I’ve had many people tell me that they’d love to do more preserving, but only have enough time in their lives to freeze their produce.
Guess what? Freezing is preserving! While it may be a little harder to show off than an pantry full of colourful jars of preserves, many people find a freezer full of summer’s bounty is a more practical way to preserve food for their families. It doesn’t take a lot of prep, and since you’re really just putting away the raw ingredients, you have more flexibility over how you eventually prepare the food.
There are a few important tips to follow when you freeze your summer fruits and veggies that will ensure a fresh tasting result when you’re ready to take them out of the freezer.
Tip #1: Perhaps the most important tip is to NOT let your freezer become the black hole of leftover produce! Lots of people throw things in the freezer, only to be discovered years later when it’s too freezer burned to use. It’s pretty important to develop some kind of organizational system in your freezer that works for you. Marla has blogged about her ingenious solution to mystery freezer syndrome; she uses a dry erase marker on the outside of the freezer to list everything that’s inside, and erases it once she takes it out. I have a pretty big freezer, and I think it might get a little challenging to write down everything that’s in there, but generally I keep different areas of the freezer set aside for different stuff – i.e. large roasts or whole chickens in the bottom right, frozen stocks on the left hand ledge, frozen fruit in the top left basket, etc. I definitely try to group similar things together. Figure out a system that works for the way you cook, and then try to stick with it!
Tip #2: Label your packages well! Make sure the date is on the package somewhere, so if you find two bags of frozen rhubarb when you want to make your pie – you can make sure you use the oldest one first. That is, unless the older one is a few years old. (Then you just may want to compost it :))
Tip #3: Air is your enemy! Pockets of air in freezer bags will allow your produce to get freezer burned. This will looked like white dry patches, and it really makes the produce taste pretty unpleasant. My mom used to have a stash of straws in the kitchen, just so she could suck out the air from freezer bags of produce before sealing them tightly with a twist tie. Because I also tend to buy my meat by the side directly from the farm, which results in a lot of meat all at one time, I have invested in a vacuum sealer that ensures I can put away food that can last up to a year in my freezer without any loss in quality. I also use it occasionally for things like raw chopped rhubarb or blanched green beans and I have found that produce lasts easily twice as long when frozen in one of these vacuum sealed bags.
Tip #4: Freeze your goods in amounts that you’re likely to use them in a favourite recipe. Marla always freezes her pesto in ice cube trays before storing them in a bag in her fridge, because it leaves her with a nice measurable amount to use later – whether it’s a few cubes to add to some steaming pasta, or one cube to mix with some mayo to make a flavourful potato salad. I have a favourite squash bread recipe that I make a lot in winter, so I freeze my roasted and pureed squash in the amount needed for my recipe. That way, I can defrost my Ziploc bag of squash, and dump the whole thing in my mixing bowl. This makes the bread making a lot more convenient – which in turn makes it more likely that I’ll make it all winter long.
Tip #5: Preparing your produce in easily stackable containers with square sides will use up a lot less space in your freezer. I also like using sandwich size ziploc freezer bags, but I always let them freeze flat so I can stack lots of them on top of each other.
Tip #6: Get your prepared produce frozen as quickly as you can. After you’ve blanched vegetables, cool them off completely in an ice-water bath before freezing. Also, don’t fill up your freezer all at once – all of the new produce will lower the temperature, and make it take a more time to freeze solid.
Now you’re ready to freeze. Look for our next blog post that describes how to prepare different produce for freezing!