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May 21, 2021

Preserve the Taste of Summer in your Freezer

by Mindy McCullough, MS, RDN, LDN

In North Carolina, summer is quickly approaching. Summer brings more than sun and mosquitos; it comes with a plethora of fresh seasonal produce. Soon the farm stands will be bursting with more berries, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn than we know what to do with. Sadly, summer and the goodies it brings cannot last forever. Or can it? While we cannot technically make summer produce last indefinitely, we can preserve the taste of summer in our freezers to enjoy long after the crisp air of fall arrives.

Out of all the appliances and kitchen gadgets, the freezer is often the unsung hero of the kitchen. Our freezers can do so much more than store ice cube trays and frozen pizzas. They can hold a treasure trove of nutritious staples and healthy meals that help make weeknight dinners a breeze. Freezers also have the potential to help us reduce food waste, which is a significant problem in America.

Check out the information below on how to properly prepare and freeze some of your favorite staple ingredients, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits.

How to Freeze Recipe Staples

Onions:

Dice the onions, separate them into 1 cup portions (~1 onion), and freeze in freezer safe containers or bags for up to 12 months. No need to defrost prior to using1.

Green onions:

Slice, place in freezer bag or empty jar or container and freeze for up to 12 months1.

Jalapenos:

Slice, then freeze flat on a baking sheet. Once solid, transfer to a freezer safe bag or container and store frozen for up to 12 months1.

Garlic:

Peel and freeze in freezer safe container or bag for up to 6 months. The garlic’s appearance may change, however the flavor does not1.

Ginger:

Wash the ginger well, then freeze in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 6 months. Ginger that is frozen can still be grated into recipes while frozen. No need to peel it OR you can peel prior to freezing1.

Cheese:

Can be frozen in block or shredded form.  Just make sure to wrap tightly to reduce air exposure prior to freezing in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 9 months1.

Meat:

Divide meat, poultry, or seafood into appropriate portions for your household and cooking needs.  Make sure to wrap tightly to prevent air exposure, which can lead to freezer burn1. Meat can be frozen for anywhere between 4 and 12 months depending on the cut.

**Remember to ALWAYS label and date everything you put into the freezer.

Many fresh fruits and vegetables can be frozen. In a few simple steps, you can have a freezer stocked with fruits and vegetables to enjoy all year long. Most vegetables, not fruits, must be blanched prior to freezing. Blanching is a method of quickly cooking the food in boiling water, which helps to kill bacteria and stop the action of food-degrading enzymes. Blanching also slows vitamin and mineral loss and helps to brighten the colors of the food. See the instructions and table below for information on blanching and freezing a variety of fruits and vegetables.

How to Blanch

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. Check out the tables below for blanching times. Once done transfer the vegetables to a large bowl of ice water to quickly stop the cooking process. Drain well; pat dry1.

Prior to freezing, place cut fruits and blanched vegetables on a large baking sheet. Spread them out so they are not touching and then freeze until solid. Once solid, place into a freezer safe container or bag to freeze. This prevents the fruits/vegetables from becoming a single solid block in the freezer.

 

Guidelines for Freezing Fruit1Prep
Blackberries, Blueberries, & Raspberries Wash and pat dry
CherriesRemove stems and pits, if desired
Nectarines, Peaches, & PlumsRemove pit; cut into sixths
RhubarbTrim woody ends; cut into 1” pieces
StrawberriesRemove the stem and hull.  Cut large ones in half.

 

Guidelines for Vegetables1PrepBlanching TimeReheat (Microwave)Reheat (Steaming)
AsparagusTrim woody ends2-3 minutes1-2 minutes2-3 minutes
Bell PeppersRemove seeds; cut into 1/2” pieces2-3 minutes1-2 minutes2-3 minutes
Broccoli & CauliflowerCut into 1- 1 ½” florets.3 minutes2-4 minutes2-4 minutes
Brussels SproutsRemove outer leaves, trim stems. Halve small sprouts or quarter large sprouts.2-3 minutes2-4 minutes4-6 minutes
CarrotsPeel and cut into ¼” slices or cubes2 minutes1-2 minutes2-3 minutes
CornHusk corn and remove kernels2 minutes1-2 minutes2-3 minutes
Dark leafy Greens: Chard, kale, and SpinachRemove any woody stems and/or ribs; chop if desired.2-3 minutes1-2 minutes2-3 minutes
Green BeansTrim stem ends3 minutes1-2 minutes2-3 minutes
Peas: Shelling Peas, Snap Peas & Snow PeasRemove any fibrous stems; remove shelling peas from the pod.1-2 minutes1-2 minutes2-3 minutes
TomatoesRemove the coreN/AN/AN/A
Zucchini & Summer SquashCut into ½” slices2-3 minutes1-2 minutes2-3 minutes

We hope this guide helps you preserve the fresh taste of summer and learn how to maximize your freezer’s potential.

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References:

1. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/15848/how-to-freeze-16-fruits-and-vegetables/

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