Family Living Focus:Time to Freeze
Posted: July 14, 2011
With the warm temperatures we have been having and the month of August yet to come, we are a long way from freezing! But, it is getting to be the time of year to freeze summer fruits and vegetables. Freezing is one of my favorite food preservation techniques because it is relatively mess free and it is quick to complete.
Frozen foods can add variety to your meals year-round. As with any food preservation, following specific guidelines will assure you of high quality, safe food.
Blanching, or scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short period of time, is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen except onions and green peppers. It slows or stops the action of enzymes. Up until harvest, enzymes cause vegetables to grow and mature. If vegetables are not blanched, or not blanched long enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage causing off-colors, off-flavors and toughening.
In addition, blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and spoilage organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack. Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size of the pieces to be frozen. Follow recommended blanching times for specific vegetables.
For home freezing, the best way to blanch vegetables is in boiling water.Use a blancher with a basket and cover, or fit a wire basket into a large kettle with a lid. Use one gallon of water per pound of prepared vegetables. Using these proportions, the water should continue to boil when vegetables are lowered into water. Put washed and cut vegetables in the blanching basket and lower into vigorously boiling water. Place a lid on the blancher. Start counting blanching time as soon as the water returns to a boil. Keep heat high so that water continues to boil throughout the blanching process. Steam blanching is recommended for grated summer squash. It can also be used for broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Microwave blanching is not always an effective method and does not save time or energy.
As soon as blanching is complete, cool vegetables quickly and thoroughly to stop the cooking process. Plunge the basket of vegetables immediately into a large quantity of cold water. Change water frequently or use cold running water or iced water. Drain the vegetables after cooling, allowing extra moisture to drain. Extra moisture can cause a loss of quality when vegetables are frozen.
Pack vegetables into freezer proof rigid containers or freezer proof bags removing as much air as possible. Be sure to seal tightly, label and freeze. Frozen vegetables should not be thawed prior to cooking and should be cooked in a small amount of water. Besides vegetables, many fruits freeze well too. Why not take the time to preserve some fresh produce this harvest season?
Mary Ann K. Oyler is the Penn State Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Educator serving the Southeast Region and located in Franklin County. Penn State is an affirmative action, equal opportunity University.
Contact your local Extension Office to obtain the Let's Preserve Food Preservation materials for proper canning and freezing procedures or visit the Penn State Extension Food Preservation site for a wealth of food preservation material.
Interested in taking a food preservation class to learn or improve your preserving skills, see the upcoming workshop series here.