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Heading into your nearest grocery store, chances are you’d find more fresh produce than frozen still up for sale. Mind you; this is not because people do not buy frozen fruits and vegetables that much – it is because they do so much that they are practically always sold out!
While admittedly not as good as fresh produce, frozen fruits and vegetables are bought by bunches at a high rate because they last a long time, significantly more so than their fresh counterparts.
That said, say that you can only find fresh or currently growing some in your very own garden, worry not. We have plenty of tips for freezing fruits and vegetables to help make them last. Read on as we share everything you need to know about freezing and storing fruits and vegetables below.
Related Article: Definitive Guide to Frozen Foods
Nowadays, more and more people utilize the ample space in their backyards to grow all sorts of vegetables or greeneries. These people then enjoy freezing their homegrown produce rather than going to the nearest store to grab a bag of frozen vegetables. So, how do you freeze vegetables at home?
First things first, keep in mind that most vegetables need to be blanched before they are frozen. Blanching is the process of submerging fresh vegetables in boiling water for a short period. This process deactivates enzymes in the vegetables that negatively affect the flavor, color, and overall texture of your frozen vegetables over time.
To get the best results when blanching, try doing so in small batches and use 1 gallon of water for every 1 pound of vegetables. Remember as well that blanching times differ from one vegetable to the other, so it’s recommended to pay attention to the particular blanching time of the specific vegetable you want to freeze.
Vegetables such as peppers, onions, and tomatoes do not need to be blanched before freezing. You can simply wash them before putting them in the freezer.
Tips When Blanching Vegetables
If you want to preserve the natural texture of the vegetables as much as possible, it is crucial that you quickly cool them down after blanching. Using an ice bath right after dipping the vegetables in hot water stops the cooking altogether and renders them cold before they can even go inside the freezer. This also ensures that they would freeze faster.
And as you would know, the faster food freezes, the smaller the ice crystals that would form inside vegetables would be. This, in turn, would keep the cell walls of the vegetables more intact, thus, preserving their natural texture better. On the contrary, a long, slow freeze results in much larger ice crystals that tend to rupture even more cell walls, making food flabby or mushy.
With that in mind, if you are planning to blanch and immediately freeze a huge number of vegetables, make sure you have a lot of ice on hand to keep that water nice and old. To get the best results, freeze no more than 1 pound of food per 2 to 3 cubic feet of freezer space. Just because you have the space for it, does it mean you should shove every food in the freezer.
How to Freeze Vegetables
Here is a step-by-step guide how to properly freeze vegetables:
- To freeze vegetables, first blanch them briefly in hot water, then quickly submerge them in a pot of cold water to prevent them from cooking. Once cold, dry the vegetables thoroughly and carefully using paper towel-lined sheet pans.
- Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a rimmed sheet pan. Keep the space between each vegetable as uniform as possible. This expedites the freezing process, resulting in a much fresher look and taste when eventually thawed.
- After the produce is frozen solid, store them in freezer bags or air-tight containers. Make sure that you fill hard-sided containers to the top and remove as much air as possible from the freezer bags. It is also a great idea to date the packages to always be on top of the produce you put in your freezer.
- It is worth noting that vegetables that hold up well to cooking, such as peas and corn, generally freeze well. You don’t have to hassle much freezing these vegetables.
Unlike vegetables, fruits do not need to be blanched before freezing. All you have to do is to prepare the fruit to the point that they are ready to eat. This means peeling, slicing, and pitting the fruit as needed.
For light-colored fruits, such as pears, apricots, apples, or peaches, an ascorbic acid dip is recommended to prevent oxidation or browning of the fruit’s exterior. Worry not. Commercial ascorbic acid dips are available for purchase. If not, you can settle for Vitamin C instead.
And if both options are unavailable, you can utilize lemon juice. That said, the effects wouldn’t be as pronounced as actually using ascorbic acid. It is also worth noting that fruits can be frozen dry with sugar and syrup. Adding sugar or syrup to the fruit before freezing helps it retain its natural texture, color, and flavor.
As for berries, you can actually freeze them on a baking sheet before packing them in freezer-grade materials. This method keeps berries from freezing together in a clump and makes them more manageable to use as ingredients when making baked goods or smoothies.
How to Freeze Fruits
Here is a step-by-step guide how to properly freeze fruits:
- Segregate damaged fruits from those that aren’t. Wash them thoroughly. Take note that some fruits freeze best with a sugar or sugar-syrup preparation. Berries, on the other hand, such as currants, cranberries, and blueberries would do just as well without any added preparations.
- That said, when freezing delicate berries, such as raspberries and strawberries, it is recommended that you first arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag or container. Just as you would with vegetables.
- For fruits that tend to brown via oxidation, such as the aforementioned apples, apricots, and peaches, treat them with ascorbic acid first before freezing.
- If unavailable, use lemon juice instead. Slice the fruit and dip the slices in an acidulated water bath: about one quart water plus a tablespoon of lemon juice. After that, dry the fruits down before freezing.
Prepping and Blanching Guidelines Table
Below is a simple table detailing how to prepare and the blanching time of various vegetables and fruits before you put them for freezing:
|Asparagus||Vegetable||Trim the woody ends, then wash||2 to 3 minutes|
|Bell Peppers||Vegetable||Remove the seeds, then cut into several ½-inch pieces||2 to 3 minutes|
|Brussel Sprouts||Vegetable||Remove the outer leaves, then trim the stems. Small sprouts should be cut in half, while large ones should be quartered||2 to 3 minutes|
|Carrots||Vegetable||Peel carefully and cut into ¼-inch slices or cubes||2 minutes|
|Dark Leafy Greens||Vegetable||Remove any woody stems and/or ribs, chop them if necessary||2 to 3 minutes|
|Zucchini||Vegetable||Cut into ½-inch slices||2 to 3 minutes|
|Berries||Fruit||Wash and pat dry, delicate berries (raspberries, strawberries, etc.) should be handled with more care||n/a|
|Tomatoes||Fruit||Remove the core||n/a|
|Cherries||Fruit||Remove the stems and pits, you may also leave them as is if you want||n/a|
|Apples||Fruit||Remove the pit, cut into six pieces||n/a|
|Corn||Vegetable||Husk corn and remove kernels||2 minutes|
|Broccoli||Vegetable||Cut into 1- to 1 ½-inch florets||3 minutes|
How to Properly Store Vegetables and Fruits in the Freezer
The most crucial aspect you need to consider when packing vegetables and fruits for freezing is minimizing the air within the package while also maximizing the moisture inside. Keep in mind that contact with air can cause changes in the product’s flavor and color.
To ensure that your vegetables and fruits are stored nicely and will come out of the freezer in the best quality possible, pack them in air-tight containers or moisture-proof, heavy-duty freezer bags. Do your best to force out as much air as possible before neatly closing the container.
You should also wrap the freezer bags in heavy-duty foil and seal them with freezer tape. Never mind using plastic sandwich bags instead. They aren’t heavy-duty enough to produce the same results.
Set the freezer to its coldest setting a few hours before adding the food you sealed. Lastly, do not overload the freezer, as doing so would only slow the entire freezing process.
Frozen vegetables could last about a couple of months or a whole year inside the freezer, depending on the vegetable. Meanwhile, frozen fruits usually last 6 months to a whole year. Notably, storing them for longer is fine, but their quality may decline the longer they are kept frozen. Here is a more in-depth look at how long you can keep certain foods in the freezer.
Using Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Most vegetables can go directly from the freezer to boiling water, while some may need to be thawed for a bit first. For instance, corn.
Fruits, meanwhile, are best when allowed to thaw at room temperature, except for delicate berries. They can turn mushy when completely thawed, so consider using them before they do so. Delicate berries are best used in baking, in smoothies, or as an enticing topping for yogurt or ice cream desserts.
Frozen vegetables are recommended to be used within the first 6 to 8 months for best quality. They can be used anywhere you would use store-bought frozen vegetables. Most use them in soups, casseroles, stir-fries, or straight-up side dishes.
Frozen fruits are best used within 8 to 12 months in the freezer. They can be used in quick breads, smoothies, oatmeal, and desserts such as crisps and cobblers. Some even eat them straight from the pack after thawing.
Related Article: The Proper Methods of Thawing Frozen Foods
There you have it! That is everything you need to know about freezing and storing vegetables and fruits. Always remember that each vegetable or fruit has its own recommended preparation or blanching method before freezing to get the most out of them. Furthermore, make it a habit to label everything you put into the freezer and stack them in an organized manner as much as possible. Doing so reduces the risk of forgotten foods and ensures you can use them at their best.
Left something in the freezer for a long time? Are you wondering whether it is still safe for consumption or not? Are frozen foods past the expiration date still safe to eat? Read our article about that and find out.