How to Freeze Vegetables and Fruit
It's high produce season in most parts of the country, with tons of fruits, vegetables, and herbs ripe for the picking. While you're busy making recipes with fresh ingredients, you're probably wondering how to freeze vegetables and fruit so you can carry that fresh flavor and nutrition over into the winter months, when nothing seems to be ripe or cheap. Freezing ripe summer produce is easier and less expensive than canning. All you really need is a freezer (preferably a deep freezer), set to zero degrees or lower, and some airtight containers. Some extra time and a few tools can help ensure top quality. If you know how to freeze fruit and vegetables, they can last more than six months. Casseroles, soups, and stews prepared with fresh vegetables can be frozen for up to three months and still come out well, according to the USDA (and be safe to eat indefinitely).
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How to Freeze Fruits.Summer fruits such as berries and peaches can be frozen with little effort. For berries, just clean them, dry them, cut off the stems if necessary, and arrange them on a cookie sheet so they won't stick together. Once they're frozen, move them to an airtight bag, which makes for easier storage and helps prevent freezer burn. Peaches and nectarines, among other fruits, turn out best when put in the freezer at peak ripeness and benefit from a light dusting of sugar before freezing. Simply slice them, lay them on a baking sheet, and sprinkle them with sugar. Again, move them to an airtight container after freezing.
Other fruits suitable for freezing include apricots, cherries, figs, grapes, grapefruits, melons, oranges, pears, pineapples, plums and prunes, and watermelon. Apples are perhaps best frozen in applesauce form. Fruits frozen in syrup or liquid can contribute to delectable uncooked desserts. The easiest and most healthful method is to freeze the fruit raw in a compatible fruit juice, but if you'd prefer the fruit sweetened, you can simmer it in a syrup made out of water and sugar, honey, or maple syrup prior to freezing.
How to Freeze Vegetables.Some vegetables are a little more complicated to freeze than fruit because they need to be blanched first. This protects the vegetables in the freezer and helps maintain the proper texture. A nutrition specialist at the University of Missouri Extension provides extensive information on water, steam, and microwave blanching, as well as instructions for specific vegetables including asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, onions, peppers, and potatoes.
Other vegetables such as spinach, bell peppers, and green beans are easier: Simply rinse well, pat dry, and freeze in an airtight bag. Squash, peas, and beans can be cleaned and frozen in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Like fruit, they should be moved to an airtight container once they are frozen. Zucchini can be grated in small amounts and frozen for use in recipes such as zucchini bread.
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How to Freeze Tomatoes.We're going to sidestep the debate about whether tomato is a vegetable or a fruit and simply say: You can make tomatoes into pasta or pizza sauce and freeze them that way or prepare them raw. Just dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skins, then peel and freeze.
How to Freeze Herbs.To take advantage of fresh-herb flavor year 'round by chopping up fresh herbs, placing them in ice cube trays, and covering them in water to freeze. Store the frozen cubes into an airtight bag and use them one or two at a time, thawing only as much as you need for a particular recipe. This works especially well with chives, mint, basil, and parsley, but you can try it with almost any herb.