot house, I found room for a 5.5-cubic-foot chest freezer—which I still manage to pack to the lid by fall. But you can always find space for a few things. Some tools and techniques can also help to make you a freezing queen or king.
Tips & Tricks
Posts on this site include tips and tricks for freezing the foods found in the given recipes. But there are a few things to keep in mind every time you plan to freeze garden goodies.
- Packaging is important. Some techniques call for freezing on an open tray initially, but for long-term storage, use freezer-strength bags or containers.
- Cool any cooked food before you freeze it; the colder it is when it enters the freezer, the better it will look and taste later. Warm food can also affect your freezer temperature; freezers need to stay at or below 0°F to keep ensure quality and safety.
- A full freezer is an efficient freezer, so don’t be afraid to pack things tightly once they are frozen.
- Food expands as it freezes, so be sure to leave headspace in your bags or containers. Generally, 1/2 inch is sufficient, but leave a little more room if the container is a quart or larger or if it has a narrow opening. “Burp” lidded containers and squeeze extra air out of bags.
- Be sure to label the bag or container while it’s at room temperature, noting at minimum the item and date: pizza sauce and red curry paste look awfully similar after a few months in the freezer, and you may get more heat than you bargain for if you grab the wrong one.
- If you have a large or full freezer, consider organizing it or even keeping a list of its contents. My above-fridge freezer is reserved for things that are in constant use and only holds one bag or container of each item; when I finish a bag, I restock from my chest freezer, which holds the entire season’s supply. The smaller freezer has a couple of plastic shoeboxes that hold like items; the larger one does the same in plastic baskets.
- Most frozen foods taste best when eating within a year. They’re still safe to eat if they get “lost” in the freezer, but they are more likely to lose flavor or develop freezer burn. I do my best to use up each produce type before I start adding the next season’s batch to the freezer.