Frozen tomatoes in a vacuum bag on a wooden table

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Save your summer harvest

Frozen tomatoes in a vacuum bag on a wooden table

This time of year, the number of fresh vegetables is more than you can possibly consume or give away! In our mother and grandmother’s day they would of course can their excess produce. I know many people are bringing this back, but I’ve never really had the time or inclination. If you’re like me and don’t want to do that, check out online how you can safely can food. Go to It’s the National Center for Home Food Preservation. 

I choose the easier method of freezing. Most vegetables like beans, peas, and carrots freeze well. They do need to be blanched first. Blanching is quick cooking in salted boiling water. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a teaspoon of salt. Drop in cleaned and trimmed vegetables. Cook for two minutes and remove with a spider or slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water. Dry on paper towels till cool. Put in quart size freezer bags and freeze flat. They can be used like any other frozen vegetable. 

For tomatoes there are several ways. For all recipes you will need to skin them first. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling simmer. Cut a small X in the bottom of each tomato and place in the water. After a minute or so you will see the skin start to loosen. Remove and place in a water bath. When it’s cool, core, quarter and place in quart size freezer bags. This size is equal to a 29 ounce can of whole tomatoes and can be used as such. Fresh tomato sauce is also easy to make and freeze. Sauté one chopped medium onion in 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. When the onions are soft add 3-4 cloves of finely minced fresh garlic. Cook for an additional two minutes. Add tomatoes along with 1 teaspoon of oregano and salt and pepper to taste. This freezes well and can be used anytime you would like marinara!

Herbs can be preserved in several different ways. Whether you grow your own or buy at the farmers market, you know they lose their freshness quickly. Herb butters are delicious and can be used in many applications from vegetables and meats. Wash dry and chop fresh herbs of choice before adding to softened, unsalted butter. It’s best to use premium butter as they have less water and more butterfat which freezes better. Form into a small log with parchment paper. Twist the ends and overwrap with foil, then freeze. 

Make herb ice cubes for stews, soups and gravies. Fill ice cube trays half full of filtered water and clean, chopped fresh herbs, then freeze. Fill the rest of the way with filtered water and freeze again. The two-step process is necessary because the herbs float. Herb vinegars are also delicious and easy to make. Add cleaned, whole herb sprigs to red wine vinegar. Keep in a dark place out of the light. Herb oil is also good, but always store it in the refrigerator as moisture from the herbs can cause bacteria growth. Use in a month or two.

Does anyone else have any other ideas for easy vegetable preservation?

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago