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Freezing vs canning

I personally find freezing more convenient, mostly because I don't know how to can, but also because I find the process of sterilizing, boiling water, buying proper containers, etc, to be daunting. My question is, is there really a difference between freezing and canning vegetables, taste-wise, cost-wise, convenience-wise, nutrition-wise, or anything wise? So far, what I've been doing is pre-blanching my vegetables before I freeze them and they turn out fine and the only motivation I would have to can my vegetables is if I ever ran out of freezer space.

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  1. I'm a fan of freezing. The reasons I don't can any more are listed in your opening sentence. My grandma used to can and she tried to teach me but I'm sure she only canned because they didn't have refrigeration, let alone a freezer. If there are any benefits for canning over freezing, armageddon notwithstanding, I still don't' think it's worth the effort or expense.

    1. I am a big freezing fan for most things. There are a few items that must be canned (preserved lemons, certain pickles, etc.). Everyday cooking from the freezer is so much easier if you use your freezer as a tool. I freeze almost everything because there is only two of us eating. I helps minimize waste. I now organize my freezer in bins for condiments, left overs, homemade sauces, etc. I prefer freezing for small things like specialty chili's, tomato paste globs, whole lemons, blanched herbs.

      1. I have some friends who think they know how to do canning, but I really don't trust their preservation methods so end up ditching whatever they give me. That's my guilty secret. Now if they'd given me something they'd frozen, while it was still frozen, I would have been delighted. I think freezing is so much easier and better for everybody so that is the only thing I do....chutney my latest adventure.

        5 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          just curious, what is it about their methods that you don't trust? thanks

          1. re: escondido123

            This is sad ... though I do have to ask, that method are they using? I am a bit hinky about eating anything my MIL has canned, but she uses a method no longer recommended by the USDA.

            Do you at least open the jars? It's really easy to tell if something is off. Jams and jellies are pretty safe. If they're using a basic method, employing pectin, it's a no-brainer.

            1. re: odkaty

              I just know she has some hinky ideas about food and I see the way she keeps things in her own frig and freezer--so I'm not risking getting ill with something that probably wasn't handled properly. Luckily it's not much and not often so no big deal.

                1. re: odkaty

                  yeah agreed...just curious as I tend to give out jars at the holidays...thanks

          2. Freezing is certainly much more accessible to the home cook. If you are canning anything other than acid ingredients (jams and pickles, for example) canning needs to be done with a pressure canner and there is a risk of botulism if you do things wrong. I certainly wouldn't recommend canning vegetables to anyone who was not experienced with proper jam and pickle making.

            I think the main motivation in canning would be when you want a result that is specific to canning, like pickle making, or if you didn't have access to a freezer, or if you want to transport the end result.

            Energy budget-wise, you have to continually chill frozen foods, unlike canned goods, but you'd have to factor in the cost of producing the canning jars to figure out what the balance is.

            1. We don't care much for canned vegetables - I really prefer them fresh, but I do freeze fresh corn in the summer, and when I roast squash, I'll do a couple and freeze most of it.

              I do can tomatoes, though - I don't like them frozen. My mother always canned tomatoes, and I guess I'm just used to the more cooked flavor and texture, if I don't have fresh.

              And I can can stocks - I find it easier to use it if it's not a frozen block - that, and freezer space has been at a premium for a while around here!

              We invested in a pressure canner several years ago when we decided to start buying tomatoes at the farmers' market, and I've got to say, it was well worth the money to us. It can be a bit of a pita, yeah, but once we got the process down, it's not bad at all.

              1. I can for a few reasons
                1 small freezer and the power has been known to go out often for long periods of time.
                2 it is good for the planet and my wallet. I canned tomatoes and applesauce from this summer in my hot water bath canner. The tomatoes were out of my roommate's garden and my apples were free seconds from the farm. There was a low carbon footprint, I knew how the produce was grown, and I was able to preserve it until I needed it later in the year.
                3 I enjoy it a lot. Every year I try to make batches of plum chutney and strawberry jam. I also like the applesauce and tomatoes I do. I follow the recipes to the letter and always am very careful with what I make. I read a lot of stories about major agri businesses having recalls on product for e coli and other tainted food. I've never had that problem with what I make at home :)

                1. I employ both methods. We're members of a CSA and have a garden so we're inundated with more vegetables than 2 people can eat during the summer. A large variety gets frozen to reappear in winter dishes. Among other things our freezer contains various greens, squash, eggplant, tomato sauce, hot and mild peppers, root vegetables, applesauce, scape butter, and several varieties of pesto. You don't need to blanch the squash or eggplant, I just chop and run through the food saver.

                  As for canning, this year I put up 2 types of marmalade, 3-4 cucumber-based pickles, pickled beans, 3 jams and applesauce. And, armed with a new pressure canner, I ventured into tomatoes this summer, putting up several batches of salsa and marinara sauce.

                  I initially started canning in order to have a regular supply of homemade jams, pickles and relish that I didn't have to beg off aunts and uncles — after growing up on their versions I cannot stand the supermarket varieties. Now it's become something of a hobby ... and a competition between myself and the aunts to see who can put up the weirdest concoctions :-) And we're trading more often too, so I can put up small batches of jams and know I'll have a great selection throughout the year.

                  1. I tend to freeze veggies and can fruits / jams, etc...I have been canning for about 4 years and at first it was daunting, everything I made stayed in the house until I was sure I had the methods down properly. Now I really enjoy it and look forward to the summer months and trying different recipies...

                    I canned sour cherries for the first time this year. I have also frozen them and think I prefer the frozen version - the canned were a bit softer, but combined with frozen ones in a pie no one could tell.

                    I did freezer jam one winter and didn't love it, but that's just me, some people rave about it - all a matter of personal preference.

                    The othe rthing I tried this year was dilly beans, only because we were given a lot of garden fresh beans from a friend and I kept hearing raves about dilly beans. This I must say was one of my favorites this summer! I am usually not a big relish / pickle person so that's also why I tend to can fewer veggies. I wouldn't have frozen the beans just because I don't like the texture when they are defrosted.

                    The only other veggies I can right now are peppers when I use them for jalapeno and red papper jelly.

                    As to your original question - cost wise the freezing was initially more expensive because I bought myself a big standing freezer. Freezer bags are probably cheaper then jars, but jars can re re used.

                    anthing else wise...I think either canning or freezing is better then the alternative for me because this way I don't have to rely (as much) on winter fruits and veggies from the store that have travelled many miles using lots of gas to get there....Alll the stuff (fruits and veggies) in my cans and freezer is from local farmers...and usually tastes a lot better as well:)

                    1. Speaking strictly of veg, we much prefer ours frozen. I can tomatoes in various forms but freeze roasted tomatoes and tomato conserva. Greens that are intended for soups, stews, etc., get canned to save apace in the freezer. But mostly anything else; corn, green beans, peas, edamame, broccoli, into the freezer. The taste and texture is better. I did a couple of jars of carrots for an experiment but honestly carrots keep so well packed in damp sand that it's a waste of time.

                      I can stocks, soup bases (meat, veg, broth, just waiting to be finished), bolognese sauce, meat (chicken, beef, venison) for quick meals when I've forgotten to thaw. All these are freezer real estate savers. I do freeze stock in cubes for use in sauces and such because opening a half pint of stock is generally more than I need for that.

                      1. so far, no one with experience with both methods has answered the taste/texture issue? I've had canned tomatoes (once) that were AMAZING and fresh tasting in January. No experience with frozen, but My sense is freezing veggies can destroy cell membranes and therefore texture. of course, cooked, canned tomatoes have had their cell membranes affected as well....

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: wdedalus

                          They were probably fresh packed. Once upon a time I fresh packed tomatoes, which is to say that I did not cook them before pouring on a boiling juice and sealing them up. Then the USDA declared that 1) tomatoes weren't acid enough for that preparation and that 2) they needed to be heated and have lemon juice or ascorbic acid added.

                          I got chicken and began cooking mine but they were never the same again. I made up the difference by adding celery and onion and calling them stewed tomatoes but the USDA frowns on adding those low-acid veggies too so I just haven't done tomatoes in a long time.

                          1. re: rainey

                            Rainey, I can't remember definitively, but what I do remember: my roommate bought a bunch of tomatoes at a farmers market and decided to prepare them for jarring. he had a recipe (perhaps from "putting food by" which we had in the house) that I THINK involved cooking them, but at least it involved running them through a mill. When he was done, he had one quart jar of tomato sauce. I was discouraged that such an abundance of tomatoes would condense so. But months later when we opened it and made a simple sauce (either from M Hazan or A Waters) I was grateful he had gone through all that trouble.

                            1. re: rainey

                              You can still raw pack tomatoes without added liquid and process them in a boiling water bath. Ball has a tested recipe.

                              Put 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice in your pint jars. Add peeled and diced raw tomatoes and pack firmly to within 1/2 headspace. Press down firmly on the tomatoes so juice fills the air spaces and tops the tomatoes. Adjust headspace if necessary, wipe rims, adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 85 minutes at sea level (adjust time for your altitude).

                              85 minutes in a boiling water bath seems like a lot of time but that's how long it takes to raise the temperature to 212F in the center of the jar. The worst of the beasties are killed at 165F. You could process the jars in a pressure canner but by the time you get the pot up to pressure, process for the recommended shorter time, and then wait for the pressure to release you're near 85 minutes anyway. You don't have to babysit the BWB like you do the pressure canner so you can go get something else accomplished while the stuff's processing.

                          2. If you like an unadulterated flavor, have enough freezer space and/or are working with things that are low in acid freezing would be the way to go.

                            The reasons to can are you can't or don't want to give over that much long-term freezer space, want an enhanced flavor and are working with foods adequate in acid.

                            Learning good procedure is easy and so is doing the prep of your supplies and tools. For my jars and tools, I just put them in my dishwasher on the "Sani" cycle. If the dishwasher finishes before my food product is ready to pack I put them (jars & tools except for the silicone stirring spoon) in the oven that I've preheated to the target temp for the food. Jar lids go in a simmering pot of water.

                            When you've done this kind of sanitation, process your food to north of boiling (often around 225˚) and then check the seals on your water bathed jars there really isn't much chance of contamination.

                            As for your friends who can, it really would be kinder to tell them that you're just chicken about home canned food. There's a lot of love and work invested in those things you are throwing out. If you have a sincere conversation before the stuff is ever made it would go over better than the discovery that you toss it. Those jars alone cost about $2 apiece.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: rainey

                              Here's what I did this morning.

                              You can't pull that our of your freezer or pick it up from the grocery shelf. The peaches and nectarines I got from Costco this year had exceptional flavor. I'm going to be enjoying them for months to come.

                            2. I grew up with canning and know how to do it. I don't do it. Trust me on this, freezing is easier. Only exception (I think) is homemade relishes like Mustard Pickles and Chili Sauce, which can't be duplicated any way I know of but canning them, and they're worth the trouble.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Querencia

                                Not jams?

                                I have a white peach/yellow nectarine conserve with pecans planned for tomorrow. I'm going to experiment with studding one jar with freeze-dried blueberries to see if they'll reconstitute in the conserve without bleeding into the pale fruit too much.

                                I also recently did a spice apple jelly from the refrigerated apple juice from TJs. It was easy, easy, easy to do and looks so pretty with a cinnamon stick suspended in it.

                                Well worth the effort for me but I enjoy doing it and get a real sense of satisfaction.

                                1. re: rainey

                                  rainey - I just noticed your post here (I know it's been a while). But wasn't this your issue on another thread - that you couldn't get the cinnamon to suspend properly? How did you resolve it? Is this the apple spice (or whatever the name is) from the new Better Homes & Garden canning issue? I was planning on trying that one out and I'd love to hear how you got the cinnamon stick to suspend. And if you have a photo to share, that would be awesome too.

                                  Thanks for any info you'd like to share.

                                  1. re: LNG212

                                    Funny story. I tried to get the jelly to set and suspend those cinnamon sticks twice. No cigar. So I bought bottles and called it a syrup. The syrup sat on a shelf for a couple weeks and when I pulled one down to use it, it had jelled with the cinnamon embedded in the neck of the bottles.

                                    By the time I had reheated and repacked it twice it had a good bit more pectin and lemon juice in it. So I'm not very sure what to tell you. Fresh apple cider may behave better than the pasturized stuff I got from Trader Joe's. Adding lemon juice -- which is part of the "save" technique -- may give the pectin a boost.

                                    Yes, I used the Cider 'n' Spice recipe from the BH&G Canning issue.

                                    1. re: rainey

                                      Thanks for sharing. I'll give it a whirl when the temps cool down a bit here. Hopefully I'll have good luck with your suggestions. Thanks again.

                              2. I can think of one big one - your carefully blanched and frozen food becomes just so much compost if a hurricane or storm (or earthquake or blizzard) knocks the power out for a few days.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Kajikit

                                  But wouldn't your jars break in an earthquake?