Have extra produce from the garden? Just freeze it! Store your summer harvest in your freezer to enjoy all year long. Freezing fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest ways to preserve food, however, there are a few key things to keep in mind. These handy tips for freezing produce will help ensure that your harvest tastes just as good in November as it did in July!
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Benefits of Freezing Produce
One of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh produce available. If you are not a fan of gardening yourself, farmers markets make it easy to find locally grown fruits and vegetables. Stocking up on fresh produce during the summer and freezing it can save you quite a bit of money as the prices of produce go up during the winter season.
Love these tips for freezing produce? Read these food preservation tips, too:
- Preserving Blueberries: My First Attempt at Canning!
- A Home Preserving Guide for Food Preservation
- How to Preserve Fresh Herbs for Maximum Flavor
If you enjoy gardening, freezing your harvest can be helpful if you don’t have a crop that is particularly bountiful. For example, my rhubarb grows slowly, allowing me to only harvest one or two stalks a week. By freezing rhubarb all summer, I have enough to last me until the next batch or have the ability to use it in recipes come fall and winter. Freezing organic foods helps cut back on the grocery budget when things are bought in bulk when they are on sale.
Handy Tips for Freezing Produce
To ensure that your frozen produce stays fresh all winter long, follow the simple tips below!
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- Choose the freshest, blemish-free produce you can find. Thoroughly wash and dry it to remove pits, stems, leaves and hulls before freezing.
- Cut all your produce into approximately the same-sized pieces. This saves time as you prepare meals allowing you to simply drop the food of your choice into your recipes.
- If you’re freezing fruit, place on a cookie sheet as individual pieces and flash freeze for 2 to 3 hours. Flash freezing preserves the natural juices and flavors of food by freezing it quickly. Use a spatula to transfer the frozen fruit to a freezer safe bag and put it back in freezer.
- Freezing vegetables can be a little trickier than freezing fruits. Some are best frozen raw, while others freeze best after being cooked, so be sure to learn more to ensure best results.
- Herbs can be pureed in a small amount of water and frozen in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes out of the tray and store them in freezer bags . When you want to add fresh herbs to a soup or stew, just toss in an herb cube!
- Make sure the containers you choose to freeze your produce in are freezer safe. When using plastic freezer bags, remove as much air as possible before sealing.
- Store frozen fruits for up to one year and vegetables for about 18 months. Storing produce longer than this may cause changes in flavor. Put the date on the containers and note what type of food they contain before freezing!
- Keep a freezer thermometer in your freezer to make sure it is maintaining the proper temperature.The ideal temperature for keeping food frozen is 0°F (-18° Celsius).
- Frozen produce will often have a slightly different texture than fresh produce. Use frozen berries in smoothies or frozen vegetables in soups rather than eating them alone like you might with fresh produce.
How to Freeze Vegetables
In addition to these tips for freezing produce, most vegetables need to be blanched before freezing, What does ‘blanching’ mean? The term ‘blanch’ means to briefly cook in boiling water. To blanch fresh vegetables, bring 1 gallon of water per pound of prepped vegetables (about 2 cups) to a boil in a large pot. Add the vegetables, cover, return to a boil and cook. Then, transfer the vegetables to a large bowl of ice water. Drain well and pat dry.
Why blanch vegetables? Blanching kills enzymes that can alter the color, flavor, and nutrients in fresh vegetables. Blanching also destroys bacteria and other nasties that might be on the surface. Once you have dried off your blanched vegetables, pack them snugly to avoid air contact. Check out Eating Well for a guide to blanching vegetables.
Can you freeze fresh vegetables without blanching? You can, however, they won’t last as long so use them within 6 to 8 weeks. If you are trying to eat healthy on a budget, freezing fresh foods when they are on sale is a great way to eat more vegetables without going broke.
DIY Smoothie Freezer Packs
Freezing fresh fruit can save you a lot of time and money. Taking time to make breakfast at home can also go a long way towards reducing your carbon footprint. DIY Smoothie Freezer Packs are the answer to your ‘fast and portable’ meal needs and making them up ahead of time is incredibly easy. Make sure to follow the tips for freezing produce that I shared above when assembling your smoothie freezer packs.
The ingredients for these green smoothies are stored in quart sized freezer bags. Stock up on frozen fruit and greens when they are on sale or in season. Cut the fruits fairly small and layer them in the bags with the greens. Label them with the date and lay them flat in the freezer. If you don’t have a high powered blender, skip the greens and just stick with fruit instead.
A general guideline to follow is 3 cups of frozen fruit and 2 cups fresh spinach or other greens. Puree those with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of liquid for 2 good sized smoothies.
Sample Green Smoothie Recipe (amount PER freezer bag)
- 1 cup pineapple, chopped
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup mango, chopped
- 1 banana, peeled and sliced
Place ingredients in quart sized freezer bags. Squeeze out leftover air and lay flat in freezer. To make your frozen fruit and vegetable smoothies, place the contents of one package into a high powered blender. Add 1 to 1/2 cups of liquid (juice, almond milk, coconut water, soy milk, etc). Then, puree on high until smooth.
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.