These Are a Few Of My Favorite Food Preservation Methods (Okay, So It Doesn’t Have Quite The Same Ring As “A Few Of My Favorite Things”) (Also, This Is Totally Not A Post About Canning)

July 9th, 2013 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health


Last week I Instagrammed that picture up there ^^ and I got so many questions about the process, that it jump-started me into finally writing this post that I’ve been meaning to write for forever and ever.


Right now we’re enjoying the glorious days of summer, and all the bounty that those days bring. But soon . . . too soon . . . the world will be cooling down again, the piles of produce will begin to wane, the sky will open back up and the rain will wash away the berry stains from our fingers.

We must keep this in mind, my fellow urban homesteaders. Because unless we want to be eating canned beans and brown rice all winter, NOW is the time for food preservation! Now, when the crops are at their peak and the prices at their plummet, now is the time to capture the charity of the season.


But not with canning. Because this is the Internet and there are literally tens of thousands of recipes and blog posts already out there related to canning, and there are also like literally hundreds of books and cookbooks written about canning, and also I just don’t really like canning. It’s not my bag, I don’t like what it does to my food (usually, sweeten and soften it). So canners, I don’t worry that you’ll be able to find some amazing inspiration elsewhere. But here, I present: A Few Of My Favorite Food Preservation Techniques


Two giant gallon jars filled with frozen broccoli bought at the peak of it’s cheapness, a fraction of what I’d pay during winter. Pro tip: blanch broccoli before you freeze it, to keep it tasting fresh.


Freezing is probably my favorite preservation method, and so underutilized! In Portland, when I had more time and energy to put towards such things, I bought an entire stand-up freezer off a guy on the side of the road for $50, and we wheeled that thing home and stuck it in the garage, and I stuffed it full of so many summer fruits and vegetables.


GIANT bells washed and waiting in the sink. I would get these at 6 for $5 all through summer. I’d buy 12 or 18 every weekend, use a few, and then freeze the rest.

Freezing fruits and veggies is simple, and the protocol is almost always the same.

1. Wash the food. Prep the food.
I used to spend all day berry picking on Sauvie Island with Waits, and then as soon as he was asleep I’d tromp downstairs to wash and trim like, 7 pounds of strawberries or whatever. Yes, it’s a time investment. But those strawberries made the BEST smoothies that winter, and man they saved us a lot of dough.

2. Freeze the food.
Don’t freeze it in tupperware or in bags! If you do, you’ll just end up with a big old solid mass of frozen food, and you’ll have to thaw the entire thing all at once and obviously, that totally defeats the purpose. So what you need to do is lay out some baking sheets spread with parchment paper (or non-stick Silpat mats, if you have those). Then spread the food over the trays and freeze it like that.

2. Bottle or bag the food.
Once frozen, you can transfer it to glass jars or tupperware or freezer bags or whatever you prefer. This way, you’ll be able to take out as little or as much as you like, each time.


Pounds and pounds of blueberries. I froze all of them!

Berries are great for freezing because they can go right into smoothies and oatmeal and pies and whatever else you want. But veggies are also awesome, so experiment with your favorites. I always do broccoli and bell peppers, but I have friends who do everything from carrots to kale. Just remember to prep your food first – so bells and carrots get chopped, kale gets torn, etc. Some hardier veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc, should be blanched before freezing.

When it comes to vegetables, previously-frozen foods will need to be served cooked as opposed to eaten raw. So, no massaged kale salads from your frozen kale. But, lots of kale in soup and kale in stir fry and all that good stuff! We ate fajitas all winter long using my summer bells, and man were they delicious!


And back to that picture up at the top there, the one that sparked this whole post?

Pesto! I love to buy basil (or this year, get big bags of it in my CSA) when it’s in season because it’s just bursting with flavor! But it’s only around for a short window, so I always try to stock my freezer with perfectly summery pesto.

I make a triple or quadruple batch, then freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I transfer the cubes to an air-tight container to prevent freezer burn. You can do this with any seasonal sauces – like heirloom tomato marinara or fresh herb chimichurri (I like mine with cilantro!). The cubes are great because you can just grab 1, 2, or 3 whenever you need, depending on how much food you’re making and how you’re using the sauce.


This is a gallon of frozen pesto cubes.

I was going to include my other two favorite forms of food preservation, but dang if this post isn’t epic enough already. So, you’ll just have to wait until next Monday for those. Which means – stock up at the Farmer’s Market this weekend!


  • coconutandberries

    A gallon of pesto cubes! Amazing! What a fun post. I still haven’t been berry picking this summer but when I do I’m going to load up the freezer big time :D

  • Gaby de Vries

    I love summer for all the freshness of the produce! I can A LOT but I also freeze. Nothing goes to waste. I use the “scraps” of peeled and cut vegetables to make broth as well. :) Mother Nature is generous.

  • Pippa

    Freezing pesto is a great idea. I used a similar technique with foraged stinging nettles this spring. I carefully wash the leaves, wilt them in a heated frying pan, chop up the wilted leaves and then freeze. I put a layer of parchment paper on a baking tray and make little heaps of nettle, freeze and then transfer to an ice cream container or a zip lock.

    Then I can easily add a block of nettle goodness into smoothies or a spinach like dish. Delicious!

  • Deirdre

    Where do you get those great jars? I save regular food jars, but those look like a nice size. Great post- thank you!

  • Jennifer McCallum

    So this may be a silly question…you can put glass jars in the freezer? It doesn’t break? I love the idea of freezing the pesto! Would it be ok to use on a pizza or is it too watery after being frozen?

  • Rachel

    I have always been so worried about freezing things in glass because I’m never sure how much head room to leave. Pre-freezing sauces in ice cube trays then putting them in the jars totally solves this problem! Amazing inspiration. Thanks!

  • amey

    I make frozen pesto cubes too – it’s so great and easy! And like you said, you only need to defrost as many cubes as you need. Also, last year I made a ginormous batch of roasted bell peppers and froze those – it was awesome! You must have such a giant freezer. I have a small freezer and it is PACKED because I am a freezing maniac.

  • Suzanne

    I love this! I’m hoping to puree and freeze spinach in cubes for smoothies!

  • Krista Marie Herbst

    What about the plastic bags? Is there a way to NOT use them? I really like the idea of those machines that suck the air out for freezing, but it uses plastic. Is there a concern there both health and environmental?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I need to go berry picking this year too! I’ve been getting boxes and boxes of strawberries in my CSA, but I’m excited that blackberry season is almost upon us. I’ll definitely go out picking then!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I save all my veggie scraps too! Mmm, homemade veggie broth is the best.

    Got any knock-my-socks-off canning recipes that aren’t sweet/jammy?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    The stinging nettles is genius! We don’t get them around here but I drank fresh nettle tea by the bucketload when I lived in Oregon. LOVE them.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I got them super cheap when my favorite neighborhood herb + spice shop closed down a few years back. They were so insanely cheap that I bought like 15 of them, ha! But you can order them online (that’s the cheapest one I could find). Gallon jars really are amazing for this sort of stuff.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! Especially in this case where you’re filling them with already-frozen solid foods. There is no chance of them cracking.

    The cracking issue comes from trying to freeze liquids, like soups or tomato sauce or something. I get a cracked jar Id say 1-in-15. I’ve found it helps to cool the liquid in the fridge first, like overnight, and then transfer to the freezer. Leave enough of a gap at the top (1-2 inches) for the liquid to expand, and DEFINITELY leave the lid off for the first 24 hours. You want it completely, totally, 100% frozen before you screw the lid on.

    Hope that helps!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Totally solves the cracking problem, and also makes it so much easier to use a little bit at a time! =D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Well in Portland I had the stand-up freezer which was soooo nice. Maybe one day I’ll get another one of those, but for now I just fill my little freezer. Yup, it’s getting packed!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    That’s brilliant, yes!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I don’t use any plastic when I’m freezing food for preserving – I just freeze everything in glass.

    The issue with the vacuum bag for me is that you can’t re-seal it. The kind of stuff I freeze, I want to take a little bit at a time. Like berries for smoothies, pesto cubes, etc. So the bags don’t make sense for my needs.

  • Lynn

    Yes! Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been freezing berries for ages but tis year I’ll actually take a crack at veggies too!!!

  • Gaby de Vries

    My chili recipe is insane!
    1 c. coloured bell peppers
    2 onions, diced
    6 cloves of garlic
    3 x 28 oz of diced tomatoes or fresh (peeled)
    5 c. red and black beans
    1 tbsp. sugar
    1 tbsp. cacao
    salt & pepper
    1 diced jalapenos
    1/4 – 1/2 c. cumin
    hot sauce to taste
    1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
    1-2 c. corn
    chili spice to add:
    1 tbsp. onion powder
    1 tsp chili powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp chili
    1/4 tsp garlic powder
    1/4 tsp cumin
    simmer a few hours till thickness; can away!!!!
    Marinara sauce (to die for!)
    3 tbsp olive oil
    1 carrot
    1 celery stalk
    1 onion
    1-2 garlic clove
    1 x 28 oz diced tomatoes
    2 tbsp. tomato paste
    1 1/2 tsp sugar
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp pepper
    1 tbsp. basil, parsley, oregano
    1/8 tsp nutmeg
    2 laurel leaves
    I have so many others!!!!

  • The Vegan Cookie Fairy

    Man, I wish I had a giant freezer. Mine is part of my fridge and will barely fit a few bags of frozen vegetables. Someday when I’m not a student anymore and I don’t live in a tiny flat, I will definitely get myself a big ol’ freezer (my mother used to have 3 – one in the kitchen, 2 in the outhouse where she preserved all her own stuff) and freeze my own vegetables. You’re right, it’s so much cheaper.

  • April

    Freezing is the way to go! The kids and I picked 22 lbs of cherries yesterday and a good portion of those beauties are freezer bound! 8 pounds of strawberries we picked on Monday are already packed away as freezer jam. Also, I always keep an eye out for reduced produce at our supermarket/farmers market. I scored a ton of spotted (but still delicious) bananas which I peeled, cut and packaged for the freezer – smoothies anyone? When I can get bell peppers for a good price (like this time of year), I make huge batches of homemade enchilada/ranchero sauce, which I freeze in quart bags for future meals (wet burrito casserole). A few weeks ago, I brought home a giant haul 2nds quality yellow squash from the farmers market for next to nothing. I sauteed them up with garlic and onion and froze them in quart bags.

  • erica

    i like freezing, too; so far this year i’ve put up several bags of blanched chard, cherries (stem and all for drink garnish), and a batches of strawberry pops. strawberries blended with almond milk taste just like strawberry shortcake :) i usually freeze blanched beans and corn as well, and can and dehydrate too, though my canning usually concentrates on tomato products.

  • erica

    *batch* of pops. ugh, typos.

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  • Judith

    Hi there, would I have to blanch peas aswell before freezing? Or does that only go for beans? Seem like I’ll have a good pea-harvest and not enough capacity to cook and eat them all right away…

  • Ebby’s Mama

    Where did you get that blue bowl in the top corner of your Instagram photo? Is that glass? It looks so cute and retro!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks! It’s a vintage pyrex mixing bowl. =)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yeah I would blanch peas for sure. =)

  • Mrs. GV

    I had been wondering about freezing kale/collards. I use them in a citrus/ sautéed greens recipe from Bryant Terry, so I think they might be OK previously frozen for that. Guess I will give it a try!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    You can definitely use frozen greens in cooked recipes!

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