mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Winter Freeze

In Traditions and Customs, Vegetables on January 28, 2007 at 9:07 pm


Old Man Winter is loosening his grip…soon the winter bounty will be over. Enjoy it while it lasts and if you put in some extra effort now, you could make it last longer. And I am not talking about pickle making.

Drying is one method which works on summer as well as winter vegetables, though dishes prepared with re-hydrated vegetables have a distinctly different taste. Like many people preparing for long hard winters ahead, Kashmiris too have a tradition of cooking with vegetables (and fish) dried in the sunny and warm summer months. Turnips and turnip greens, eggplant, bottle gourd, tomatoes, cauliflower, cooking apples (bum tchoonth), can all be seen threaded into garlands and hung up to dry by a sunny window all over Kashmir, and relished later in the winter. Everyone has seen pictures of Kashmiri red chillies strung similarly. And of course, you have all also heard of the prized dried morels or guchhi (kannguchh in Kashmiri).

I have experimented with sun-drying vegetable very successfully myself. I have to learn some Kashmiri preparations before I try my hand at turnips and eggplant. In addition to tomatoes, I have tried sun-drying cauliflower, and karela (bitter gourd) in the Delhi summers. Mint can be similary dried for monsoon-season and winter use when it becomes scarce. Just snip bunches of fresh mint, give it a quick rinse, shake of the excess water, and let it dry in shade. Once it is dry, crush it between your palms, throw out the stems, and store in air-tight glass jars. As the end of winter nears, I do the same to make my own kasuri methi (the more fragrant cousin of the regular methi/ fenugreek greens) for later use in stews and chicken curries.

This winter, and last year as well, we made amla supari. Salt stoned and chopped amla (Indian Gooseberry), mix in salt and some grated ginger, and dry in the sun. This is great to chew on after a meal or when you have a bad taste in your mouth. The puckering sour of the amla combines well with the salt and ginger for a healthy mouth freshner – amla (yes, the same key ingredient in Body Shop’s Amlika Hair Conditioner!) is one of the richest sources of vitamin C, though all that sunning must kill off most of that. In any case, it tastes great.

But what I want to showcase today is freezing vegetables. While the frozen food isles in the US stock everything under the sun, it is not so here in India yet. Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable outlets (and also the fancier grocery shops in the air-conditioned malls) carry Safal frozen peas on a regular basis. You will also find cauliflower in the summer, sometimes bhindi (okra), as also tomatoes.

But in this house we are very picky about the peas we consume – matar (sweet tender peas) as opposed to watane, the plump peas better off dried into lentils. Or if of the yellow pea variety – dried and cooked to make the most delicious of north Indian street foods – the matar-kulchaboiled yellow peas, mixed with chopped onions, tomatoes, chilies, coriander and a special fiery spice mix and served out of shiny bright brass pots with warmed leavened flat breads, at a bus stop near you. 100% fat free to boot. (You didn’t think that was chhole (chick pea) now, did you?).

So we continue to freeze peas for year round use in matar pulao, aloo matar, and matar paneer, as we did before we had Safal.

The following procedure can be used to freeze peas, cauliflower, broccoli (but who can afford this vege here!) carrots, beans and the like. Carrots cook easy so remember to keep the chunks large.

Freezing Vegetables

Prepared vegetables (shelled peas, cauliflower cut into large florets, green beans cut into 1 ½” lengths…)
A large pot of water
Salt (1 t to 1 l of water)
Zip lock bags


Bring the salted water (4-5 l, about a gallon, I think) to boil. Add the prepared vegetables in batches – a couple of pounds can go in at a time. Blanch the vegetables for 2 minutes exactly. The pot should continue to be the stove top. Do not wait for the water to come to boil. Drain the vegetables or skim them out. I usually dump mine into the colander kept over another large pot to catch all the water. It is much faster this way. Put the water on the boil again. Add some salt – another teaspoon or so. Quickly bag the steaming vegetables into zip-lock bags, and freeze right away. Repeat for the rest of the vegetables, doing different veges in separate batches.


To freeze tomatoes, pick and wash perfect ripe tomatoes, bag and freeze! I also keep some ginger and green chillies in my freezer for emergency use – so I’m never out of these two spicy ingredients!


And this is for the silent readers who visit regularly or occassionally – it is still de-lurking ‘month’ – so let me know who you are. Whatever we may like to pretend, we like to know there is someone at the other end – reading and enjoying!

The de-lurking image has been taken from Meeta’s WFLH.

  1. Great idea to preserve veggies.Winter is almost over indeed,2 months and then we are home free!:))

    In Delhi/north India, we celebrated Basant Panchami last week; so officially it’s already spring! The days are beginning to warm pretty quick…enjoy your longer winters!

  2. You have explained the procedure to freeze so well.Apart from peas I had never thought of freezing other vegetables, and that too tomato. I will try out freezing tomato .What is the shelf life of frozen tomato, and does it become pulpy after thawing? Thanx 4 this wonderful post.

    Frozen, the tomatoes will stay as long as any other vege. They do get mushsy, but that is a plus for curries – while ‘frying’ they go mushy in a flash. I usually chop them while they are still somewhat in a frozen state.

  3. Nice tips on freezing veggies.

  4. hi,
    Your MEME was interesting…I agree about Aishwarya Rai..I also wonder why people are crazy about film stars who do nothing for the society…They donate nothing for charity nor do they physically do get involved in anything related to helping others…BTW do you know how to make kathel biriyani and kathal ki achar..(assuming ur are a north Indian…Kathal biriyani and achar are not south Indian dishes )

    I guess, just like the rest of us, some do and some don’t. But they could take on a more relevant social role in a complex country like ours. Shabana Azmi, Rahul Bose are some names that come to mind when film actors have also been social activists.

    On kathal: I am from the North but from a region (Kashmir) where kathal (jackfruit) is not native. The achaar I have had was very similar to the north Indian mango pickle, so I would pickle it (with maybe some other veges) in mustard oil with saunf, kalonji, methi, rai, turmeric, heeng, haldi and red chilli powder. I have never had kathal biryani. But if I had to make it, I’d make it similar to a chicken biryani!

  5. that was most interesting. coincidentally, i’m reading shobha narayan’s book which has a chapetr on drying vegetables in south india.

    It would be interesting to know which veges are dried commonly down south and if they are prepared differently from fresh ones.

  6. Anita thanks for sharing. Its such a pleasure to read your blog and learn something new.

    So, what are you planning to freeze/dry (fish doesn’t count!) 🙂

  7. Now thats like an encyclopedia of frozen/dried veggies!!!!!
    I tried sun drying the tomato once but because of the humid climate of singapore it had fungus all over….. but i liked the idea of frozen veggies!!!! Thanks Anita. 🙂

    If you can’t have sun-dried in Singapore, try oven drying! Freezing uses much less energy than oven drying though – so more ecofriendly!

  8. I like the idea of freezing cauliflower at home. I freeze tomato in summer when they are fresh. I cut them into cubes freeze them half way spread out on a plate, then transfer them to freezer safe bags. That way I get individually frozen tomato cubes ready for curry.
    And about drying vegetables down south, my grandmom dries mango (not ripe), brinjal, chilli, avarakkai (don’t know the english name) and lot more veggies. She also dries mutton.

    Wow mutton! But, I guess, if you can dry fish, you can dry mutton! And beef jerky is just that – dried salted beef – though I could never bring myself to try it!
    Avarakkai is broadbeans, I think – what we call ‘same phali’ in North India.

  9. Great blog 🙂 Love reading it !!! I am also grew up in Delhi . Will be visiting in summers. Great post about freezing. I have done the tomatoes but will try with other veges too.

    Thanks for reading! Tomatoes are the easiest and great for curries in a hurry!

  10. should have typed — I also grew up in delhi . oopps will double check next time before posting.

  11. I often wonder why one should freeze vegetables when one can have them fresh – in fact, growing up in India, I remember the Bandiwallah coming to the door with a wide array of vegetables and my Mom choosing the vegetables that she would like to cook for the day! I have a freezer full of store bought veggies but I keep it for an emergency – when we have a blizzard and the roads are impassable for days…..Otherwise, I still shop for fresh produce every Saturday and feel the same joy at picking and choosing what I feel like cooking for the week.

    You’re right – fresh is best. Always. But there are many reasons why we may want to freeze. Those of us who grow some of our own herbs or vegetables – there is a peak when you can’t use all your produce, and you can distribute only so much. Some of us may do it out of economy of buying produce when it is in plenty and likely to be less expensive as also most flavourful. so, we may freeze for later use when it is not available at all, imported from far-off, or just not flavourful at all. Yes, we can all eat when is in season and plentyful. Cabbage and cauliflower are available round the year in Delhi now, but you will never catch me cooking with them inthe summer months – the horrible off-season smell is enough to put you off forever!

    But I do like the convenience of prepared (even par-cooked actually) vegetables just needing a quick stir in hot-oil for days when I don’t have the time, can’t quite make-up my mind, or just when my fridge is empty and some guests drop in. And, I wouldn’t want to share the gorgeous mangoes from the two Amrapali trees in my Mum’s yard (I think she gives away too many), and there is only so much jam I want to make 🙂 I use the frozen pulp year round to make mango shakes for a son who loves only these mangoes.

    And it is not like I have a deep freeze: I think I probably store 5lbs each of peas and cauliflower, and 3-4 l of mango pulp. This is what we savour till they are in season again! Tomatoes are frozen when I buy more than I can use right away! There are other things that I need my modest freezer for!

  12. We south-indians sun dry veges like bhindi, eggplant, bitter-melons etc to be used in vatral kuzhambu where vatral is the sun-dried vegetable. great tip on how to freeze veges

    Hi Krithika. Now, bhindi is new! Is is just fried or re-hydrated before adding to the kuzhambu?

  13. Hi, I was one of your lurkers!:-))First time commenting here; You have a great blog going on here. That is a very informative post on freezing veggies. Thanks for sharing.

    Hi Nalini! Thanks for coming out!

  14. BTW, even raw mango is dried. Bhindi is slightly sauted in the same oil that is used for popping mustard seeds.

  15. Hi! Nice post on freezing veggies. I freeze white pumpkins as they are rarely seen around where I live, but not for a whole year though. About your question to Krithika..yes vatrals are fried dry. They are not rehydrated before use.

    Hi Hema. Won’t one of you post your favourite recipe for a vatral? I have some dried bitter gourds I cd use… 🙂

  16. Goodness I could do with some frozen tomatoes right now. The ones we get in the U.S. now (tomato season is summer) taste nothing like the real thing. This makes a majority of Indian gravy dishes taste really bland. I have read a couple of western bloggers saucing and canning them. Freezing is so much more convenient!

    Hi Ashwini: True, nothing can be easier than freezing tomatoes. And they are better than fresh as far as gravy dishes are concerned!

  17. wow! i do take my frozen veggies for granted. my mom used to freeze peas like u explained so clearly. wonderful bit of info.

    Bahut papad belne padte hain…for a little convenience! 🙂

  18. Hi,
    I freeze palak to make palak panner and rich green..but when i freeze spinach I blanch them for a mt or less than that and immediately put it in ice cold water and then freeze it….some times i just puree it and freeze…but never tried cauliflower…but yes I freeze green chilli..better to freeze purees in a ice tray ….be it tomato or any other..i even freeze fruit juices (with no sugar added) and put in a stick while freezing just so that my kids can enjoy a healthy popsicle….and i do freeze cooked curries and subzies for those days when i am sick and want home food…BTW i love ur blog…

    Palak is a good idea too because it is best if used the same day, and a lot of us shop for the week. I have, on occasion, frozen rinsed palak and chopped it before thawing for use. Blanching before freezing would definitely be better and also take up less room! Thanks for the tip, Nandu.

  19. The comments have really added up to ur post! WOnderful learnings. When i first read your post first i thought you must have a deep freeze. Cauliflowers are in full bloom na nowadays in India, i buy a huge one and use it for gobi mutter, gravied, souped, parathas, everything….like using it while it lasts. I loved ur freezing instructions, but worried that my freezer will be jammed. We are actually gettign a lot of wonderful strawberries here, and big bazaar is selling a box of some 20 berries for just 45 bucks on select days. There are interesting freezing instructions on the box. You think I should try them? Its very simple, just lay out in a layer in the freezer and once they are frozen put it in a ziploc to stay for 3-4 months. Those frozen with sugar syrup can last for 6 months.

    Hi N. I have used frozen strawberries – good for adding to ice creams, shakes and such or baked things. And, at that price, I wd consider emptying the freezer and stocking it with the aforesaid. You could also make it into jam!! Last year I carried 5kg of strawberries from Lahore (they were like 20 bucks a kilo or something as ridiculous) and used half of them to make the most delicious jam – rather, fruit preserve 🙂 Low sugar jam, that is.

  20. I am reading Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop, about Sichuan cooking. And she waxes galore about how the Sichuan people dry everything in summer, for subsequent use in winter. I had visions of drying turnips, cauliflowers, mushrooms and so on, hanging from my roof. I was very happy till I saw the pesky Pistacchio, an almost tame squirrel that rules the roofs in our neighborhood, sneak up and steal the drying vegetables. The fat raccoon who tore up my above ground pond also showed up to have his fill. I was really miserable after that and decided that I would do without or resort to IQF foods when I needed them. A great ‘out’ for someone as lazy as me! 😀

    I was at a lunch seminar recently where the topic was ‘Take back the Kitchen on your terms’ and for the most part I was a total misfit because the women around me were talking of various associations of guilt with food as well as the feminist movement that made women throw down the dishcloth. But all that aside, the speaker was a lawyer-turned-food-coach. Sabh kucch chalta hai is desh main! We were talking about quick to put together meals for weekdays. Someone asked about chopping veggies for the entire week and storing them in baggies but she shot that down saying that the minute you cut the vegetable, its nutritional value starts dropping because of the exposure to air. She suggested doing this only if you have the vacuum-seal thingees to store foods. So when we chop, blanch and freeze veggies like this (as opposed to IQF veggies which really have next to no taste), how much are we losing by way of nutritional value? Is it better to do this or to cook large quantities and freeze them after cooking, which involves a thaw and reheat. I do the latter cos I find it easier to chop, cook and freeze in meal size portions. Easier only because it reduces the effort through the week. Any clues?

    Hey Manisha! You are out (of hibernation) and about!

    Sorry to hear that your friendly neighbouhood squirrels and racoons will not make it possible to adorn your windows – and you think the neighbourhood rules allow such activity? 🙂

    I guess there must be some loss of nutrition (in drying as well) but it is a quick blanch and the veges are in the freezer. I guess the comparison is not with fresh vegetables but with factory-frozen. These do taste just fine – like fresh ones. I use the peas in all kinds of curries, and the cauliflower is basically for use in Pav Bhaji! But it does come handy for a sabji occasionally.

    I do freeze a lot of cooked food – anytime there are leftovers after being served twice 😉 Refrigeration is not safe beyond this long! Food spoils much sooner here than it does in the US! What is the deal with that? I remember bread would be fine for weeks (month?) in the fridge; one time I made gajjar halwa and wd eat only a little bit at a time – it lasted over 4 weeks, I kid you not! Is there less ‘oxygen’ ?! Or is everything so chockful of preservatives that it is like ‘mummified’ already! Our bread has also gotten ‘better’ – now it lasts 10 days in the fridge where earlier 4-5 days was long enough for it to become mouldy.

    And for things such as pakoras for kadhi, I always make twice the amount I need and freeze half. Then I don’t need to heat up a lot of oil the next time! (To counter the ‘monkey attack’, I don’t add salt to the pakora batter!! Ha Ha!)

  21. Neighborhood rules. Hmm! Hadn’t think of that. But if the across the street can have 3 piles of junk called cars, that have not moved an inch since we moved here, then what’s wrong with veggies drying in the sun, eh? At least someone will get something from them. Unlike those cars. There really aren’t any neighborhood rules except what the city might deem unsanitary and unhygienic. My Bosnian neighbor has skinned goats hanging in his garage from time to time. The kids get all hyper and tell tall tales of how one of the goats looked them in the eye and actually blinked. So drying veggies should be ok. Except, if the guy with the huge dog that does not wear a collar or a leash, who I called the code enforcement cops on, decides to take panga with me…:D

    So these do taste better than IQF (individually quick frozen) which they claim has relatively no loss of nutrition or flavor! I am so sick of frozen veggies that taste like nothing.

    Bread does very well in the freezer. That’s where I store mine. And I make sandwiches for Medha using frozen bread. It thaws naturally by the time she eats it and is like fresh bread. (A Sam’s Club tip). If I am in a hurry then I either defrost it in the toaster or in the microwave. I buy two large loaves and they last for 2-3 weeks, and more if we don’t consume them as quickly.

    If you compare shelf life of organic anything vs not, organic stuff does not last long. But then again my organic carrots lasted for 5 weeks in the crisper!

    Food spoils faster because of several reasons. Heat, humidity *and* how long you keep it out of the refrigerator each time you pull it out. If I have a large pot of dal that I have not frozen but will dip into over 2 weeks (yes, it lasts that long without spoiling), I take out just as much as we are going to eat into another bowl, put the large pot back into the fridge immediately. The other thing is that usually temperatures inside the homes here are controlled and are around 70F-75F regardless of the time of the year. I think that plays a role, too.

    That salt trick is way cool!

    Thanks for the ‘IQF’ explanation – was wondering wth that was!

    More than anything, the longer shelf life is ‘part of design’ – CHEMICALS. Haven’t you seen the Discovery ‘murder investigation’ where they are surprised to find ‘well preserved’ bodies on exhuming!! Sorry, if some of you were planning dinner and are easily grossed! 🙂

  22. Yup. Chemicals, pesticides and also genetic modification.

  23. Very informative. I do freeze peas these days. And I have frozen green chilies and shallots when in the US and had to drive 3 hours to do get indian vegetables. I have also made a large batch of toor dal and frozen small portions for a quick sambar or rasam.
    Gobi is in season now, I will try it.
    Hi spice lover: It’s amazing how we all have our little freezer tricks (to get more out of life!).

  24. The only thing I know how to dry is my hair! Just kidding. I’ve dried tomatoes in the sun and actually eat them as a snack.

    You should come and check out my blog. It’s It’s a blog where I get bloggers to submit their recipes and at the end of the year a cookbook will be available called “Divine Dish – Swapping Recipes with the Blogosphere”
    Tell all your friends – the more the merrier 🙂

  25. Hi Anita,
    I made cabbage pakoras yesterday to go with tea. Came out really well:-) Thanks for the recipe.
    You are very welcome! Am glad you liked ’em!

  26. Hi Anita,
    I loved reading your write-up. Didn’t know that so many things are frozen for the winter in Kashmir. And I thought I knew much about India!
    Btw, I have not yet read all comments. Some are longer than your write-up! Is that because of your request to ‘de-lurk’? 🙂

    I noticed! It is great when it gets interactive like this. Manisha and I had quite a discussion going there!! And, as Nandita noted, there is quite a bit of additional info/tips in the comments here!

    Most of them are the ‘old faithfuls’ though! 🙂

  27. Hi Anita-
    Your cauliflower is so beautiful..I thought at first that I was gazing at sun-glazed snowy mountains. I, too, freeze several vegetables over the growing season here; in the long winter here, when there are no open markets and the vegetables available from the produce stalls are shipped from far away and second rate, they are nice to have on hand!
    I grew karelas last year, and I had so many…I made what I couldn’t use into achaar…enough for several years at my present rate of karela achaar consumption! 🙂 It never occurred to me to freeze them until afterward; drying them is an excellent idea! Should they be salted before sun-drying?

    Hi pelicano: I know all about making more achaar than you need! 🙂 I am planning to scale down the mango pickle this summer!

    Just slice and dry in the sun – no salt needed! You can even halve or quarter them for drying, if you like, and after a good soak, prepare similar to this for a karela yakhni.

  28. Hi Anita,

    Dunno what happened, but I had written a comment yest and guess there was some problem..may not have reached you ! I am writing again, to say that I am really impressed with your blog and the way you write…and of course your recipes and tips…
    and I have got sooo inspired now that I have started a blog of my own..its called “Me and my food thoughts”, and you can visit it at
    would be great if you can visit it once, though I have not blogged much !
    And also, would you mind if I added your blog to my Favorite blogs links?

  29. Very good info. I also freeze the Thai chillies from my garden so that they last the whole year. I didn’t know tomatoes can be frozen as well. However I notice that the frozen ginger becomes ‘soft’ on thawing. Do you know how to handle frozen ginger?

    Hi Marie. Welome to A Mad tea Party.
    To use frozen ginger, do not thaw completely. Grate or slice what you need and return remaining to the freezer.

  30. hi-

    found you on google when looking to save copious fresh tomatoes for winter use – and not wanting to do a whole canning procedure. i’ll just try picking them and freezing them? no blanching require, etc? how much nutritional value do you lose vs. canning vs. fresh?

    thanks from the DC area!

    Hi Lewis! No blanching required! Just wash, wipe, and freeze! They are truly great for sauces: going from firm to mush in minutes.

    Don’t know about comparative nutritional values…

  31. Lewis, check this out.

    Canning and freezing aren’t really bad for us; esp in the US, where so much of the ‘fresh’ produce we buy has travelled miles before it gets to us, canned and frozen veggies and fruits have higher nutritional content. If you buy from the farmers’ market or grow your own, of course fresh is better!

    One thing to be careful about is E.coli. Apparently, this bacteria can survive below freezing temperatures. So take adequate precautions.

  32. Found a couple more on Colorado State Univ’s site:
    Freezing fruits
    Freezing Vegetables (tomatoes are included in veggies)

    And, you’re most welcome, Anita! 😀

    Yes, yes…thank you, dear Manisha-of-the-links! 😉

  33. Hello,
    Stopped by your blog as I was searching on google for “Freezing vegetables” tips and tricks.
    Thank you for the freezing tips. They will sure help me a lot! 🙂
    – Soumya

    Now you have a stocked freezer I guess!

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