During the fall season, harvesting crops and preserving them is top of mind for many. There are many methods for preserving, but one of the easiest is freezing. While freezing is not best for ever type of produce, freezing is an excellent way to preserve vegetables, is easy, and only requires a freezer that maintains a temperature of 0 degrees F or lower.
Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water for a short time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.
Blanching cleans the surface from dirt and organisms, brightens the color and prevents loss of vitamins. It softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack. Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size. Under blanching stimulates the activity of enzymes and is worse than no blanching. Over blanching causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals.
For home freezing, the most satisfactory way to heat all vegetables is in boiling water. Use a blancher which has a blanching basket and cover, or fit a wire basket or large strainer into a large pot with a lid. Use one gallon water per pound of prepared vegetables. Put the vegetable in a blanching basket and lower into vigorously boiling water. Place a lid on the blancher. The water should return to boiling within 1 minute, or you are using too much vegetable for the amount of boiling water. Start counting blanching time as soon as the water returns to a boil. Keep heat high for the time given in the directions for the vegetable you are freezing.
As soon as blanching is complete, vegetables should be cooled quickly and thoroughly to stop the cooking process. To cool, plunge the basket of vegetables immediately into a large quantity of ice cold water. Cooling vegetables should take the same amount of time as blanching. Drain vegetables thoroughly after cooling. Extra moisture can cause a loss of quality when vegetables are frozen.
Containers for freezing
Foods for your freezer must have proper packaging materials to protect their flavor, color, moisture content and nutritive value from the dry climate of the freezer. The selection of containers depends on the type of food to be frozen, personal preference and types that are readily available. Do not freeze fruits and vegetables in containers with a capacity over one-half gallon. Foods in larger containers freeze too slowly to result in a satisfactory product. There are two types of packaging materials for home use: rigid containers and flexible bags or wrappings. Rigid containers made of plastic or glass are suitable for all packs and are especially good for liquid packs. Straight sides on rigid containers make the frozen food much easier to get out. Rigid containers are often reusable and make the stacking of foods in the freezer easier.
If using glass jars, choose wide mouth dual purpose jars made for freezing and canning. These jars have been tempered to withstand extremes in temperatures. Leave head space to allow for expansion of foods during freezing. Covers for rigid containers should fit tightly. If they do not, reinforce the seal with freezer tape. Freezer tape is especially designed to stick at freezing temperatures.
Flexible freezer bags and moisture-vapor resistant wrapping materials such as plastic freezer wrap, freezer paper, and heavy-weight aluminum foil are suitable for dry packed products with little or no liquid. Bags and wraps work well for foods with irregular shapes. Bags can also be used for liquid packs. Press to remove as much air as possible before closing.
This information and more can be found from the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln cooperating with the Counties and the United States Department of Agriculture website, http://food.unl.edu.
University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension educational programs abide with the non-discrimination policies of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture.