Keeping Summer Alive Through Freezing

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KEEPING SUMMER ALIVE THROUGH FREEZING

The moment you pick your fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the garden they start to lose their nutritional value. So, pick the freshest and eat it or freeze it at the peak of freshness. When there is a bumper crop in your garden, or you overbuy those beautiful blackberries at the farm stand try freezing – Here’s How:

Make sure to wash and dry everything thoroughly. Remove pits and cut into uniform sized pieces if necessary.  The longer it takes to freeze something, the larger the ice crystals. The bigger crystals break down the cell walls and when it thaws, it becomes mushy. So you choose if you will freeze whole (berries, etc.) or cut up (bell peppers).

Use containers, or freezer bags, leaving room for expansion. If you are watching your use of plastic, BALL makes freezer safe glass jars. When ready, defrost produce in the refrigerator.

Freezing Berries – Hull strawberries, wash and pat dry. Put in a single layer on a wax or parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, put in a zip-top bag, label and date.

Freezing Herbs (i.e. mint, basil, cilantro) Soon you will have a successful run growing your own herbs (HCDEL newsletter April 2013), you’ll have more than you can use. Fear not, we have a solution to brighten up your Fall and Winter dishes. This also works when you buy a package for a recipe and only use ½, freeze the rest of it! Drying herbs works well (future HCofDel newsletter), but freezing is a good option too. The most basic method:

Remove the leaves from the stems (some tender stems are okay)
Chop finely and put in a bowl
Add just enough olive oil to cover
Pour mixture into ice cube trays and freeze.
Once solid, transfer to a zip-top bag, label and date
Use within 3 months

To Use – Place a frozen cube or two into soups, stews or sauces. Or, thaw, strain and add to salad dressings for added flavor!

Freezing Tomatoes: Frozen Tomatoes are best used in soups, sauces and stews, as they become mushy when thawed. But the flavor is still there, and that is why we freeze!  Tomatoes can be frozen whole, sliced, chopped, pureed, raw or cooked, as juice or sauce or prepared in the recipe of your choice.  Thawed tomatoes may be used I any cooked tomato recipe. Do not try to use for fresh!

#1 – Select firm, ripe tomatoes.
#2 – Wash before cutting. Rinse with water and pat dry. Cut away stem scar and surrounding area, discard.
#3 – Freezing Whole Tomatoes – Put tomatoes (as prepared above) on a cookie sheet and put in freezer. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bag or container. Seal tightly. When ready to use – remove from freezer. To peel; run under warm water, skin will slip off easily.

  • Season tomatoes before serving, not before freezing. Freezing will either strengthen or weaken seasoning.

Eat within 8 months of freezing.

Freezing Other Vegetables: This is not as straightforward. Different vegetables respond to different methods. Some do better cooked, and some do better raw. There are several excellent web sites that provide specific advice for different veggies. Garden Guide has one of the most comprehensive guides to freezing vegetables. Please check it out to make sure that you are freezing your summer bounty properly and will have nutritious vegetables on hand for most of the winter.

Sources:

Cooking Light – August 2012
Prevention Magazine A to Z
http://www.care2.com/
http://www.eatingwell.com/
www.gardenguides.com/416_freezingvegetables.html
TLC Cooking “5 Tips for Freezing Fresh Produce”
http://www.eatingwell.com/
www.instructables.com/id/Freezing-Summer-tomato-crop

 

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