Would you like to enjoy bright, crisp garden green beans all year long? How about ripe juicy strawberries? Freezing fruits and vegetables can be an easy way to enjoy the bounty of your garden and orchard all year round. Compared with other methods of food preservation, freezing saves time and nutrients and keeps fruits and vegetables fresh-tasting and colorful. The ease of using frozen food in family meals adds to their appeal, and the Extension office can provide instructions and recipes for preserving fruits and vegetables this summer.
One advantage of freezing is that fruits and vegetables can, and should, be harvested at peak quality. So, start with ripe, juicy strawberries or tender, crisp green beans. Ideally, you should freeze produce the day that it is harvested.
Once prepared, place food to be frozen in containers or freezer bags that seal tightly so to keep moisture in and air out. Sturdy plastic containers designed for freezing, glass, or plastic freezer bags. Be sure to seal all packages or containers. Label packages clearly with the date and a description of the food item, and freeze immediately. Plan to freeze only limited amounts of food at any one time. Usually, two to three cubic feet of food is all a home freezer can freeze quickly enough at one time for best quality.
The Division of Extension offers the following recommendations:
Freezing fruitsWash all fruits in running water, handling delicate fruits carefully, and drain thoroughly. For the best quality, treat fruits before freezing to preserve their color and texture.
- Antioxidants such as vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) prevent browning of light-colored fruits. Prepare a dip of 1500 mg vitamin C per quart of water (crush three 500 mg Vitamin C tablets and add to quart of water) as a dip for sliced apples, apricots, peaches and pears. Drain, and package for freezing.
- Sugar isn’t necessary for freezing fruit but can help to retain color and texture. Freeze fruits in dry sugar or in a light sugar syrup by dissolving two cups of sugar in four cups of water. Place fruit into a freezer container; add the syrup, allowing enough headspace for expansion, and freeze. Blueberries, cranberries, currants, rhubarb and gooseberries all freeze well without sweetening. If you plan to make jam or jelly later, be sure to freeze fruits without sugar.
Package treated fruits in appropriate containers, label and date and freeze for up to one year.
Freezing vegetablesMost vegetables that can be frozen require a short heat treatment known as blanching to stabilize their color, flavor, and texture, and also to preserve nutrients. Wash all vegetables to be frozen, and peel, seed or slice as directed. There are two general methods for blanching: blanching in boiling water and steam blanching. Vegetables to be frozen are placed in, or over boiling water. Add only a small amount of vegetables so that the water continues to boil. Cover and start counting the blanching time—the exact time varies with the type of vegetable. Once blanching is completed, immediately plunge the heated vegetables in an ice-water bath to cool. Too much blanching and the vegetables will appear over-cooked. A good rule of thumb is to cool for the same amount of time as you blanch. Too much time chilling may lead to a loss of nutrients. For instance, if you blanch carrot slices for two minutes, then cool them in ice water for two minutes. Drain cooled vegetables and place them into freezer bags or containers. Label and date the bags and store for up to one year in the freezer.
Remember that not all vegetables freeze well. Those that do not freeze well include green onions (scallions), lettuce and other salad greens, radishes and tomatoes (except for cooking).
Peppers (green, red, pimento and hot) do not require blanching. Simply wash, seed and slice the peppers. Dry, if necessary, and place them in a freezer bag or container with a label and date.
A complete guide to Freezing Fruits and Vegetables (B3278) is available from the Division of Extension as part of the Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series, see https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/safefood/ Click on the ‘Safe Preserving Recipes’ link.
Frozen strawberries. Sort berries and wash gently. Drain well. For an unsweetened loose pack, place on trays in a single layer, freeze for 1 to 2 hours, then pack in freezer bags and return to the freezer. For sugar pack, sprinkle sugar on whole, sliced, or crushed berries and gently mix until sugar is dissolved. Pack in freezer containers. Syrup pack may be used; leave 1-inch headspace.
Try a Berry Banana Smoothie!
1 cup frozen berries
1 banana, peeled
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
¾ cup 1 % milk or unsweetened milk of choice
Directions: 1. In a blender, combine bananas, frozen berries, yogurt, and milk. Blend until smooth. 2. To make a frostier smoothie, add a few ice cubes and blend until smooth
Recipe: Teen Cuisine, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Frozen green beans. Select young tender beans. Sort and snip ends. Wash. Leave whole, cut into uniform lengths, or slice lengthwise into strips for French style. Blanch for 3 minutes. Cool, drain and package for the freezer.
Here is a recipe from Homemade Pickles and Relishes (B2267), part of the Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series from the Division of Extension:
Freezer Dill Slices
8 cups pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced (2-1/2 pounds)
1 cup sweet red pepper, seeded, cored and chopped
3 tbsp canning and pickling salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/3 cup dill weed, minced
1 tsp dill seed
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups cider vinegar (5% acetic acid)
1. Gently wash cucumbers, slice 1/16-inch from each end and discard. Thinly slice cucumbers and measure out 8 cups. In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the salt. Let the cucumbers stand 2 hours, and then drain.
2. In another bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture over the cucumbers, and stir well. Refrigerate the mixture for 8 to 10 hours.
3. Pack the cucumber slices and pickling solution in freezer bags or rigid containers, label and date, and freeze at 0° F or colder for up to 6 months.
4. Thaw pickles for about 8 hours in the refrigerator before serving. These pickles must be kept refrigerated
Yield: 4 pints
Sandy Tarter is the FoodWIse Coordinator for the UW Madison-Division of Extension, Chippewa, Dunn, and Eau Claire Counties. She can be reached at 715-232-1636, email@example.com