Freezing food keeps bellies full after harvest season

Over the last two months I’ve spent a lot of my spare time putting up food. It brings me joy now and through the colder months and provides locally grown food. I like knowing where my food comes from (local farms, mostly, not having grown much this year myself).

To make a chili I don’t need to run to the store for ingredients. I just reach into my pantry and freezer, and there are all the ingredients. The same goes for many meals I commonly cook.

I’ve already written about some of my canning adventures, but today I want to talk about freezers. My parents have a chest freezer, and currently it is just about full with jars of veggies. The jars contain pesto — both ramp and basil — a bushel worth of sweet peppers, a bushel worth of corn, pumpkin puree and some other odds and ends.

For fruits, we also have frozen peach slices, Asian pear slices and 15 pounds of elderberry waiting to be turned into wine.

My small kitchen freezer holds herbs and soup stock.

In addition to convenience and joy, I like freezing my own food because my family has noticed that grocery store frozen food often absorbs the packaging’s chemical flavors. Storing food in glass jars, or even regular plastic sandwich bags, we avoid these unpleasant flavors.

My sisters also enjoy putting up food, and we’ve discussed canning a lot.

But I realized I hadn’t asked them about what they are freezing. So, I called one of my sisters, and said, “Hey, what’s in your freezer?”

“Oh my golly, that’s so funny because I just had to do a big clear out to make room for things I’m preserving,” my sister Ana said.

Before the clean-out she had some home-cooked frozen meals, frozen soups, butter, waffles and also some less used grains and nuts — pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, barley, oats (freezing to keep them from going stale).

Then two things happened, Ana said — she ordered bulk butter, and the harvest started.

Now her freezer is full of: A bulk order of butter, and veggies she grew or bought fresh.

These include frozen, shredded zucchini portioned out for common recipes, frozen tomatoes for making sauce later, stuffed peppers, chopped peppers, spinach, pesto, tofu that was on manager’s special, veggie scraps for soup and cashew pulp from making cashew milk, which she plans to add into future meals.

My sister lives in a city apartment and gardens at a friend’s rural property. For convenience, she fills her friend’s freezer as well.

There, Ana has frozen peas, fajita mix, chopped onions, soup stock, corn, minced jalapenos, pierogies she made with potatoes that were going bad, frozen pizza dough and sourdough chocolate chip cookie dough.

She had a great pepper harvest this year, so she added onto the end of her freezer list, “frozen enchiladas because I had to use up a bunch of peppers, and jalapeno poppers of course.”

“Wow, that’s amazing,” I said.

“It is amazing — lots of full freezers,” she responded.

I asked if there was more still to go and Ana said she will have her fall crop of broccoli to add, and maybe some gnocchi or French fries from summer potatoes, which are already sprouting.

I liked hearing Ana’s list and I found it inspirational. My own freezer also contains things like ice cream and other junk food. But freezing is a great way to preserve food — even food that just won’t get used up before it goes bad (like Ana’s manager special tofu).

ALDONA BIRD is a journalist, previously writing for The Dominion Post. She uses experience gained working on organic farms in Europe to help her explore possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Email [email protected].