Whether you’re picking the last of the tomatoes, snipping your herbs before they get hit by frost, or digging potatoes, it’s definitely harvest time. One of the best ways to preserve some of your garden produce for winter is to freeze it. But using plastic bags can be wasteful. For some more sustainable freezing alternatives, check out these ideas.
Lots of types of fruits and vegetables can be frozen for future use. You can save the fresh and beautiful bounty of summer for a cold winter day, by packing and freezing tomatoes, peppers, green beans, herbs, and more.
Many gardeners freeze produce in plastic freezer bags, but this can be wasteful, and there is some debate over the safety of freezing food in some types of plastic. Luckily, there are more sustainable, and potentially safer, methods of freezing your produce. Here are a few to try:
Metal And Glass Containers
These are the best choices for plastic-free freezing, especially if you are going to keep the food frozen for months before use. Flat, rectangular containers are the easiest to stack and also make the best use of freezer space. Just look for ones with silicon lids or lids with silicone gaskets, to ensure you get an airtight seal that will keep food fresh. ….But these storage products are not cheap. So unless money is no object, you may need to explore other options. For instance, freeze the food in a glass container until solid, then remove the block of food from the container and wrap it tightly in something else before returning it to the freezer (see below for options). Then you can reuse the same glass container for something else.
Glass Canning/Freezing Jars
These tapered wide-mouth Mason jars, usually described as quilted crystal jelly jars, are specifically designed for freezing and come in pint and half-pint sizes. They’re a good choice for vegetables and fruits, and are much more affordable than glass or metal boxes, though less easy to pack tightly in the freezer…. You can also freeze in standard canning jars, but you need to leave more headroom over liquids to allow for expansion. Don’t try to freeze liquids in jars other than Mason jars. They will burst, as even Mason jars do occasionally.
Some commercial frozen foods still come in waxed cardboard boxes. If you can find empty ones for sale, they are a reasonable option, but be sure to tape the openings tightly with freezer tape, a special, thick type of masking tape designed to withstand the cold temperatures of your freezer. You can also make your own waxed boxes by reusing cartons or aseptic containers (the kind boxed soup comes in). To do that, carefully cut the top seam, open the container completely, and wash it out well. Fill it with the food to be frozen, leaving enough space to be able to fold the top over and seal it securely with freezer tape. And label it! You can’t see through boxes the way you can with glass jars, so don’t rely on memory to remind you of what’s inside.
Paper And Foil
Wraps are good for chunks of firm foods such as meat or pre-frozen blocks of food (see “Metal and Glass Containers,” previous page). Unbleached brown butcher paper can be used in the very short term or as a first-layer wrap, but it provides very little protection from moisture loss. Waxed paper is a bit more moisture resistant and will work for a few weeks….
Heavy-duty aluminum foil is probably your best bet—airtight when well sealed and moisture-resistant. It can be damaged easily while you handle it, though, and once there’s a hole, it’s Freezer-Burn City. Wrap meats carefully in foil, and then overwrap with butcher or waxed paper to protect it (if you’re careful with the paper, you can probably reuse it a few times), and be sure to recycle the foil when you’re finished with it.
For more alternatives, visit Rodale’s Organic Life…