Many summer gardens are running a little late this year as the weather was colder and damp in the spring during planting. The summer has remained a little cooler than usual, but the bounty is ready for many of us to enjoy. What happens when you have more than you planned for? Or when you find a great bargain at the market? Even if you don’t have canning equipment, freezing is a wonderful option to save fruits and vegetables for use later in the fall and winter. How do you do it for best results? The answer is really simple, for vegetables:
*Choose young, tender vegetables. Over-mature vegetables may be hard, tough or flavorless when frozen.
*Wash, peel and cut into pieces.
*Blanch vegetables to inactivate the enzymes—this will help them maintain their color and nutrients and destroy any microorganisms on the surface. Each vegetable is a little different, follow the chart in the Ohioline Fact Sheet Freezing Vegetables (HYG-5333-09) found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5333.pdf
*Use a gallon of water for a pound of vegetables, water should return to a boil within a minute or you are putting too many vegetables in at one time. Start your blanching time when water returns to a boil.
*Remove vegetables from the water and dip into ice water to stop the heating, drain thoroughly.
*Pack items into freezer bags or freezer containers and squeeze as much air out as possible. Leave ½ to 1 inch headspace at the top for expansion. If you want to freeze items like blueberries to use a few at a time, freeze them on a cookie sheet, place in freezer package, label and date, and then put back into the freezer.
*Freezing fruits is very similar, but instead of blanching, most of them need to be treated with ascorbic acid or something similar to prevent discoloration during the freezing time.
*Decide if you want to freeze them sweetened or unsweetened (they lose their quality faster than sweetened fruits). Artificial sweeteners do not provide the benefits of sugar by preserving quality; they only give them the sweet flavor. Follow the guidelines found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5349.pdf to make a syrup pack to meet your family’s needs.
*Frozen fruits and vegetables should be used within the 12 months for best quality. Citrus fruits and juices should be used within 6 months. Keep a list on top of the freezer with the items you have and make notes when you remove items to keep a running inventory.
Freezing is the simplest method of food preservation. Why not give it a try today with your family’s favorite summer food?
Source: Ohioline: Freezing Basics, HYG 5341-09; Freezing Vegetables- HYG 5333-09 and Freezing Fruits- HYG-5349-09
For additional resources visit: http://fcs.osu.edu/food-safety/home-food-preservation
Author: Melinda Hill, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Wayne County
Reviewed by: Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension