The easiest and most versatile method of food preservation, is to freeze it. Many fruits and veggies can be frozen without any preparation, or you can wash and chop them so they’re easy to take out and use for healthy recipes. While we’re all aware that freezing food is an option, there are a surprising number of tips and tricks that many people aren’t familiar with.
Preparing Fruits & Vegetables for the Freezer
You can freeze vegetables and fruit whole, or chop them up so they’re ready to go when you take them out of the freezer. Smaller produce, like shelled peas or berries, can be frozen whole. Larger items can be chopped, which allows you to pack more into the same amount of freezer space.
The key to your success is blanching your produce properly. It halts the enzyme action that destroys the texture, colour and flavour, while also removing bacteria. There’s a knack to blanching though. If you don’t blanch long enough, you’ll actually increase the enzyme activity and damage your food. If you blanch for too long, you’ll lose the nutritional value.
Keeping that in mind, blanch your vegetables by dropping a pound of them into a gallon of boiling water. You’ll need to use more boiling water for leafy greens. Cover the pot and blanch for the exact amount of time indicated on the handy Seal-A-Meal chart below.
As soon as the vegetables are done blanching, remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice cold water (not room temp, COLD).
Then use the same boiling water to begin the process again. After 6-10 batches, boil fresh water.
Fruit & Vegetables That Don’t Freeze Well
Pears and apples freeze OK if you make pie filling with them first. Otherwise, they don’t freeze well. Grapes don’t thaw well at all, but can be eaten frozen.
Potatoes should be pealed and cut before freezing. Cucumbers and lettuce don’t freeze well, no matter what you do to them.
Some fruits and vegetables don’t freeze well enough for anything except cooked dishes or smoothies. Strawberries, melons, cabbage and celery, to name a few. Take them out of the freezer and immediately add them to your cooking meal or smoothie.
Many herbs freeze well, if it’s done right. A popular method is to wash and chop up the herbs and then distribute them in ice cube trays. Top with water, chicken broth, or olive oil and freeze until solid. Pop them out of the ice cube tray and put them into a freezer bag for later use.
Tomatoes can be tricky and labour intensive, but if they’re prepared properly they’ll freeze beautifully.
- Blanch the tomatoes by dropping them into boiling water for 60-90 seconds and, using a slotted spoon, transfer immediately into a bowl of ice water to cool. The skin will then slip easily from the flesh.
- Once the skin has been removed, you should remove stems and core each tomato.
- You can leave the tomatoes whole, but it you cut them or crush them you’ll maximize your storage space.
- Using a large spoon or measuring cup, add the tomatoes to freezer storage bags. Remove air and seal the bags.
Freeze your bags of tomatoes flat to save space. Frozen tomatoes will retain flavor for 12 to 18 months
I find that pumpkin freezes better if you mash it.
- Remove center pulp and seeds, peel and cut into large pieces.
- Cook in boiling water until soft or roast it in the oven.
- Mash the pumpkin, cool, and spoon into air-tight containers or freezer bags (remove air).
If using bags, lay them flat to freeze so they don’t take as much space.
The Downside of Freezing
It’s frustrating! You’ve made the effort to prepare and freeze your food, only to discover it’s freezer-burned when you want to use it later. It loses its nutritional value, it looks bad and it tastes worse. I had all but abandoned freezing our food because of that.
As a last ditch effort, I decided to try a Seal-A-Meal vacuum sealer. Before using a vacuum sealer, I could usually freeze vegetables for 3-6 months. Now, vegetables maintain their nutritional value and freshness in the freezer for up to THREE YEARS! We save upwards of $900 annually by properly storing food and leftovers using a vacuum sealer. You don’t have to purchase an expensive one, I’ve used the same, basic Seal-A-Meal for years.
One last tip! We recently invested in an upright freezer and it is SO much easier to organize, find and retrieve our carefully preserved food. It was simple to order it online and have it delivered to our door. I can’t imagine having a chest freezer ever again! We went with the Frigidaire 17 cu. ft. Frost Free Upright Freezer (pictured here). The money we saved from freezing our fruit, vegetables and leftovers will quickly pay for it.
??? What is your favourite fruit or vegetable to freeze? Please share your tips or questions in the comments below.
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Food Preservation Guide IV: Dehydrating Tips and Recipes
Food Preservation Guide III – Jam, Jelly and Fruit Preserves
Food Preservation Guide II – Canning and Pickling Tips and Recipes
Food Preservation Guide – Getting Started
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