First posted on 07-28-2011
During the gray, cold days of winter, your garden’s bounty can be as close as your freezer. Freezing fresh fruits and vegetables now lets you enjoy them long after the growing season.
Freezing is the safest and easiest way to preserve produce from your garden or the farmers market, says Tammy Roberts, a University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist. “It’s a perfectly good option if you don’t want to home can your food. You can store foods frozen for up to 10 months, which really gets you through the winter.”
Roberts notes that freezing doesn’t kill microorganism, but it does stop their growth. “However, they can grow again once the food is thawed,” she said.
Thaw frozen foods slowly in the refrigerator or quickly in the microwave, Roberts said. Cook or eat the food immediately after thawing.
Prepare vegetables for freezing by blanching, which stops the ripening process. “Blanching is where you place the vegetable in boiling water or steam for a short time,” Roberts said. Blanch times vary from vegetable to vegetable. Many cookbooks list the blanching time for common vegetables. “It’s important to know how long you need to blanch because you can do more harm than good by over-blanching or under-blanching.”
Once you’ve blanched the vegetable, put it in ice water immediately, then place in a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer at minus 10 degrees F. Lowering the freezer temperature lets the foods freeze quickly.
Fruits require different preparation for freezing. “You don’t have to actually blanch fruit,” Roberts said. “You soak them in an ascorbic acid solution or pack them in syrup.”
When freezing, don’t put too many unfrozen containers into the freezer at one time. “Freeze about two to three pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer space.” Food packed too tightly will take longer to freeze, reducing its quality. Once frozen, you can pack the containers closer together.
For more information, see the MU Extension guide “Quality for Keeps: Freezing Basics” (GH1501), available for free download at http://extension.missouri.edu/GH1501.
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