Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
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One thing you can do to cut down on the costs of eating produce year round is learn how to freeze and defrost produce on your own. Armed with this knowledge you can buy produce in bulk when it is on sale. It will also prevent you from having to pay high costs for fruits and vegetables that are not in season. You will save money and when done properly you won’t have to sacrifice taste.
It is really quite easy. All you need to know is how to prepare different fruits and vegetables for blanching and freezing. Different fruits and vegetables need to be treated differently so it is best if you do one type of fruit or vegetable at a time. At the end of the post we’ll discuss some defrosting techniques.
First Things First
The first thing you want to do is prepare your fruits and vegetables as if you were going to cook them for a recipe. You do not want to just throw a bunch of whole bell peppers into a freezer bag and toss that into the freezer. Think through how you would prepare the bell peppers to be used in a recipe. This way when you are ready to use the frozen bell peppers all you have to do is defrost and throw them into the recipe. It will save you time down the road.
So you want to wash, remove leaves, de-stem, de-seed, de-shell, de-pit, trim, core, cut, cube, chop and whatever else is necessary to prepare your produce for cooking.
Blanch your vegetables
Blanching is a cooking technique that will help preserve color, flavor, and texture after freezing. It will also cleanse your produce of any bacteria. This is important since freezing does not kill bacteria. Most fruits do not need to be blanched. Blanching requires boiling your vegetables for a brief period of time, then immediately immersing them in ice cold water to stop the cooking process.
To blanch your vegetables, bring a large pot of water to a boil. You will need one gallon of water for every two cups of prepped vegetables. While the water heats fill a bowl half full of ice, then add cold water until the bowl is three quarters full. Once your pot comes to a rolling boil, add the vegetables and cover. Once the water returns to a boil, cook for the time stated in the table at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. After cooking the vegetables, remove immediately and immerse in a large bowl of cold water and ice. Keep the vegetables in the ice water until they are no longer warm. This may take as long as cooking. Once they are cooled, remove from the water and pat dry. You want to remove as much moisture as possible before freezing.
The Initial Freeze
The actual freezing process will take place in two steps. First you want to spread out your prepped and blanched produce into a single layer on a baking sheet. Then put the baking sheet into the freezer for the initial freezing of the produce. This is an important step because it prevents your produce from freezing to itself and allows you to divide your frozen produce into portion-ready freezer bags.
Portion your frozen produce
After the produce is frozen remove the baking sheet from the freezer and divide the produce into recipe-ready portions. This way you won’t have to unfreeze all of your bell peppers just to use half a cup. Portioning your produce is near impossible if you don’t first freeze them on the baking sheet as described above.
The best way to freeze produce for long term storage is to use a vacuum sealer. Over time, the air caught inside of a freezer bag can ruin the flavor of your produce. Vacuum sealers will keep the flavors fresh for a much longer period of time. If you are only looking to store your produce for a month then using quart-sized freezer bags will work just fine. Now you can keep your portion-sized bags of frozen produce in your freezer until you need them. TIP: Wait until they are out of season to really save on the grocery bill.
Tips for defrosting produce
- Most frozen vegetables can be cooked without thawing. Simply throw them in as required by the recipe.
- If you want to completely thaw vegetables, cook them in a very small amount of water until they are tender.
- Fruit can be left out to thaw are room temperature. Serve before completely thawed or they will be too mushy.
- Frozen fruit is great for making smoothies or daiquiris.
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