Freezing the Garden’s Bounty

   Written by on July 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Hopefully, your garden hasn’t washed away down the hill and into Roanoke Creek. If you are still picking, good for you!

Canning and freezing fresh produce looms each summer as a big task for homemakers. Over the years, tips and short cuts are written down and saved as reminders for coming years. Here are a few I’ve found helpful.

When faced with a surplus of fruits and vegetables, prepare them for freezing exactly as if you were going to consume them immediately: washed, peeled, dried, shredded, or cut into cubes or sticks.

Before freezing, plunge carrots, beets, beans, diced carrots, and other vegetables into boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds. Drain in a colander and flush immediately with cold water. Mom always kept one sink full of cold water and ice cubes for this task. This process is called blanching and not only seals in flavor but neutralizes vitamin-destroying enzymes.

I really like this next tip because so often you don’t need that whole bag of broccoli in the freezer, just a few florets for your dinner plate. The best way to store cut or sliced vegetables or fruits – apricot or plum halves, strawberries, carrot slices, or cauliflower florets, for example – is to freeze the pieces individually. This is done by placing the pieces on a tray, freezing, and putting them in plastic bags to keep in the freezer. You’ll be able to take the food out by the piece or handful as needed and thaw it more quickly.

If you’re freezing a hot dish for serving later, don’t add the milk, yogurt, or sour cream. Dairy products don’t freeze well; well, except for ice cream and that’s a whole different process. Put a label on the freezer container reminding you to add them in the correct amounts at final preparation.

Save space when freezing green peppers by cutting off the tops and nesting the peppers inside each other like a child’s toy. Cut the pepper tops into small pieces and freeze separately for use in soups and stews.

For ready-made succotash, freeze a batch of homegrown lima beans mixed with a good freezing sweet corn.

If you are freezing food in water or broth, leave plenty of empty space in the top of bag or container. Freezing increases volume, and without extra space the containers will burst.

When making a pie with frozen fruit, which releases a lot of water as it thaws, and you forget to take the fruit out of the freezer far enough ahead of time like I do, keep the bottom crust from getting soggy by sprinkling it with granulated sugar, ground almonds mixed with an egg yolk or plain flour. Any of these will absorb excess moisture from the thawing fruit like a dry sponge.

Whether you have a separate freezer or you use just the freezer section of your refrigerator, sooner or later around here you’re going to be faced with a power outage threatening your frozen food.  The best tip is to keep the door closed if the power goes off. A full freezer holds better than a half full one because air warms up faster than frozen blocks of food. If the outage is announced (never happens!) fill the freezer with bottles or bags filled with cold water as soon as possible.

My freezer is chock full of little bits of this and smaller bits of that, preserved in individual plastic freezer bags. I use wax paper to wrap bacon slices, sausage patties and pieces of chicken and fish in meal-size portions; it’s easier to remove when thawing than plastic wrap or aluminum foil and helps prevent freezer burn. Buying when things are on sale and then freezing in smaller bags keeps the freezer full and the extra time and effort is worthwhile in terms of thriftiness and convenience.

Leave a Reply