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Preserving Summer Garden Produce = Fall and Winter Treats

Updated on July 19, 2014

If you are a serious summer gardener, then you know that you harvest more produce than you can eat during the summer growing season. Even if your garden is small, I will bet that there are times you simply have too many vegetables. During peak season, I haul in five gallon buckets of vegetables from the garden almost daily. What do you do with the leftovers? If you are like me, you share your summer garden treats with friends and family, but there are still too many squash, tomatoes, okra, field peas and butterbeans. So, how do you preserve those vegetables to enjoy year-round? You can pickle, dehydrate, freeze and can. Try these ideas and recipes to enjoy your excess produce once the growing season is over.

My Garden - In Full Bloom!

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The electric fence keeps the deer at bay.  We put it on a timer so I don't forget to turn it off when I go out to pick.  Cantaloupes - easy to grow and the perfect end to any summer meal.This pumpkin snuck out of the garden.Tomatoes on the VineZinnias growing in the back of the garden.  I love cut flowers in the house and zinnias are easy to grow.The corn is up.
The electric fence keeps the deer at bay.  We put it on a timer so I don't forget to turn it off when I go out to pick.
The electric fence keeps the deer at bay. We put it on a timer so I don't forget to turn it off when I go out to pick.
Cantaloupes - easy to grow and the perfect end to any summer meal.
Cantaloupes - easy to grow and the perfect end to any summer meal.
This pumpkin snuck out of the garden.
This pumpkin snuck out of the garden.
Tomatoes on the Vine
Tomatoes on the Vine
Zinnias growing in the back of the garden.  I love cut flowers in the house and zinnias are easy to grow.
Zinnias growing in the back of the garden. I love cut flowers in the house and zinnias are easy to grow.
The corn is up.
The corn is up.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Squash - waiting to be made into a squash casserole. Squash Casserole - Ready for Freezing
Squash - waiting to be made into a squash casserole.
Squash - waiting to be made into a squash casserole.
Squash Casserole - Ready for Freezing
Squash Casserole - Ready for Freezing

Summer Squash

Our summer garden is filled with squash and during the growing season, we eat some form of yellow squash and zucchini almost nightly. But, we still have squash – what to do with it? Here is an idea, make a delectable squash casserole ready to pull out during the cold weather months and have a "taste of summer." Making your own squash casserole is a serious cost savings. At my local casserole shop, a squash casserole that serves ten to twelve people costs $33.00. I can make the same casserole for less than $5.00.

Squash Casserole Recipe

1 large, chopped sweet onion (Vidalia sweet onions are the best, but use any sweet onion.)

1/2 stick + 1 Tablespoon butter (not margarine)

Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper , and 1 tablespoon of garlic powder {not garlic salt!} to begin with and then taste before adding more.)

4 cups cooked yellow squash and 1 cooked zucchini squash - drained and chopped; then press water out with paper towels on the chopping board (the pressing water out is important). (Use about 12 medium size yellow squash and 1 medium zucchini squash. The measurement does not have to be exact.) You will slice thick pieces then boil all the squash in water until fork tender.

3/4 cup sour cream

1 ¼ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cups crushed buttery crackers (I use Ritz; 1 sleeve = 1 cup) I crush mine in the food processor. Note: Reserve ¼ cup for topping.

DIRECTIONS

Boil cut squash for 10 – 15 minutes in water until fork tender; drain and press out excess water.

Sauté onion in butter until soft. (Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to onions while they cook.)

Mix all ingredients (squash, onions, sour cream, cheese, and crushed crackers) in a large bowl. (Hold out ¼ cup of crushed crackers for the topping.) Transfer to buttered casserole dish or 8x8 buttered aluminum pan & top with extra crushed crackers.

Since you are freezing, wrap well with plastic wrap then tinfoil. (I then wrap with plastic wrap again so I don't get freezer burn.) Prior to cooking, thaw in the refrigerator the day before then bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. YUM!!!

Okra

While I don’t grow much okra in my garden – about a 10 foot row - our okra patch produces enough to feed us during the summer and provide some extra for preserving to enjoy during those long winter days. When the okra is growing, I pick small pods daily and after several days I usually have enough to prepare.

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I pick pods of okra daily; after several days, I use the okra in various ways.Tomatoes - will be delicious frozen as tomatoes and okra.Garlic is easy to grow.  Plant it in the fall for a late spring/early summer harvest.  It adds zest to tomatoes and okra!Cooking the tomatoes and okra.  Ready for the freezer!
I pick pods of okra daily; after several days, I use the okra in various ways.
I pick pods of okra daily; after several days, I use the okra in various ways.
Tomatoes - will be delicious frozen as tomatoes and okra.
Tomatoes - will be delicious frozen as tomatoes and okra.
Garlic is easy to grow.  Plant it in the fall for a late spring/early summer harvest.  It adds zest to tomatoes and okra!
Garlic is easy to grow. Plant it in the fall for a late spring/early summer harvest. It adds zest to tomatoes and okra!
Cooking the tomatoes and okra.
Cooking the tomatoes and okra.
Ready for the freezer!
Ready for the freezer!

Tomatoes and Okra Recipe

INGREDIENTS

3 – 4 cloves chopped garlic

2 cups chopped tomato (about 6 to 8 fresh tomatoes depending on size)

1 cup cut okra (approximately ½ inch rounds) 1 cup = about 20+ medium-size okra pods

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS

Saute garlic in 1 Tablespoon olive oil.

Add diced tomatoes and cut okra.

Add salt and pepper (you can add more to taste later).

Simmer on low heat for about 25 minutes. Let cool then pack in a pint jar. Can with a pressure canner or freeze. (Yes, you can put canning jars in the freezer.)

Yield - about 1 pint

Easy Pickled Okra Recipe

Approximately 30 pods of okra (I pick mine small.)

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 cup vinegar (5% acidity)

1/2 cup water

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 Tablespoon Pickling Spice Mix (I use Ball.)

1 pinch of dill weed

DIRECTIONS

Boil jar and lid - remove and put in garlic, pickling spice and dill weed

Pack okra in the jar (alternating stem-side up and down)

In a small sauce pan (do not use aluminum), combine vinegar, water, salt and sugar; bring to a boil, then pour over the okra. Release bubbles by running a thin knife around the inside of the jar. Wipe rims with a clean damp paper towel. Place lid on jar and screw it on. Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Yield: 1 pint

If you have a lot of okra come in at once, make several pints or quarts. Just double or triple the recipe.

Pickled Okra
Pickled Okra

Tomatoes, Peppers and Basil - Oh My!

I can and dehydrate tomatoes; I give them away by the gallons, but I still have tomatoes. To use those luscious goodies, I make and freeze pasta sauce to pull out once the tomato growing season is done. In mid-winter, with a fire roaring in the wood stove, a great plate of pasta with my home-grown, homemade pasta sauce sure tastes good!

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Tomatoes - Just off the VineSweet Basil
Tomatoes - Just off the Vine
Tomatoes - Just off the Vine
Sweet Basil
Sweet Basil

Pasta Sauce - A Way to Enjoy the Garden Even During the Winter:

Pasta Sauce is one of the easiest recipes to prepare. In the middle of the winter, it gives you a taste of summer.

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Chopping bell pepper.Any sweet onion will do, but I LOVE Vidalia onions in my recipes.Garlic - easy to grow; adds a lot of flavorChopping the tomatoes - You can use a food processor too.Basil, parsley, rosemaryThe sauce is cooking.  We will enjoy this during the winter!I added zucchini to this batch of pasta sauce.
Chopping bell pepper.
Chopping bell pepper.
Any sweet onion will do, but I LOVE Vidalia onions in my recipes.
Any sweet onion will do, but I LOVE Vidalia onions in my recipes.
Garlic - easy to grow; adds a lot of flavor
Garlic - easy to grow; adds a lot of flavor
Chopping the tomatoes - You can use a food processor too.
Chopping the tomatoes - You can use a food processor too.
Basil, parsley, rosemary
Basil, parsley, rosemary
The sauce is cooking.  We will enjoy this during the winter!
The sauce is cooking. We will enjoy this during the winter!
I added zucchini to this batch of pasta sauce.
I added zucchini to this batch of pasta sauce.

Pasta Sauce Recipe

Here is where your creativity and personal preferences come into play. Because I harvest so many tomatoes and have time during the summer months, I make my own pasta sauce. Be aware – you can add or take away from this recipe; simply add more of what you like and delete what you don’t like, or develop a variation of your own.

Pasta Sauce for freezing:

1 large sweet onion - chopped

1 – 2 bell peppers (depending on size) - chopped

6 – 8 cloves of garlic – chopped

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

12 cups chopped tomatoes and juice (approximately 15 medium to large Better Boy tomatoes and 20 Roma tomatoes (or whatever you have growing) (measurement does not have to be precise)

1 Tablespoon Salt (add more later to taste)

2 Tablespoons Sugar (add more later to taste)

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder (add more later to taste)

1 teaspoon dried Oregano (or chop fresh is you grow oregano)

2 Bay Leaves

½ cup fresh basil (chopped) (I cut off several stems, which yields approximately this amount prior to chopping – no real need to measure)

Several stalks of parsley and rosemary (chopped)

1 - 8 ounce can of Tomato Paste

Variations: Add 1 chopped zucchini; Add 2 pounds of browned ground chuck; Add 1 pound polish or smoked sausage; Add what YOU like

DIRECTIONS

Chop and saute onion, bell pepper and garlic in 1 Tablespoon olive oil

Add chopped tomatoes (can go in the food processor, but don’t over process – only a few spins will do; you want to see tomato bits)

Add Salt, Sugar, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Oregeno, Basil, Parsley, Rosemary, Bay Leaves

Simmer on low for 1 to ½ hours

Add zucchini, ground chuck or sausage and simmer for ½ hour

Remove Bay Leaves

Add Tomato Paste and simmer an additional 15 – 20 minutes

Let cool; pack in quart freezer bags - Yield = About 5 quarts

Favorite Vegetable

What is the ONE vegetable/fruit that you must plant in your summer garden?

See results

Choosing What to Plant

If you have limited garden space in your summer garden, then you must carefully choose what to plant. My recommendation - plant what you love to eat!

What's Growing In My Garden...

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Pumpkins - these are not the eating kind, but I will use them for fall decorations.Field Peas - about to go into the freezer.Yellow Squash & Zucchini Squash - two of my favorite vegetables.Fresh picked strawberries and lettuceMy strawberries with blueberries from my neighbor - the best breakfast!Early HarvestTomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes!! Here is a hint: drop tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds.  The peel will slide right off then you can prep them for cooking or canning.I use garlic in so many dishes.More pickling cucumbers and okra.  We have canned 30 pints of bread and butter pickles and 15 pints of dill pickles - and the plants are still producing!Just picked produce - this beats the grocery store!Dehydrating Tomatoes - I toss a handful of these beauties into salads and add them to pasta with pesto. Fresh CantaloupeReady for the Pantry
Pumpkins - these are not the eating kind, but I will use them for fall decorations.
Pumpkins - these are not the eating kind, but I will use them for fall decorations.
Field Peas - about to go into the freezer.
Field Peas - about to go into the freezer.
Yellow Squash & Zucchini Squash - two of my favorite vegetables.
Yellow Squash & Zucchini Squash - two of my favorite vegetables.
Fresh picked strawberries and lettuce
Fresh picked strawberries and lettuce
My strawberries with blueberries from my neighbor - the best breakfast!
My strawberries with blueberries from my neighbor - the best breakfast!
Early Harvest
Early Harvest
Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes!! Here is a hint: drop tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds.  The peel will slide right off then you can prep them for cooking or canning.
Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes!! Here is a hint: drop tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. The peel will slide right off then you can prep them for cooking or canning.
I use garlic in so many dishes.
I use garlic in so many dishes.
More pickling cucumbers and okra.  We have canned 30 pints of bread and butter pickles and 15 pints of dill pickles - and the plants are still producing!
More pickling cucumbers and okra. We have canned 30 pints of bread and butter pickles and 15 pints of dill pickles - and the plants are still producing!
Just picked produce - this beats the grocery store!
Just picked produce - this beats the grocery store!
Dehydrating Tomatoes - I toss a handful of these beauties into salads and add them to pasta with pesto.
Dehydrating Tomatoes - I toss a handful of these beauties into salads and add them to pasta with pesto.
 Fresh Cantaloupe
Fresh Cantaloupe
Ready for the Pantry
Ready for the Pantry

Do You Grow a Summer Vegetable Garden?

See results

Comments

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    • susanouzts profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan B. Ouzts 

      4 years ago from Monroe County, GA

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Enjoy the recipes.

    • JamesWhitaker profile image

      James N. Whitaker 

      4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      My mom always plants cucumber and eggplant during summer. I am the one who cooks vegetable when they are ready for harvest. By the way, I am glad to learn recipes from your hub. Have a nice day.

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