Freezing Foods A to Z
Thanks to Jolene Taylor for these Freezing tips.
Before we start with the alphabet, a little lesson for gardeners on how to prepare those home-grown veggies for the freezer.
Blanching: Most raw vegetables should be blanched before frozen. (Exceptions are onions, garlic, and bell peppers.) Blanching means to boil for a few minutes to stop enzyme actions and keep flavor, texture and color. Method: Bring water to a boil, add vegetables. After boiling recommended time, drain and plunge into ice water to cool quickly. Drain. Freeze. Look up specific time guidelines in a cookbook or on the web. DO NOT blanch in the microwave. Foods are safe to eat without blanching, but may suffer undesirable changes in flavor, texture and color.
Now specifics from Apples to Zucchini!
Apples: Peel and slice a few at a time. Treat with lemon juice or cold salt water to prevent darkening. Place in freezer bags. Great for pies, applesauce and more.
Asparagus: See blanching above.
Bananas: Peel and place in a freezer bag. They will mash easily after defrosting for use in smoothies, breads, etc. The whole banana in the peel can also be frozen.
Refried Beans: Didn’t use the whole can? Freeze what’s left for a lunchtime quesadilla.
Berries (whole): Wash and pat dry. Lay out on a cookie sheet and freeze, then put in a bag for long-term.
Broccoli: See blanching above.
Butter/Margerine: Freezes fine in the tub or the box.
Carrots: Peel, slice, blanch.
Cheese: Grate it and freeze it.
Cherries, whole or pitted: Treat them same as berries.
Chips (as in potato and tortilla): Freeze in the bag to extend shelf life.
Chocolate: Absolutely. Wrap in foil. Chips and candy bars too.
Cookie Dough: Don’t make it too thick or it takes a long time to thaw. You can freeze it in balls (see whole berries, above) ready to bake.
Corn on the cob: Clean ears by trimming ends and removing silks. Do not wash. Freeze in freezer bags. To serve: Drop ears in boiling water and cook 6-8 minutes after water returns to a boil. For fresher taste,blanch and cut off the kernels before freezing.
Fresh Fish: Put filet in freezer bag, add water to cover fish, freeze.
Fresh Herbs: Parsley, basil, etc. Wash. Put leaves in ice cube trays, add hot water. Put in freezer. Later, pop out and put in zip bags to use for soups and recipes as needed.
Green beans: See blanching above.
Leftover vegetables: A spoonful of this and that can be put in a container in the freezer and later used in vegetable soup.
Lemons/Oranges: Wash thoroughly. Grate the peel before using and freeze the zest for later use. The juice can be frozen also. Ice cube trays work well for this.
Liquids: Allow 1 inch headspace. Cover with plastic wrap, then with foil.
Milk: Freeze in the container. Pour off a little to allow for expansion. Use within 2 weeks for best quality.
Melon: Honeydew and cantaloupe. Peel and cube, put in zip bag. Use for smoothies. (Makes good smoothies combined with citrus).
Nuts: Freeze whole for best results. Always double bag.
Onions and Peppers: Dice and bag. Best for cooked dishes, not fresh salads. Great in eggs and on quesadillas – just sauté right from the freezer bag.
Pasta: Leftover pasta can be put in a zip bag. Squeeze out the air and freeze. Thaw and microwave; or put into boiling water and reheat.
Peaches, nectarines: Peel and slice. Fruits that darken can be helped by adding 1/8 tsp. lemon juice to keep them from browning. Or use ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) or Fruit Fresh type product. Sugar also works as a preservative.
Peas: See blanching above.
Pies: Most can be frozen whole, cooked or uncooked. (Exceptions: custards, cream pies, meringue.) Filling only: Line a pie plate with foil. Prepare filling and pour into dish. Freeze until solid, remove pie plate and wrap frozen, pie-shaped filling with foil, label and return to freezer until needed. Crust only: Roll out circles of pie crust dough, place layers of plastic wrap or wax paper between; stack, wrap with foil, label and freeze until needed. You can also freeze a ball of pie dough. Whole pie UNBAKED: Sometimes results in soggy bottom crust. Don’t slit the crust when preparing for freezing. Be sure to pre-treat fresh peaches or apples to prevent browning. Freezes well 2-3 months. Bake 450 degrees 10-15 min, then 375 degrees until done. Whole BAKED pie: Slightly undercook before freezing. Keeps well 4-6 months. When ready to use, thaw about 30 minutes, then bake 350 for about 30 minutes.
Soup: Line container with foil. Pour in leftover soup. Freeze. Take out foil and put in zip bag for a serving later.
Tomatoes: Can be frozen whole. Rinse and dry. When ready to use, hold under hot water while still frozen. Skin will fall off. I prefer to scald and peel my tomatoes as they ripen in the garden. I put them in a large bucket with lid in the freezer. When I have a full bucket, I thaw them overnight and bottle them.
Leftover Spaghetti Sauce, Tomato Paste: Freeze and add to it until there’s enough for a meal.
Zucchini: Slice and blanch. Or, grate and freeze for bread. Moisture levels will vary when you don’t blanch. This is not an exact science, there will be extra liquid when you thaw. Adjust your flour ratio and/or pour off a little of the liquid.
Now be sure to enjoy eating those frozen foods all year!