Have tons of fresh fruits and vegetables? No time for canning? I know, it is so much work! But there is a better way…
If you’re anything like me, the idea of canning is out of the question. I don’t have the time for that. But, you can preserve fruits and vegetables in your freezer. Here’s how –
First, there are some basic terms and procedures you need to know.
Blanching – Place the vegetables in a wire basket and plunge into a pot of already boiling water. Blanching time starts When the water returns to boiling. After your 2 or 3 minutes, whatever your recipe calls for, you immediately place the basket in very cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain completely.
Free flow pack – Line the fruits on a cookie sheet, not touching. Place in freezer until frozen solid. Once frozen, you can place them in freezer storage bags and return to freezer.
Dry Pack – Wash and dry completely before placing in freezer containers.
Dry Sugar Pack – After fruits is washed and dried completely, use ½ cup sugar per 1 pound of fruit. Shake or stir gently to completely evenly coat before placing in freezer containers.
Sugar Syrup – Place sugar in boiling water and simmer only until sugar is dissolved. Cool Completely before adding to fruit. If using ascorbic acid, do not add it until sugar syrup has cooled completely.
Light sugar syrup – 1 cup sugar to 2 ½ cups water
Medium sugar syrup – 1 ½ cups sugar to 2 cups water
Heavy sugar syrup – 2 cups sugar to 2 cups water
Remember to leave ½ inch headspace for containers, and 1 inch headspace for freezer bags.
Fruits that turn brown like apples, peaches, and pears should be prepared by placing the fruit in a mixture of 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid to 2 cups of water until you are finished with the batch.
Some vegetables are best packed standing in rigid containers rather than just thrown in.
Ok, that’s that’s the basics. Here are the instructions for many of your favorites –
Apples – Peel, core and slice. Place in a bowl of 2 cups cold water with 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid to prevent browning while you are working. Keeps up to 9 months.
Add ½ teaspoon of ascrobic acid for every quart of cooled sugar syrup.
Place apples in syrup. Pack in freezer bags or containers leaving some headspace in each container.
Apricots – Peel and remove pits. Pack in medium sugar syrup with ascorbic acid. Keeps up to 1 month.
Blueberries & Blackberries – Pick firm berries. Wash and dry. These can be packed in Free -flow, dry pack, or in syrup. Keeps up to 9 months.
Cherries – Pick fully ripe, firm fruits. Remove pits. They many be frozen as dry pack for making jams or pack in light sugar syrup. Keeps up to 9 months.
Cranberries – wash and dry completely. Either use the free flow method, or pack in dry sugar pack. Keeps up to 6 months.
Grapes – Actually, grapes are so readily available I don’t know why you would freeze them, but they can be frozen in dry pack form. Keeps up to 9 months.
Melon – Remove seeds. Cut fruit into chunks or balls. Place immediately into light sugar syrup, or sprinkle with lemon juice and pack in dry sugar. Keeps up to 9 months.
Peaches – Peel, remove pits, and slice. Immediately place into sugar syrup with ascorbic acid. If you do not want to use sugar syrup, you can remove the peaches from the ascorbic acid solution that you had them in while you were working and sprinkle with sugar before packing. Keeps up to 9 months.
Pears are a little more work – peel, core, and cut into quarters. Immediately sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning. Cook for about 5 minutes in light sugar syrup. Drain and cool. Pack in medium sugar syrup with ascorbic acid. 6 months.
Pineapple – remove peel and core. Cut into rings or cubes. Pack in light sugar syrup made using any juice from the fruit. If you had ½ cup juice, you would cut the water down by that much for example. 3 months.
Plums – Wash, halve and remove pits. Pack dry or in dry sugar pack for jams. For desserts, pack in heavy sugar syrup with ascorbic acid. Keeps up to 9 months.
Raspberries – Select firm berries. Let washed berries dry completely before continuing. Freeze in free-flow form, or in dry pack. Keeps up to 9 months.
Strawberries – Wash, let dry, and remove hulls. Freeze in free-flow form, or in dry sugar pack. Keeps up to 9 months.
Tomatoes are best frozen in puree form. You can wash, dry, and freeze in free flow form to use later in cooking. Keeps up to 6-9 months.
Imagine my surprise when I saw whole tomatoes in my neighbor’s freezer. They just pop them in the freezer whole. Once they’re frozen, place in freezer bags and return to freezer. They say they work just fine for soups and stews. And since they’re Italian, and put tomatoes in everything, I have to believe them. I’ll be trying it this year.
Artichokes – Trim off course outer leaves, stalks, tops, and stems. Add lemon juice to blanching water. Blanch 7 minutes. Freeze in dry pack. Keeps up to 12 months.
Asparagus – Wash, scrape stems. Cut into equal lengths. Divide batches into equal thickness. Blanch thin stalks 2 minutes, thick stalks 4 minutes. Pack in rigid containers. Keeps up to 12 months.
Avocados – Peel and remove pits. Puree adding 1 teaspoon lemon juice to each 2 cups of puree to prevent browning. Pack into freezer containers, leaving some headspace. Keeps up to 1 month.
Beans – broad – Pick young tender beans. Discard any blemished beans. Shell. Blanch for 3 minutes. Dry pack. Keeps up to 12 months.
Beans – string – Wash and trim ends. You can leave whole or slice into 1 inch slices. Blanch whole beans 4 minutes, sliced beans 3 minutes. Dry pack. Keeps up to 12 months.
Beets – Young small beets work best. Cook whole beets until tender. Peel off skins. Pack in rigid containers. Keeps up to 6 months.
Broccoli – Wash and trim stalks. Divide into batches if thin, medium, and thick stalks. Bland thin stalks 3 minutes, medium – 4 minutes, and thick – 5 minutes. Pack in rigid containers floret to stalk. Separate layers with plastic wrap or freezer paper. Keeps up to 12 months.
Brussels sprouts – Trim and remove any bad leaves. Cross cut the stalks. Wash in salted water. Blanch 3 minutes for small, 5 minutes for large. Can be packed in free form, or in rigid containers. Keeps up to 12 months.
Carrots – Remove tops and tips. Scrape and wash. Leave small carrots whole. Cut larger carrots. You can also slice. Blanch whole carrots 5 minutes. Sliced carrots, 3 minutes. Dry pack. Whole carrots can be packed free flow form. Keeps up to 8 months.
Cauliflower – Use firm white heads. Separate into equal sized florets. Wash in salted water. Blanch, adding lemon juice to the water to retain color, for 3 minutes. Pack in rigid containers, floret to stalk. Separate layers with plastic wrap or freezer paper. Keeps up to 8 months.
Corn on the Cob – Remove husks, trim ends, and wash. Blanch 5 to 8 minutes depending on size. Use free flow form – freeze separately before packing into freezer bags.
Corn – Remove husks. Scrape kernels off cob. Wash, blanch 5 minutes, pack in freezer bags.
Peppers – Wash, halve and remove seeds. You may freeze peppers whole if you will be stuffing them later, or sliced. Blanch for 2 minutes. Freeze individually before packing into freezer bags.
Spinach – Pick young tender leaves. Wash well, blanch for 2 minutes, drain, and press out as much water as possible. Best frozen as portions. For use in cooked recipes only. Keeps up to 12 months.
Squash – Wash and cut into 1 inch slices. Blanch 3 minutes, drain, and pack in rigid containers separating layers with plastic wrap or freezer paper. Keeps up to 12 months.
Turnips and Rutabagas – Remove thick peel and cut into 1 inch pieces. Blanch 3 minutes. Can be packed in rigid containers, or dry pack in freezer bags. Keeps up to 12 months.
Herbs – Wash, blanch for 1 minute, drain, dry, chop finely. Freeze in ice cube trays. After frozen, you may wrap individually, or place cubes in freezer bags. Color and flavor will be reduced, but it’s better than grocery store dried. Simply use more.
My Italian neighbors buck the system on this one too. They wash and dry the herbs and just put them in zip lock freezer bags. When they need some, they just snip off what they need.