Several friends pick, prepare and can garden produce. It reminds me of the days when my mother used to do it. I'm not one of them.

Several friends pick, prepare and can garden produce. It reminds me of the days when my mother used to do it.
I'm not one of them.
Besides not having the space to store canned produce, I did not get along with my pressure cooker. It was my mother's, and it was "particular," as we used to describe it. If it didn't like what you were cooking, the pressure cooker valve would literally take off and, like a Saturday morning cartoon, fly around the kitchen until it hit something, or someone, on the head.
I have been told by experts this is not typical pressure cooker behavior. I even took a class through the University of Missouri Extension, where you can get your pressure cooker valve tested before you use it. I didn't have the heart to take the pan in for testing. Mother understandably warned not to leave it unattended — ever.
When I used to have a house full of kids, my freezer became my best friend. I learned to store individually frozen produce, not pre-packaged full servings. Freezing full servings is a nice idea but when dinner guests numbers quickly fluctuate, it's better to be flexible.  
Start with real freezer bags. They are thicker, and they better protect produce from freezer burn than regular storage bags.
Select the produce you want to freeze. I usually go into winter with a good dozen quart bags of sliced tomatoes, cut-up into individual pieces and frozen on a metal pan that fits in the top rung of my freezer.
I leave it in for a couple of hours, then turn the pan over to remove the frozen produce. After breaking pieces apart, I slip them into a freezer bag, shake to get as much in without packing too tightly and return to the freezer for later use.
I tend to use green peppers and onions together so I cut those up into small pieces, spread on the metal pan to freeze, then package. I should write down a date but since I tend to use up all that I freeze during winter, I skip that step.
The same approach works well for berries, green beans, asparagus and anything cooked in cupcake pans — hamburgers, pound cake, brownies. In addition to having a treat quickly ready, using cupcake pans is a good way to control portions.
For herbs, I tear them up with my fingers so that I don't get a metallic flavor from a knife, then freeze in ice cube trays with either water or chicken broth. It’s a great way to preserve that taste of summer and easily add fresh herbs to soups and stews.
Oh, I also keep the pressure cooker busy. I use it now as a plant-potting container. No pressure there!

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News - St. James Leader Journal - Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at