If you’ve ever wished you could have a taste of your summer garden in the dead of winter, bought a little too much at the farmers market because it was all so beautiful or took advantage of that amazing bargain at the grocery store and ended up with more fruit than you can eat, you need to know how to properly freeze fresh produce so you can enjoy it later. Plus, preserving these items is a great way to reduce food waste. Many fruits and veggies can be frozen and stored so they retain their crisp, fresh taste for many months. That means you can keep on enjoying all your garden favorites all through the year.
Before you freeze
Before you freeze any produce, thoroughly wash it and examine it for any spoiled areas. You should only freeze ripe, unspoiled, clean produce. If you have large pieces of produce, such as whole ears of corn, you can chop them up into more manageable pieces before you begin the freezing process. Remember, everything you want to freeze has to fit inside storage containers that can fit inside your freezer.
For most produce, you’ll also want to remove extras like husks and stems. Peppers need to have the seeds removed before you freeze them. Once everything is cleaned and the extras are removed, you can begin the process of properly freezing produce.
Prepare your veggies
To lock in the fresh flavor and crispness of vegetables, you have to pre-treat them before they’re ready to be frozen. First, blanch your veggies. That means you need to briefly dip them in boiling water and then immediately place them in ice water. This preserves the fresh taste and actually helps them freeze more effectively. The vegetables must be completely dry before you freeze them.
Spread the blanched, dried vegetables out evenly on a sheet pan, and allow it all to freeze completely like this before you place vegetables in a storage container. Otherwise, everything will end up frozen together.
Fill a storage container completely, packing it as tightly as you can. Air is the enemy of all frozen food, so do your best not to leave any extra space. Use freezer bags (check out reusable silicone options) or airtight containers. If the container is airtight, your vegetables will stay edible and maintain their flavor for about 18 months. Write the freeze date on your storage container or freezer bag so you know when you placed your vegetables in the freezer.
It can be a little tricky to freeze fruits, which naturally turn brown over time. To prevent your frozen fruits from browning, steam them first for about two minutes. You can also sprinkle a little ascorbic acid and water over fruits prior to freezing.
All fruits should be spread out on a baking sheet and frozen before being placed in storage containers. Berries can be frozen whole in most cases. Larger fruits, such as peaches, should be cut into slices before they’re frozen. You should also remove unnecessary parts of the fruits, such as the stems on strawberries and the pits in cherries.
No matter how careful your process is, there are simply some fruits and vegetables that freeze better than others. Corn and peas both freeze beautifully and last for a long time when they’re frozen properly. Onions and peppers also freeze incredibly well, whether they’re chopped or whole.
But there is some produce that simply doesn’t freeze well. No matter how careful you are, these veggies will end up mushy and lose their flavor. Celery, endive, lettuce, cabbage, watercress, cucumbers and radishes naturally have a very high water content already. When these items are frozen and dethawed, you’ll end up with a slushy mess.
Citrus fruits of all kinds also don’t freeze well. They can be frozen, but they only remain edible for about three months. Other produce can be frozen and eaten for up to 18 months, so this is a huge difference. Still, this can buy you a bit more time to use up these fruits instead of letting them go to waste.
Bananas are the easiest of all fruits to freeze and store, because you can simply throw them as they are in the freezer. The peels will turn brown. But inside that frozen peel, the banana will stay fresh and tasty.
Freezing fresh produce
Once you know how to freeze fresh produce to preserve the taste for months into the future, you can get as much as you want from the farmers market, expand your summer garden and take advantage of that amazing berry sale at the grocery store whenever you want. Take the time to freeze your produce properly, and you’ll get to enjoy the taste of freshness time and time again, all while minimizing food waste.