Best Vegetables for Canning or Freezing and How To
6 Best Vegetables for Canning or Freezing
If you have a vegetable garden, most likely you want to store some of your harvest for use throughout the year. The best way to do that is through canning or freezing them. Not all vegetables can or freeze well. All vegetables will be prone to freezer burn, and some vegetables will just turn to mush when you thaw them. After 25 years of growing, canning and freezing my vegetables, here is my choice of the 6 best vegetables for canning or freezing for use all year round.
Green Bean Plant
If you have grown green beans before you know that they will produce a lot of beans all at one time. You first harvest will probably be your best and bean production will begin to slow after your second or third “picking”, depending on how hot your temperatures get in your area. Green beans do not like really hot weather. You can freeze green beans but most people prefer canning them as not only do they have a longer “shelf life”, but they taste better too. Once I have picked my green beans, washed and removed the stems, I “snap” them into bite sized pieces and put them in freezer bags either in the refrigerator or the freezer, depending on how soon I am going to be canning them. Don’t let them stay in the refrigerator more than a few days before canning them. I have also added small new potatoes to my green beans when I can them, but keep in mind that the potatoes, even small ones are going to take up room and you won’t be able to get as many green beans in the jars. Canned green beans should last up to five years but I am lucky to have any left from the previous year when my new crop is ready.
Process your green beans at 10 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes for pint jars and 25 minutes for quart jars.
If you prefer to freeze your green beans, be sure to "blanch" them first. You do this by putting them in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Once the time is up, place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the blanching process. Now, you can place them in a good freezer bag and vacuum seal if possible. You can usually keep green beans in the freezer for about six months before they begin to freezer burn.
Black-Eyed Pea Plant
Just as with green beans, black-eyed peas will also produce a lot of peas all at one time. Black-eyed peas do tolerate the heat better than green beans, but your production will slow with time. You can also freeze black-eyed peas, but again most people prefer canning them as well. After picking and washing you want to “snap” the smaller, more tender pea pods into bite size pieces. The pods that tend to be a little tough, you will want to shell and remove the peas and discard the pods. Again, depending on how quickly you are going to can your peas, you can put them in freezer bags in the refrigerator or freezer until you have enough to can. Canned black-eyed peas should also last up to five years.
Process your black-eyed peas at 10 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes for pint jars and 25 minutes for quart jars.
If you choose to freeze your black-eyed peas, shell them first, then blanch them. Now you can place them in freezer bags and vacuum seal if possible. Black-eyed peas will usually freeze for about a year.
A good crop of tomatoes should continue to produce up until early fall. There is nothing like a good fresh homegrown tomato right out of the garden! Most of us also use tomatoes as an ingredient when cooking. You can have the great taste of home grown tomatoes all year long by canning them. You can freeze tomatoes to use in your recipes but there are many ways to can tomatoes. You may want to can just plain tomatoes by themselves or make various recipes with your tomatoes and can the finished product. Some of the recipes you can use your tomatoes for would be salsa or picante sauce. You can make your own stewed tomatoes or just plain tomato sauce. By adding your choice of spices you can make your own pasta sauce. Wash tomatoes well and drain. Dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins split. Then dip in cold water. Use a sharp knife to cut out the stem and all of the white core beneath the stem and then peel off the skin before canning. Shelf life of tomatoes is less than most other vegetables. I would recommend one to two years at the most.
You can “hot pack” tomatoes rather than pressure cook them. Placed the jars in canner or large pot of boiling water. Let water return to boil and process pint jars for 10 minutes and quart jars for 15 minutes.
Home Made Pickles
Does anyone like pickles! Most people eat pickles all year round. Canning your own pickles is a great money saver too! You can make several different kinds of pickles, from sweet to sour. There are butter pickles, garlic pickles even jalapeno pickles. You can slice your pickles or leave them whole. You can’t freeze cucumbers. They will turn to mush when thawed, so you will need to be ready to pickle and can them shortly after they are picked. Be sure to use firm pickles. If they feel a little soft or mushy, they are not going to can well. You may want to plant what is called pickling cucumbers as they tend not to grow as large as salad cucumbers, but those that I have missed when picking and have gotten to large for pickles, still make great salad cucumbers! Once you have picked your cucumbers, be sure to wash them very well as they have little spikes on them that you don’t want in your pickles.
You also “hot pack” pickles. Processing time for pickles, that are not sliced, is 15 minutes in quart jars.
Okra on Table
Being from the southern United States, I love okra. We southerners prefer it fried, of course. You can also also use okra in various recipes. The only successful way of canning okra, I have found, is to make pickled okra. As you know if you eat much okra is that it tends to be slimey. Pickled okra is no exception but it sure is good, slime and all! There is a link to my pickled okra recipe below. The best way I have found to preserve okra is to freeze it. When picking your okra, be sure to wear long sleeves as the okra plants have little stickery hairs on them which tend to me irritating to skin. Once you have picked your okra, wash it before cutting off the tops. You will then want to cut off the tops and slice the okra. If the pods are a little tough when slicing, discard them as they will be tough when eating too.
Once you have sliced the okra, put it into freezer bags and vaccum seal if possible. I try to double bag my okra to keep it from getting freezer burn for as long as possible.
If you like to eat cooked spinach or use it in various recipes, it freezes well. We love spinach cooked with a little bacon or ham in it for added flavor. Spinach is an early garden vegetable so freezing it, keeps it handy all year long. Once you have picked your spinach leaves, wash them thoroughly and strip the spinach off of the large vein that runs through the middle of the leaf as it tends to be tough.
Boil your spinach in salted water until tender. Be sure to drain it well before putting it in freezer bags. Vacuum seal if possible. I have found that spinach freezes very well and will keep in the freezer for up to a year.
Preparing Your Vegetables
When preparing to can, be sure to thoroughly clean your jars. I sterilize mine in the dishwasher along with the canning rings. Be sure to check your jars for any crack or nicks or sharp edges, as these will keep the jars from sealing. Check your rings also, don’t use any that are rusted or slightly out of shape. Place your canning lids in boiling water until you are ready to use them. Pack your vegetables loosely and leave about one inch of space at the top of the jar. Add boiling to water to fill jar leaving that one inch space at the top. If you are canning in pint jars, you will want to add 1/2 tsp. and quart jars, 1 tsp. of canning salt. Simply spoon the salt over the vegetables. Wipe off the top of each jar to be sure there is no salt on the rim and place the canning lid on top and firmly screw on the rings.
Canning Your Vegetables
Pour approximately 2 quarts of water into the canner and I add about 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the water. The vinegar helps keep the water from staining the outside of the jars. Place the jars on the rack in the canner and process for the required time. Once they have processed, remove the canner from the heat and allow it to cool for approximately 30 minutes. Remove the jars carefully and place on a surface that will tolerate the hot jars. I place mine on bath towels laid out on my kitchen table or cabinet. As the jars are cooling, you should hear them “pop” as they are sealing. DO NOT remove the rings until the jars are completely cooled off. Check the seals first. Push down in the center of the lid, if it moves and makes a clicking sound, the jar did not seal. If the lid does not move or “click” when you press down, you have a good seal and your vegetables are ready to store.
Well there you have it! I am not a great cook or a great gardener. I have to give credit to my husband and my mother-in-law. I wish she was still here to see this! Of course over the years we have learned a lot from trial and error as well. These are all the vegetables that we “put up” every year and each year we have to plant a little more as we always have to share with our friends and family. I hope my suggestions and tips are useful. Look forward to some recipes using these vegetables and happy gardening!
Do you can or freeze fresh vegetables for storing?
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