Some people (ahem, us) wait all year long for those treasured weeks of peak summer produce, where the farmer’s markets and grocery stores are overflowing with the best of what the season has to offer. But every year it happens—before you know it, the summer season comes to an end, and the bounty of plump tomatoes, juicy peaches, and sweet, crunchy ears of corn have vanished until next year.
But we have good news! The beginning of fall doesn’t have to mean the end of summer produce if you make use of one of your kitchen’s greatest tools: the freezer. We’ve created a guide on how to prep, freeze, and cook with an all-star cast of summer produce that you’re going to want to enjoy all year long. So wipe away your tears, and hit the farmer’s market while there is still time—you have some stocking up to do!
Produce: ripe tomatoes
Some food lovers mark the beginning of true summer as the moment the tomatoes start appearing at the farmer’s market. From familiar varieties like plum and cherry to exotic heirlooms like sun gold and Brandywine, tomatoes at this time of year are a true spectacle to behold.
We like to preserve our peak summer tomatoes by making a huge batch of homemade tomato sauce, which freezes fantastically and defrosts in a pitch. Pro tip: freeze your sauce in multiple small jars instead of one big container so you can defrost individual portions, and have easy weeknight dinners all winter long.
Ah, the fleeting nature of summer berries. The second we’ve finally mastered our strawberry shortcakes, those elusive gems of the summer fruit world have disappeared. Luckily, it’s super easy to freeze berries and defrost them as needed for pies, smoothies, and jams, all year long.
Simply wash and pat dry your berry of choice, and spread the berries out on baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for a few hours until frozen solid, and then transfer to a plastic freezer bag (this prevents the berries from clumping together as they freeze). Frozen berries will keep for up to 1 year.
When you’re ready to dip into your frozen berry stash, simply remove the desired amount from your freezer bags, and either defrost or use as-is: most pie, crumble, jam, and preserves recipes allow adjustments for using frozen fruit.
Produce: Stone Fruits
You can give the berry treatment to your favorite summer peaches, plums, and nectarines, too! Freezing peaches takes a bit more effort, as you’ll want to remove the skins and pits before tossing them in the freezer to chill for the winter (literally).
The best way to remove the peach skins is to boil the fruit: to start, use a knife to cut a shallow X in the bottom of each peach. Then, place the peaches in boiling water for 10-15 seconds, transferring immediately to a prepared ice bath. Once the peaches have cooled, peel the skin off from the corner of each X. Once the skin has been removed, you can cut the flesh into slices around the core, discarding the hard pit. Finally, toss the peach slices with lemon juice and a pinch of sugar to prevent browning, and store peaches in a freezer-safe bag. So the next time you crave a homemade nectarine sorbet or plum preserves in the dead of winter—now you’re prepared.
While fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley don’t exactly freeze well on their own, you can extend their shelf-life by using them into a delicious, freezable pesto. We like freezing our pesto in ice cube trays, which we can pop into single-serving bowls of pasta for a quick lunch or dinner on the go, in the same way that you might use a bouillon cube. Once the pesto has frozen in the trays, you can transfer the pesto cubes into a freezer-safe plastic bag for optimal storing.
Sure, you can get canned corn from the grocery store all year long. But it’s just not the same as the sweet, flavorful kernels that come fresh off the cob during peak corn season. Our favorite way to preserve this summer staple is by turning it into corn chowder, which freezes splendidly and is super easy to scale up for a crowd.
If you want to take things to the next level, try making our Cajun-Spiced Shrimp & Corn Chowder—simply prepare the recipe without the shrimp and freeze for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to defrost, heat, and serve the soup, prepare the shrimp as indicated, and serve hot & fresh!
There’s nothing quite like biting into a fresh, juicy watermelon on a hot summer day…but we promise you the experience is just as sweet and satisfying in the late fall. And mid-winter. And anytime you’re in the mood. While freezing watermelon changes its texture in a way we don’t love, freezing this salted watermelon purée creates a great base for future smoothies (or cocktails). Give the purée the ice cube tray treatment (see the pesto tip above) and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying watermelon-based confections
As far as the purée, you can use the recipe a base for future smoothies/cocktails throughout the fall!
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