National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables is coming to a close, so what better way to end it than to share tips on how to properly freeze your delicious produce to better preserve flavors and nutrients. First things first, let’s go over some basic rules.
- Go For Ripe: Even after freezing, quality decreases over time, so it’s best to choose blemish-free produce at peak ripeness.
- Pack It Up: Resealable freezer bags are your best bet, as they’re designed for freezing foods and are sturdier, decreasing the likeliness of tears or leaks (which causes freezer burn). If your only options are plastic wrap or standard resealable options, double up on layers or bags for extra protection.
- Seal Out Air: Oxygen is the enemy. Consider investing in a vacuum sealer, which locks out air and potentially extends the shelf life for up to a year or longer. Alternately, you can stick a straw in a corner of the seal to suck out air before closing.
- Mark It: To minimize food waste, be sure to list and date the contents of your bags. This helps you recognize what they are, prompting you to use the older stuff first. A good rule of thumb – You have six to twelve months to use frozen goods. If foods are covered in ice crystals or smell “off,” ditch them.
Some foods are ready to freeze, others need to be prepared first.
Ready To Go:
- Berries – Remove any stems, then freeze whole.
- Chili Peppers – Ideal for freezing as is. For less heat, scrape out the seeds beforehand.
- Cherries – Some prefer to pit cherries before freezing, but it’s actually easier after. When they defrost, the flesh surrounding the pit weakens.
- Corn – Cobs and kernels can be frozen, as long as you’ll be eating them within a month or two.
- Figs – Freeze whole.
- Tomatoes – Freeze whole; the skins slip right off after defrosting. If space is limited, you can chop first, then freeze in a bag.
- Bell Peppers – Thinly slice or chop before freezing. For stuffed peppers, remove stems and scrape our seeds of halved bell peppers before freezing; stuff them while frozen.
- Cucumbers – Thinly slice or chop before freezing. While the texture is compromised once frozen, but the flavor is not. Use these for drinks (DIY spa water), juicing, or smoothies.
- Herbs – Chop herbs and divide among an empty ice cube tray. Top off each cube with olive oil so it fills the crevices and forces out any air, then freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a bag.
- Melons – Cut melons into cubes or slices, removing the rind, then freeze on a baking sheet.
- Stone Fruit (apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums) – Slice and remove the pit. For smoothies, leave the peel on. For pies or tarts, peel and slice before freezing.
- Bananas – Peel then freeze whole or chopped into chunks.
The enzymes in some fruits and veggies will continue to break down even when frozen, but heat can halt this process.
- Eggplant – These can be sliced into rounds (eggplant parm) or cut into smaller shapes (pastas and stir-fries); roast before freezing. Cooked eggplant can also be pureed then frozen.
- Green Beans – Prepare the pods the way you’ll most likely use them – whole or cut into bitesize pieces. Blanch then freeze. These can be added straight to soup or stir-fries without defrosting.
- Okra – Blanch the pods whole for three to four minutes, then freeze whole or in rounds.
- Summer Squash/Zucchini – Cut squash into rounds and blanch for three minutes. For baked goods, grate and steam for one to two minutes. Thoroughly drain, then freeze and pack for storage. For grated squash, defrost completely, and then blot away excess moisture pre-use.
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