I am going to start canning. But not this year. This year I’m working, and my husband’s working, and our kids are little and we live in the city, and despite the fact that I have a fabulous urban garden that has produced in abundance, I can get away with not canning and not wasting. I’m going to start canning. I meant to do that this year, but I’m not going to get there.
I am, however, freezing. You probably know that frozen produce has the same nutritional goodness as fresh produce. It follows that “fresh-from-the-garden” frozen produce is packed full of “fresh-from-the-garden” goodness, in December.
BERRIES are an obvious, enjoyable and easy choice for freezing. We have the absolute joy on the West Coast of having an abundance of berries growing wild in the urban landscape, ready for the picking. If you’ve followed my past posts, you know that I have a condition that makes it impossible for me to ignore delicious offerings that might otherwise go to waste. As such, we have a freezer full of wildberries. A few favorites from this year:
- Blueberries. We picked up two large cases from an organic grower early it the season. If you are just thinking about this now, think about it for next year!
- Strawberries. From the garden. So easy to grow. They like acidic, well drained soil . At this time of year, cut the runners so that each plant is permitted to grow one new plant.
- Blackberries. In every alley, ditch and parking lot all over this glorious city. These are the berry that is most abundant and most easily available free. Please pick it! Our favorite spot this year was near the airport in Richmond. The kids could watch planes when they tired of picking.
- Huckelberries. Growing wild in the forests all over the West Coast. Not enough to freeze this year. Though I did manage to freeze a few dozen huckelberry & blueberry muffins.
- Cherries. Technically not a berry. But, at least in Vancouver, available to pick on public land here, there and everywhere, so they qualify in my book. We did a lot of picking on Translink property this year. Who knew the train had beautiful well established cherry trees all along it’s path, that hang into many a parking lot and go un-picked? Delicious.
Freezing berries is easy. Wash well. Then lay the berries on a flat surface (cookie tray) that has been covered with wax paper and freeze. This ensures that the berries don’t stick together when they freeze. Once the berries are frozen, transfer to whatever reusable container you’ve selected and repeat with the next batch of berries and the same piece of wax paper. Obviously cherries need to be pitted first. And actually, I like cherries better stewed. But that’s another post…
KALE is pretty much the most versatile and persistent leafy green you can grow. It also happens to be the nutritional superhero of vegetables. Long after my varieties of lettuce have gone to flower, after the spinach has all been eaten, after the second harvest of chard has been sautéed, or devoured by the slugs, the Kale is still going strong. And by strong, I mean we cut it and cut it and eat it and eat it, and it’s still waist height, and lush. So we freeze it to enjoy year round.
There are two ways to freeze Kale:
- Blanch it. Slice the Kale into large pieces, removing thick stems but including smaller stems. Boil a large pot of water and fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes. Plunge the Kale into the boiling water for one minute, then transfer to the ice water. Dry Kale. Freeze in airtight bag.
- Mince it. By far my preferred method. Remove the stems. No need to blanch. Throw leaves in the food processor and chop as finely as possible. Press minced Kale into ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer cubes to your container of choice. Admittedly, the cubes can be tricky to pop out of the trays. Nonetheless, I find this to be more convenient than freezing the minced kale on parchment and keeping it loose in a bag. Throughtout the winter, add a couple cubes to soups, sauces, and everything else. This is the sneakiest and most effective way to get my kids to consume leafy greens regularly.
TOMATOES only last so long. This is where the canning really comes into play. I had the best of canning intentions, but said adventures will have to wait until next year. Freezing tomatoes is however, at least as simple, completely hassle free and almost as convenient on the other end. I’m also consoling myself after foiling the canning plans with the fact that frozen tomatoes are nutritionally better than canned tomatoes. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’m going with it.
To freeze tomatoes:
- Boil a pot of water
- Submerge tomatoes for a maximum of one minute
- Transfer immediately to icy cold water
- Pull the skins off (after this boiling process, they practically fall off)
- Squeeze to drain seeds and water (this isn’t an art)
- Freeze in an airtight bag
Tomatoes are now ready for use in sauces, chilies and other recipes all winter long.
In case this little intro has you all excited about the preserving potential in your garden, check out http://www.pickyourown.org. I’ve found loads of useful information about freezing, canning and otherwise preserving on their site.