How To Save Produce

How to save produce from
Once you know how to save produce properly you can take advantage of sales without worrying about fruit and vegetables spoiling before you can eat them.

Right about now Farmer’s Markets, grocery stores, and gardens are bulging with fresh produce. That includes our garden, too. Fortunately, I know how to can food and enjoy doing so … except when it’s too hot to even think about firing up the stove. That’s when I use these easier methods to save summer’s bounty for use throughout the year.

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IMPORTANT: Be sure you thoroughly wash your produce. This step is important due to all the things that crawl on produce as it grows, and all of the (often unwashed) hands that touch it before you bring it home. Even if you plan to peel something, dragging the knife through a dirty peel also drags bacteria onto the food you’ll eat. So the first steps is to make your own fruit and vegetable wash and get your produce clean.

Cooking Techniques Explained

Some vegetables can be preserved for months by chopping and freezing them. To retain their color and texture, par-cooking is often helpful. For those vegetables listed below that need par-cooking, here’s how.

Blanching: Although you can slice and stash many vegetables in freezer bags, some do best with blanching — a quick immersion in boiling water by a plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process.

Sauteing: Some vegetables need quick cooking over medium-high heat before saving. Use a neutral oil (grapeseed, safflower), or butter. Consider using clarified butter or ghee — melted butter without the milk solids, which makes it digestible for those with lactose intolerance. (Here is how to make clarified butter using your crockpot.) Or, if you’re watching your fat intake closely you can even “saute” in a small quantity of hot broth or stock.

Cut into proper sizes.
• To “mince” something means cutting it into less than 1/8 inch pieces using a rocking knife motion.
• To “dice” something is to cut it in small, even pieces around 1/8 to 1/4 inch, also performed with a rocking motion.
• To “chop” something means to cut it into bite-sized pieces, as close to uniform as possible, with a chopping — not rocking — motion.

If you don’t have the best knife skills, or will be prepping produce in bulk, a food processor will “chop” food in one or two pulses, dice in four to five pulses, and mince if you run it non-stop until all the food clings to the side of the processor bowl. Or use a handy one-step chopper that can mince, dice, or chop for you. (I love mine!)

How To Save Produce

Apples: Stir 3 tablespoons of honey into 3 cups of water. Store them in the fridge in the honey-water, or scoop them out after 5 minutes and spread the pieces on a baking sheet to freeze individually. Transfer from the baking sheet into freezer containers to use in oatmeal, pies or apple butter.

Artichokes: It’s not easy to preserve whole artichokes, but if you’re willing to steam them and strip them down to the hearts (eating the leaves as you go), they’ll keep wonderfully for a couple of weeks in flavored olive oil when stored in the fridge. Be sure to return to room temperature before using, though.

Beets: Wash them thoroughly and remove the leaves to within 1 inch of the beet top. (See how to store beet greens, below.) Cook beets in boiling water until tender, about 25-30 minutes for small beets, 45-50 minutes for medium ones. Cool until you can handle them, then promptly slip the peel off and cut away the tap-root. Cut into slices or cubes, freeze in one layer on a baking sheet, then pack into freezer containers.

Beet greens: Select only the young, tender greens. Wash them thoroughly in multiple changes of water, then blanch for 2 minutes. Plunge into ice water, drain and dry them in a salad spinner. Store them in freezer bags.

Bell peppers (green, red, yellow): Wash and remove core, seeds and membrane. Slice or chop as desired, spread on a cookie sheet and freeze. Slip frozen pieces into a freezer container and store.

Berries: Wash them according to these instructions then spread on a baking sheet to freeze. Transfer to freezer containers.

Carrots: Scrub thoroughly and peel if desired. Blanch in hot water (5 minutes for whole carrots, 2 minutes for diced or sliced) then plunge into ice water. Drain, spread on a baking sheet and freeze.

Corn, kernels: Blanch whole ears of corn for 5 minutes and plunge into ice water. Slice kernels from cob, spread on a baking sheet to freeze then store in freezer containers.

Corn, whole ears: Remove husk and silk. Trim ends. Blanch in water for 8 minutes then plunge into ice water. Drain. When dry, wrap each ear in plastic wrap. Pack several wrapped ears into a freezer container for storage.

Cranberries: If you buy them in a plastic bag at the grocery store you can stick the unopened bag directly into the freezer for future use. Otherwise, rinse them and spread them on a baking sheet to freeze individually then store them in a freezer container.

Eggplant: Peel and slice into circles. Blanch for 5 minutes in 1 quart of water to which you’ve added 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Plunge into ice water, drain and spread on a baking sheet to freeze. Slip into a freezer container for storage.

Melons: Scoop balls of melon and dunk them in 1 quart of water to which you’ve added the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon. Remove with slotted spoon, set on a cookie sheet and freeze them before transferring to freezer containers. Use frozen cubes to make smoothies.

Onions: Chop, dice, or slice as desired. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Transfer to freezer containers.

Pears: Use only ripe pears. Combine 3 cups water and 3 tablespoons honey in a bowl. Wash and peel the pears, then cut them into quarters and remove the core. Soak the pears in the honey-water for 20 minutes. If refrigerating, store them in the honey water. To freeze, remove them from the honey-water after 20 minutes using a slotted spoon. Transfer them to a baking sheet to freeze then move them to a freezer container. Use frozen slices in smoothies.

Plums: Follow the same directions as for pears.

Pomegranates: Cut the fruit in half around the middle. Hold one half over a bowl, skin side up. Tap the top several times with the back of a wooden spoon to dislodge most of the seeds. Cut the half into halves again and drop the sections into a bowl of cold water. After 5 minutes use your fingers to roll the remaining seeds out. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet to freeze then scoop into freezer containers for storage. Use in salads or smoothies, or eat as-is.

Potatoes, grated: Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, rinse in cold water and drain well. Dry in a salad spinner then squeeze gently with a paper towel to remove any last moisture. Spread thinly on a baking sheet and freeze then scoop into freezer containers. These work great for hash browns and soup. (You can also blanch diced onions with them.)

Potatoes, whole: Baking potatoes freeze better than new, red potatoes. Peel then blanch in hot water for 5 minutes, rinse in ice water, pat dry with paper towel and freeze.

Sweet potatoes: Peel, cut into slices or dice then blanch for 3 minutes. Rinse in ice water and spread on baking sheet to freeze. Store in freezer containers.

Tomatoes, whole: Core then freeze individually on a baking sheet and transfer to a freezer container. When defrosted, the skins will slip right off.

Tomatoes, diced: Using a paring knife, gently cut an X into the blossom-end of the tomato then plunge into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Use slotted spoon to remove and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Slip the skins off. Cut into slices or dice, spread on cookie sheet to freeze.

Zucchini, grated: Steam over boiling water for 3 minutes, rinse in ice water and dry in a salad spinner. Spread on baking sheet to freeze then scoop into freezer containers. Works great in zucchini bread or soups.

Zucchini, sliced: Blanch for 3 minutes in hot water and rinse in ice bath. Drain, spread on cookie sheet to freeze individually and store in freezer containers. Works great in casseroles or soups.

As you can see, knowing how to freeze produce is just a matter of knowing the proper technique. In addition to letting you stock up on sales you’ll also have a head start on using produce in recipes since they’ll already be sliced, diced or chopped!

Equipment I Use For This:


  1. Shayna Murray says

    Those are some really helpful tips. I hate, hate, hate when produce goes to waste. I tend to do a lot of canning but there are just some things that don’t can well…..

    • says

      There are lots of things I can’t can well, either. And I don’t like doing canning when it’s really out out, either, because our home’s A/C can’t keep up. Storing produce this way lets me save it without breaking a sweat. 😉

  2. says

    You are way more organized than me! My usual plan is to wait until I have too much to do and then yell “oh crap, I have to can x, y, and z” and then stay up late and hate myself for it in the morning. I’m in awe!

    Thanks for linking up to the blog hop today!

    • says

      Oh, you can’t imagine how much produce I used to throw out. My husband would get so mad! So I started making a point of prepping our produce the same day it comes home from the grocery store — blanching, freezing if needed, tearing lettuce, etc. Suddenly, we our grocery budget went WAY down and I had a freezer full of chopped veggies ready for soups.

  3. Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy says

    What a great list! I hate throwing away produce so I’m always on a mission to either preserve it or use it before it goes bad. Thanks for linking up at Healthy 2Day Wednesday and come back tomorrow to see if you were featured!

  4. Teresa says

    You can freeze grapes as well. They make great frozen snacks on a hot day or use them in smoothies.

  5. Teresa says

    I also dice up several onions and freeze in baggies for use in all my recipes. And of course, freezing ripe bananas for making banana bread later.

    • says

      All great suggestions, Teresa! I stash frozen chopped onions in an old water bottle so they’re easy to shake out for whatever recipe I need.

      Definitely going to start freezing my grapes now. You know, I bet they’d make great “ice cubes” in water or peach iced tea that wouldn’t water the beverage down.

  6. says

    I think that blanching zucchini makes it too watery. I’ve found that freezing it straight works great. I also like to take zucchini slices and combine them with sweet bell pepper pieces and olive oil and basil (or seasonings of your choice). Freeze them together and they are ready to roast in the oven or grill.

    • says

      I haven’t had a problem with it being watery, although I do squeeze the heck out of it when draining. Your idea of freezing the ingredients together is a GREAT one! Thank you for sharing it. :)

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