Garden fresh flavors never last quite long enough. The growing season comes and goes in a flash, and mid-winter cravings for the freshness of some fresh, lively flavors can be painfully unquenchable. Prolong delightful summer flavors from the garden by making any of these freezer-friendly recipes. Feed your belly first…and then feed your freezer! Your winter belly will thank you down the road.
It’s too simple! Depending on where you are, you might be able to find a pick-your-own berry farm. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries may be popular where you are. Some regions have pick-your-own peaches or cherries. Aside from being a delicious summer activity, picking your own berries is a great way to prepare to feed your freezer with goodness to enjoy in the winter months. Of course, it’s just as simple to pick up frozen berries at the supermarket, but fresh picked berries—that you harvested with love—taste that much better.
How To Freeze Summer Berries
If you want to freeze your own berries:
- Clean the berries well, rinsing and gently dabbing dry—for strawberries, you can freeze them whole or de-stem, slice, and sprinkle them with a little sugar so that they are already prepped for a mid-winter strawberry shortcake when you have the craving!
- Spread the berries on a cookie sheet one layer thick.
- After letting the berries freeze overnight on the cookie sheet (so as not to crush the fresh berries by putting them directly into a bag), put the berries into a quart or gallon size freezer bag.
- Enjoy “fresh” berries all year long!
Pesto never gets old, does it? For me, it is the pinnacle of summer flavors all blended together and delicious on almost anything. Pesto, once prepared, freezes wonderfully. The oil and salt in any pesto recipe also support the simple preservation process. The beauty of pesto is that the basic foundation of any pesto recipe can be adapted to use most herbs or greens or a different type of nut (almonds or cashews are also great). Try this basic pesto recipe from the New York Times, adapt it as you like (try our helpful pesto guide), and stash it in the freezer! (I have made this go-to recipe with cilantro or beet greens, and I also enjoy substituting almonds when I make it with arugula or garlic scapes.)
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, no stems
- 2 Tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Combine fresh basil leaves, pine nuts or walnuts, and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely minced.
- With the machine running, slowly dribble in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the cheese and process very briefly, just long enough to combine.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for 6-8 months.
3. Tomato Sauce or Roasted Tomatoes
If you grow tomatoes (and if you don’t, get some at your local farmer’s market), stocking the freezer with roasted tomatoes and/or tomato sauce is undeniably satisfying. There comes a time in the season when I can no longer use tomatoes in another creative way. This is when I throw a few tablespoons of olive oil on a recessed cookie sheet, slice tomatoes in half, sprinkle them with sea salt and pepper, and roast at 350 for about an hour or until they are soft and wrinkly. Follow David Lebovitz’s roasted tomato recipe, and get a little fancier with herbs and other flavors, if you like. I use roasted tomatoes as I would tomato sauce, tossing them in with lasagna, pasta, or a marinated grain salad for some sweetness.
If you’re more the saucy type, follow this quick 5-ingredient tomato sauce recipe from Bon Appetit. It is an all-too-simple staple, and can also be jazzed up with a handful of basil, oregano, or some other extra garden veggies you may have in abundance, like peppers, onions, or tomatillos.
4. Sweet Vegetable Breads or Muffins
Zucchini, carrots, pumpkins, oh my! When the garden is overwhelmed with bountiful vegetables…the feed-your-freezer gardener makes veggie bread! Shred up those baseball-bat sized zucchini and monster carrots and bake a delicious sweet bread that you can freeze and then crack into in the dark cold of winter. To prep for pumpkin breads, chop extra pie pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast cut-side down on an oiled baking sheet at 350F for about 45 minutes or until the skin depresses to the touch. Scoop out the soft interior and puree in a food processor to use in any pumpkin bread/muffin/pancake recipe. Try this recipe for zucchini or carrot bread and this one for pumpkin bread.
After your vegetable bread has cooled, store it in a well-sealed plastic bag or double wrap with plastic wrap and then tin foil to seal well.
**Extra tip: if you want, slice it before wrapping, so that it’s easy to defrost a slice on the go while leaving the remainder of the loaf in the freezer!
5. Apple Sauce
Like pick-your-own berry farms, pick-your-own apple farms are usually pretty easy to find in the fall, too. (Not to mention, apple picking is a great activity to enjoy with friends and family!)
If you have a slow cooker of some sort, making applesauce to freeze is a breeze. The process of preparing apples can be time consuming, but the reward is well worth the investment. Use apple varieties ideal for making apple sauce, or throw whatever you’ve got in the pot; it won’t make it any less delicious. Get out your slow cooker and follow this simple recipe to fill your freezer with the flavor of summer turned fall!