It’s that time of year again. The garden is beginning to dwindle and you’re looking for ways to keep all your veggies fresh. Sure, they can be canned and put into soups, but there is also another alternative that will keep them fresh longer: freezing them. Of course, there are a few things one should know before taking on the task. Today, we’ll go over a few tips and tricks to freeze vegetables, fruits, and more!
Meat, casseroles, crockpot meals, soups, and stocks are among the best things that can be preserved if frozen properly.
First off, there are certain types of food that should never be frozen. Not only will they become something nasty-looking and flavorless, but some things can even harm you if you consume them after freezing and thawing them out. These non-freeze-friendly foods include:
Shelled eggs should NEVER be frozen, for any reason! When food begins to drop in temperature and freeze, you will notice that it also begins to expand. The last thing you want to find in your freezer is the aftermath of a multiple-egg explosion. If you must freeze eggs, remove them from their shell first.
For the same reason as shelled eggs, canned foods also shouldn’t be frozen. Not to mention, when the cans begin to expand, there's a chance that their contents become contaminated with the detached particles.
I know what you’re going to say: “Well, what about frozen yogurt?”. Regular yogurt is completely different. When regular yogurt begins to freeze, the moisture that is held in the container transforms into ice crystals. This ice ruins the yogurt’s consistency, causing it to curdle as it separates.
Pasta becomes a huge starchy mass because the structure is very soft before it completely freezes. If you need to freeze pasta, try undercooking it a bit; it should freeze well if it isn't fully cooked.
There’s a chemical that can be found within potatoes. What that chemical does is turn the potato black in the freezer if it’s not cooked, or at least blanched before freezing.
Dairy products and any type of sauce made with them will not freeze well. These foods will just end up separating when thawed, turning them inedible (and very unsightly). Trust me, you'll just end up throwing it out.
Avoid freezing fresh melons, watermelons, apples, cucumbers, celery, and anything else with high water content. Once the water in these foods freezes, it causes them to lose their original texture and flavor. If you want to freeze fruits and veggies, cook them first and they'll do fairly well. Furthermore, frozen veggies should never be allowed to thaw first, they should be cooked directly from their frozen state for best results.
Cheese, like cream cheese, ricotta, brie, and camembert cheese, among others, end up becoming a mess when thawed. They separate and become completely inedible. If you really, really want to freeze your cheese, then find out the safe way to do it with the experts.
Fried food will lose its particular crisp and greasy savor if you freeze it. Although a high-temperature oven may help to restore the crunch in some cases, oil will seep into the food by the time it's crunchy again. Avoid the sogginess and just try to eat your fried and breaded food while it's fresh.
Among the things that can be frozen are meats, casseroles, crockpot meals, soups, stocks and more. Make sure to have all the materials needed to compile the food and get it ready for the freezer. Also, always make sure to label everything. You don’t want to have mystery meat for dinner. Whether you decide to put it in a bag or a container, make sure it’s done correctly or you’ll just end up wasting a lot of your time and money. If done correctly, it can save you both.
There are a number of ways to freeze fruits, although it can be a little tricky. The following are two methods I’ve found to always work well. When freezing berries, place them all out on a plate or cookie sheet and freeze that way. Once they are completely frozen you can transfer them into a container or a freezer bag.
My apples and peaches and such always turn brown fast. I don’t really know why, but if you are going to freeze them for say a smoothie or recipe, then you can add ascorbic acid or vitamin C tablets to some water and dip them in that. Lay them out and let them dry before plopping in the freezer.
One of the many questions that come up when people start to prepare to freeze food is: “Which vegetables do not need blanching before freezing?” “Which vegetables do?”. You may have asked yourself if you can freeze raw vegetables or if you have to blanch them before freezing. Well, everyone who’s been in or around a kitchen has heard of blanching at one time or another. Blanching is a way for veggies to keep their color and flavor.
The technique destroys all the bad organisms in the food and then packs it tightly together. What happens if you don’t blanch vegetables before freezing? Well, to be honest, you’ll be dissatisfied with the outcome, to say the least. Freezing vegetables without blanching can leave you with dark and sometimes black vegetables that aren’t edible. Remember to only blanch vegetables, though.
Always get the air completely out of the container or bag that you are using. Air is what lets freezer burn sink in.
Ice is not the only thing that those little cubed trays are used for nowadays. These are perfect for stock, olive oil mixed with fresh herbs, flavored butter, coffee for iced coffee, roasted garlic, lemon juice, citrus zest, cookie dough, wine, caramelized onions and more. There are a number of ways you can spread your wings and use those little trays for more.
You might think this is an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at how many people think that the temperature of the food before freezing it won’t make a difference in the end result. Make sure to always cool foods down before freezing. When you place hot foods in the freezer the overall temperature inside will decrease. This could cause some harm to the other foods inside and possibly even start the defrosting process.
The fuller your freezer, the cheaper your electric bill. Just as in the outside, the air inside the freezer needs to circulate. If your freezer is full then there is less area to circulate, therefore costing you less in electric.
It’s just three of us at home, so we usually just make a big pot of soup or something one night, and then freeze it into several portions for the rest of the week. If you live alone, don't thaw out a whole pot of soup for just one bowl. It may turn into a big waste because, if you can’t eat it all soon enough, it’ll end up in the trash. In this day and age, we should all try to avoid wasting food as much as possible.
So here is a bit of a myth. Freezing something doesn’t necessarily mean that it kills the bacteria. When you label your food make sure you always put the date on it as well. You don’t want that mystery meat, but you also don’t want to second guess if it’s still good, either. If you can’t remember then just be safe and toss it in the compost pile.
Remember that if there is a storm or you lose power for any reason you have a freezer full of food. The last thing you want to do is open the freezer. Keep as much of the cold air as you can inside and keep it shut.
If you’re planning on freezing a lot of food, do yourself a favor and buy a vacuum sealer. Not only does it completely remove the air inside and make food last longer in the freezer, but it also saves room in the freezer as well.
Our freezer is sectioned off by product. We have a shelf for veggies, a shelf for breads and dough, a shelf for chicken and poultry, a shelf that is split in half for beef on one side and seafood on the other, a shelf for flavorings (such as those little ice cube trays full of stuff) and frozen containers of stocks and soups. This makes it a lot easier for anyone to find what they’re looking for and prevents food from being forgotten, as well.
You never want to leave food sitting out on the counter, especially meat. This will, in turn, cause bacteria to grow on the food and end up a mess. Put it on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator on a plate or in a bowl. This way, it won’t contaminate other food inside the refrigerator if it starts to leak.
Always wash your food when you prepare to freeze it to remove any contamination. Also remove any stems, pits or extra parts not needed. This will save you room in the freezer and time when you thaw it.
Store your soups or broths in canning jars in the freezer as well. Yes, you can freeze canning jars, but there is one thing to remember when doing this: just like with everything else that freezes, things expand. Make sure to leave at least an inch and a half of room from the top of your soup to your lid for this reason. Give the soup room.
Always remember to keep your veggies and fruits at the lowest temperature setting in the freezer. They will last longer. If kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, veggies and fruits can last up to 12 months.
Everyone has their own techniques, but the following are my favorite ways to blanch vegetables before freezing. Bring a pot of water to boil. You want to have a gallon of water to every pound of veggies. Never blanch more than a pound at a time.
Place a bowl full of ice in the sink as well. Place your veggies into the boiling water and let them boil for only three to four minutes. Place them immediately into the ice bath. This will stop the cooking process. Let them dry completely and then package in an airtight container or bag. Here’s a video to see how it’s done:
To steam blanch your veggies you need to get a saucepan that will comfortably fit your steaming basket and a lid on top. Place about two inches of water in the bottom of the saucepan. When it is boiling place the veggies in the basket and cook for half the time you would normally steam them to eat. Dry them off completely and then package in an airtight container or bag.
To blanch in the microwave, place the veggies in a microwave safe bowl and put a few splashes of water on top of them. Cook the veggies for half the time you would normally cook them, stirring them in between to evenly cook them. Rinse under cold water thoroughly to stop the cooking process and then dry them off before packaging in an airtight container or bag. Here is a video to see how it’s done:
Now that you know the tricks of the trade you may be wondering what to do first. The first thing you want to do is figure out what it is you are going to be freezing. Are you freezing that leftover chicken casserole or just some veggies you got from the farmer’s market that morning?
Remember that the food you are freezing will probably have a different texture when it thaws. Think of the things you have learned including blanching vs non-blanching vegetables. Remember to remove as much air as possible from the bag or container if you aren’t using a vacuum sealer. You can place a straw into the top of the bag to suck out the air before sealing it shut.
To help you further, here is a “how to freeze vegetables” chart and cheat sheet for quick reference. Put it up on the front of the refrigerator or keep it with the vacuum sealer:
Remember to always leave room for the food to expand if you are freezing soups and such. Don’t blanch your vegetables too long. Also remember that, like rice, cooked vegetables should never be allowed to thaw; cook properly frozen veggies right out of the freezer and you'll be fine.
As long as you do it properly, freezing your food will keep it fresher for later use and save you both time and money, something we could always use a little more of. Please tell us what you think and share your thoughts and ideas below!