Sunday, July 14, 2013

Freezing Fresh Produce

Confession: I'm an amateur when it comes to the freezer.

Here is what went in the freezer when I was a kid: ice cubes (made by a machine, so even making ice is a skill that I did not hone until my mid-twenties), Lender's frozen bagels, ice cream on a lucky day, and beer mugs - dad liked them "frosty-freezy."

My mom preferred to buy fresh ingredients and cook them and then start over the next day. For the most part, this is how I operate as well. Because preserving food was not really part of my training as a child, I sometimes make freezer jam that is so runny it makes a much better ice cream topping (even after my husband offered to go get me some pectin, I was like, "nah... I think this will work"). I sometimes find baggies of yellow-orange material in the back of my freezer and cross my fingers in hopes that it is pumpkin or something comparable (if this happens to you, just throw it out). And let's not even discuss canning. There is a lot of hot water and popping, and even though you tell me it's easy, I just don't believe you.

See, I'm no expert. However, when you are trying to fill a small chest freezer and make your life easier, you sometimes have to depart from your modus operandi.

Below is a list that we got from Friends Farm when we were living in Altoona, Pa. They were our first CSA and will forever hold a special place in our hearts (read: no other CSA will ever come even a little bit close to how awesome they were). Somehow, after 7 years, I still have this list. Quite a triumph, considering I can't find the coupons I set aside last week. This list helps me when I've bought too much at the Farmer's Market, or when my garden actually produces a harvest of something, or when I just get an urge to freeze some stuff. I hope you find it helpful too!

So far this summer I've frozen three pints of blueberries and about 6 quarts of strawberries using the below method. I plan on making sure some fresh herbs and plenty of tomatoes go in there too.

Make applesauce or pie filling. Freeze in containers or bags
Wash, spin in salad spinner to dry or dry on several layers of paper towel, freeze in a single layer on a tray, then bag. This method allows for you to pour out a little at a time because the berries won't freeze together in one huge clump.
Chop and blanch 3 minutes, drain, cool, freeze
Cut in wedges, blanch 3 minutes, cool, drain, freeze
Fresh Herbs
Chop and freeze
Green Beans/Roma Beans
Trim ends, blanch for 3-4 minutes, cool, drain and freeze
Place in boiling water until skins loosen (30-60 seconds), remove skin, slice or half, freeze
Pumpkin/winter squash
Cut into chunks, remove seeds, bake until soft, remove from skin, puree in blender or food processor, freeze for soups and baked goods
Chop white and green parts, freeze
Shelling Peas
Shell peas, rinse, blanch for 60-90 seconds, cool, drain and freeze
Spinach or chard
Remove center rib, blanch for 1-2 min, cool, drain and freeze
Sugar snap peas
Remove end and string if desired, blanch for 60-90 seconds, drain, cool, freeze
Summer squash
Grate and freeze in 1 cup amounts for quick breads and muffins
Sweet corn
Husk, cook on the cob, cool, cut off and freeze
Remove seeds, chop, freeze
Remove core, plunge in boiling water for 1 minute, skins should slip off easily afterwards, cool and chop, freeze for use in soups and stews

***Also, I know you are all anxious to know that we ate the last of our 4 pounds of tortilla chips last night. I tell you what, freezing chips works! We froze some in bags and some in plastic containers with equally good results. We just put them on a baking sheet for a few minutes, and they were good to go. You can also warm them in the oven for a few minutes if warmish chips are your thing.

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