Put It On Ice
Freezing is my favorite method of preserving. Prepping is minimal and I can get ripe produce from the garden to the freezer within the hour. Plus, it doesn’t heat up the house! Freezing fruits and vegetables has its advantages over the other methods of preserving. More nutrients are preserved in the fruits and vegetables than by any other method. Frozen foods, for the most part have superior color, flavor, and texture than foods preserved by canning or drying. Freezing keeps food more like fresh produce than any other method of long-term preservation.
Freezing your harvest is cost effective as well. Once you factor in the initial cost of a deep freezer and the monthly electricity usage, the only other equipment you need in order to freeze your harvest are containers. I freeze a majority of my harvest in zip lock or vacuum seal bags. The only exception is for my freezer jam; I do purchase freezer jam jars for that purpose.
Some tips to consider before your freeze your harvest
Most vegetables require “blanching” (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) before freezing. Doing so stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture in the vegetables. Also, “blanching” removes dirt and organisms from the surface, brightens the color and slows the loss of vitamins. It also softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack into plastic baggies and jars.
There are three methods of blanching:
Bring a gallon of water per pound of vegetables to a boil. Immerse the vegetables into the boiling water. The water should return to a boil within one minute. Cover and start counting blanching time (depending on the vegetable) as soon as water returns to a boil.
Use a pot with a tight lid and a basket that holds the food at least three inches above the bottom of the pot. Put an inch or two of water in the pot and bring the water to a boil.
This method is not recommended for many vegetables because of the varying degrees of microwave power. Some food experts suggest that microwave blanching does not effectively stop enzyme deterioration. But it is useful if you intending to dehydrate the vegetables ( I will talk about that next in another post).
As soon as blanching is complete, cool the vegetables quickly. Plunge the basket of vegetables immediately into a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process. Cooling vegetables should take the same amount of time as blanching. Drain the vegetables thoroughly. I like to lay the produce out on cookie sheets lined with a silicon mat or a kitchen towel and freeze them first. Then, once frozen I pack the produce in plastic baggies or jars. If using jars, you will need to keep the proper head space. If using plastic bags, remove as much air as possible or vacuum seal. Exposure to air will lead to freezer burn on your produce.
For the most part, fruits do not require any special prepping in order to freeze; just wash ,dry and freeze. With the exception of fruits like peaches and apricots that need to have their skins removed first, freezing fruit is easy. I like the options that freezing fruit offers; since it’s not canned in syrup or anything else, you can use the fruit in a myriad of recipes or make jam later when it’s not sweltering outside!
*This freezer jam recipe was adapted from a recipe from an old version of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I received for a wedding gift over 15 years ago!
- 4-8 oz Freezer Jam Jars
- 4 Cups of Blueberries
- 3 Cups of Sugar
- 1/2 Cup of Water
- 1 tsp of lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- 1 package of pectin powder (1.75 oz)
- Rinse the containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.
- Rinse the blueberries. Remove all stems and other debris.
- Lightly crush the bluberries in the bowl. Add the sugar and mix. Let the blueberry and sugar mixture sit for 10 minutes.
- Mix the 1/2 cup of water and package of pectin together in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir for 1 minute.
- Add to the pectin mixture to the blueberries and sugar. Mix until most of the sugar crystals are dissolved.
- Fill the containers immediately. Remember to leave at least 1/2 of head space. Wipe off the edges and cover with lids. Let the jam sit at room temperature for 24 hours. The jam is ready to use!
- You can store the jam in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.