Freezing versus canning while preserving the tastes of summer


Plans for Labor Day barbecues means summer is almost gone. Many people will be buying or harvesting the very last of their summer produce, hoping perhaps for an extra two weeks of eggplant or peppers. Zucchini is becoming a memory. As we scurry to freeze and dry the final late summer garden bonanza, I will recap Mom’s food preservation videos that have filled the blog this summer and the philosophy and food science that underlies her techniques.

Preserving the taste of summer

Summer gardening offers some of most distinct flavors of the year-long garden. An heirloom pepper is wonderful simply roasted and eaten in a composed during the summer months, but you can also chop it, sauté it in garlic and oil, grind it up, freeze it (read more), and you can enjoy the summer pepper flavor in winter soups in the darkest days of winter. December pumpkin soups are always better when you can walk to your freezer and pull out a bag of cubed eggplant pieces to add to it.

I could pay about five bucks for frozen peppers at Whole Foods to add to my soup or I could plant a few extra pepper plants in the garden, help a friend harvest hers, or buy some in bulk from a farmer in September and have enough frozen peppers for a dozen or more soups in the winter. Preserving the taste of summer, then, is cost-effective. The fact is it can even be simple.

Freezing: Better than grandma’s canning

Many people are intimidated to preserve their own food because it seems so difficult. You have to buy mason jars, lids, and rings and then you have to figure out how not to kill yourself with botulism.

Once you get past those barriers, you have to ask yourself whether it is worth your time to spend the better part of a day canning and ending up with eight quarts of canned tomatoes. Most people these days do not have monumental amounts of produce to preserve. They may end up with a lug of tomatoes or peppers and may come to the rational conclusion that the quantity is nowhere near worthy of canning.

Here at the Rebuild Blog we have a simple solution to get past your fear of canning or your rational conclusion that canning takes too much time: don’t can.

Grandma used to can her food because she lived in Missouri (insert your favorite Dustbowl state here) and had to make her summer garden harvest last through the winter. I do not know if you ever saw Grandma’s freezer, but it was likely about two cubic feet in size and was covered with an inch of ice. My Grandma actually lived in a tent without a refrigerator or freezer for part of her married life, so even these small freezers were pretty high-class.

In any case, freezing produce was not a viable preservation method back in Grandma’s day. Grandma canned instead.

Now that we have options, one added problem with canning is the nutrient loss that comes with canning. Canning usually comes with pretty extensive cooking, particularly for home cooks. Whenever your food is exposed to heat, it will lose some of its nutrient content. Canning requires high temperatures and, thus, your produce will suffer a bit for it. For those of us who seek out heirloom produce because of its higher nutrient content, it is a shame to can the produce when we could use a technique that is more friendly on the nutrient content.


Consider for example the case of the loss of vitamin B-6 in canned and frozen vegetables. Vitamin B-6 is a nutrient that fights depression, so it always gets my attention. A study on nutrient loss in processed foods way back in the 1970s examined the loss in B-6 in frozen and canned foods. Loss of vitamin B-6 was nearly two times greater with canning than with freezing. Of course, these are studies of commercial canning processes that actually tend to be easier on nutrients than does your home canning. If you have ever canned and have boiled the heck out of a jar to get it to seal, you have some idea of what I am talking about.

Freezing preserves more of the nutrients in the food but consider as well how accessible freezing is to us. Today you can get a 25 cubic feet Energy Star chest freezer for about $700. A few years back, we recycled two dinosaur freezers on our property, spent some bucks on a new one, and paid the cost of the appliance in ten months with the energy savings. The freezer does not cost $10 a month to run and holds a great deal of food.

Freezers are fairly inexpensive to buy these days and they are inexpensive to run. Freezing produce is extremely easy. Mom goes into some detail on her videos for people who may have never frozen fruit and vegetables. Her videos include a basic technique to freeze fruit and vegetables and a cooked and ground pepper concept for times when you have mountains of peppers. You can also just make the usual tomato sauce that you can, but freeze it instead.

I mentioned these videos to a friend who responded along the lines of “Those videos are really basic.” I agree. The techniques are so basic, in fact, I wonder why anyone would ever want to heat up their kitchen in the summer and go through a whole lot of extra work canning.

That is not to say there are not exceptional reasons to can:

You want to replicate one of Grandma’s recipes

Your freezer is already stuffed

You do not have a freezer

You simply want to can

I encourage you to preserve your produce by freezing it. For the more adventuresome, consider drying tomatoes or making fruit leather. Those techniques require neither a freezer nor jars and lids and they are pretty easy. They do require a good bit of sun if you do not have a food dehydrator (daytime highs in the mid-80s or above).

These techniques are easy ways to preserve the taste of summer and your garden’s nutrient content at the same time.

This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursday.

18 Responses to Freezing versus canning while preserving the tastes of summer
  1. Love this post. I am so glad that you addressed this issue this week! And I never thought of drying my own tomatoes, but I think I am going to try it. :-)

  2. I like the tomato approach because you can clean them up and get them out in the sun and, some days later, pick the project up again. I don’t think I would ever have a whole day to can.

  3. On Twitter, someone just told me “Honestly the most liberating thing I’ve read in a long time. I just HATE canning! Freezing is so much more formidable.”
    That makes my day!

  4. Good points! I’m using my freezer more maybe I should just do that for the next batch of jam that I do. My freezer out in the garage is only half full. I do love lactofermented veggies, though, and they take up the whole bottom shelf of my fridge :o )

  5. Cara,
    Freezer jam is a great idea. I haven’t actually done any fermented vegetables this summer but I agree, they can take over the fridge real fast. I should ferment some squash while it’s still around. :)

  6. Ren

    Perfect timing! I’m planning on spending some time next weekend preserving tomatoes, especially.
    Put up a few pounds last year using a dehydrator and was happy with the results, although dried tomatoes don’t work in everything.

  7. Hi Ren. You’re right — dried tomatoes are not the end-all. We do freeze sauce on occasion when we have extra. In years past we have also canned a great “nacho beer sauce” recipe. That recipe may actually be worth a day slaving in the kitchen. Since I start my diet, however, my hunch is that nacho beer sauce mixed with cheese is off the menu. :)
    (Must remember to start diet…)

  8. This is a great post. I always like to think about what “grandma” used to do in regards to her food supply and cooking methods. It’s true, now that we have gigantic freezers we can freeze most of our produce, which is what we do. I can applesauce because it’s so much cheaper than to buy it all year. I use it to bake with and my kids love it as a treat with cinnamon. I need to start dehydrating my tomatoes now. Unfortunately our garden didn’t give us much this year. -Ali :)

  9. Ali,
    That’s another great example of something to can. We have a small orchard with apples just starting to come on. I do hope that in a few we have enough for apple sauce. Right now we have enough for the birds and us to sample.

  10. Tanya Brown

    Thank you for this post. I was feeling guilty for not canning that much this year. I thought I was being lazy by freezing what I would buy at the farmer’s market. I knew that buying frozen at the store was healthier. Now I don’t have to feel guilty:)

  11. Haha, thanks for this! :)
    As the poster above said… I dont have to feel guilty now :)

  12. I have been happily canning this year for a variety of reasons:
    We live on a boat, and though we have a freezer it is FULL (in fact, I may have to can some of the 100 quarts of frozen berries to make room for some meat)
    We live in a damp climate (and have no room for a dehydrator, though I am trying to figure that one out)
    I actually enjoy it!
    But, I also love to ferment (and our hold is filled with sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles, right next to the applesauce, berry sauces and canned plums)
    I am hoping to can some tuna soon, as I have heard it is so much better than the commercially done tuna.
    I do hear you about nutrient loss, but a mix of approaches seems to be working for us. Maybe any effort at home preservation is better than being dependent on factory food . ..

  13. I wish I had known about you when I did my post on tomato freezing. Love your food preservation graph!
    Actually, I love your whole blog.
    In good health,

  14. Awww, you got tomatoes. I tried container gardening this year and failed miserably! I had visions of tomatoes dancing in my head. heheh.
    That was my concern (if I actually grew some) How can I store these without making my family ill!

  15. I wholeheartedly agree that freezing is the way to go. Just make sure to organize your chest freezer in some way, or you may find yourself never being able to find what you put in there 6 months earlier!

  16. Darryl

    I’ve been avidly freezing for about 10 years. 4 or 5 years ago I bought an $89 juicer and use it for fresh juicing 4-6 times a week. I thought about canning versus freezing and from a time commitment, knew canning was a lot more labor intensive and lengthy. I had a bunch of pint and quart jars and lids (which I reuse on a regular basis). I started experimenting with juicing tomatoes and apples and freezing them in jars.

    I know the longer you keep a fresh picked fruit or vegetable, for most produce, the vitamin and mineral content gradually decreases. So I concentrate on juicing produce when I have surplus at the earliest time from when they’re picked. An interesting discovery is that often when I open a frozen juice from a jar there is a definite sound indicating the jar was actually sealed in the freezer. I think going rapidly from fresh to juiced and immediately placing them in the freezer is the reason why this occurs.

    I began volunteering at a CSA farm last year and became the scavenger par excellence. Less than perfect tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, corn, etc were gladly taken home, juiced and put in the freezer. Last year I volunteered and then worked part time at a CSA closer to home and I started making vegetable broth by combining various vegetables, simmering for a few hours in a closed pot and then putting the hot juice in jars that I screw the lids on tight and let cool. Most of these jars sealed before I froze them and I have about 15 quarts and 30 pints in my freezer right now. My freezer is almost full.

    I had a surplus of pears in ’08 that turned out very well in (thick) juice and I’ve found cantaloupe and peaches freeze very well this way also. The peach comes though quite thick and I use the “puree” for making a new batch of jam as soon as it is thawed using the sure jell that requires no sugar. I seldom add sugar to anything I freeze. Two years ago I had some muscadine and concord grapes and those froze very well also.

  17. Darryl

    I should have said that I purposely leave more space on top of the jars for the frozen food to expand. About 5-6 jars were broken when we moved 10 miles in 2008 from N.C. to S.C. Since then I’ve had 2 qts and 3 pints that split open and, as far as I can tell, it was because of overfilling the jar. I stay at least an inch below the narrowest part of the jars when filling them.

    • Amanda Rose

      Good advice, Darryl. Thanks

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