Preserving the Tastes of Summer

Eat fresh from the garden all winter with these quick tips for preserving your produce.

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Sure, you want to put up some of your harvest so you can enjoy it all winter long. But you don’t want to spend the last of the summer indoors, laboring in the kitchen. The solution? Freeze and dry your bounty. Both methods are easier (and cooler) than canning. Here’s the scoop, crop by crop.

Tomatoes
how to freeze tomatoesBefore freezing, remove the tomato skins. Immerse your fresh tomatoes in boiling water until the skins crack, then plunge the fruits into very cold water for another minute. Take them out, peel off the skin, and pack them whole or quartered in plastic freezer containers.

A faster method is to freeze whole, unpeeled tomatoes. When you’re ready to use them, put the frozen bag under hot water briefly, until you can remove the tomatoes. Then stick the tomatoes under the hot water for a few more seconds to loosen the skin, which will easily peel off.

Dehydration removes all that messy water and leaves you with pure tomato flavor. And almost any kind of tomato—even cherry types—dries into a sweet, chewy chip. Some people say that meaty paste tomatoes work best for drying, but others prefer to dry the big, sweet beefsteak types.

Cut slices about 1⁄2 inch thick (cut cherry tomatoes in half) and set the slices on the dehydrator trays. Don’t let the pieces touch. Most machines will dry them in about 4 hours, but many people let them go overnight (they’re done when the pieces are leathery and flat). You can store them in tightly lidded jars or put them in bags in the freezer. After drying, a bushel of tomatoes takes up very little space. (To keep the dehydrator from heating up your house, run it outdoors in a sheltered area.)

how to freeze cornCorn
To get a taste of summer sweetness in the middle of winter, freeze some of your corn. First, blanch the ears by boiling them for 3 to 4 minutes. Plunge the blanched ears into cold water. After the ears have cooled, scrape the kernels off the cob. Put meal-size portions of the cut kernels into plastic freezer bags. You can eat the corn lightly steamed, right out of the freezer (don't defrost it before cooking it). If you prefer your winter corn on the cob, blanch the fresh ears for 6 minutes, then freeze the whole ears. When you're ready to serve them, just steam the frozen ears for another 6 minutes.

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