For years and years I just wasn’t into freezing the fruits and vegetables that I grew; instead I preferred to consume the harvest fresh out of the garden, or to dehydrate, ferment, or can my surplus. Freezing just seemed too...cold. A bit antiseptic, maybe.
Then, while writing a book about preserving homegrown juices (Drink the Harvest: Making and Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, and Ciders) I knew I really had to give freezing the old college try.
Guess what? I found that freezing fruits, vegetables, and herbs is one of the best methods of all for locking in flavor, color, and nutritional content. There are some important rules to follow, though, when you decide to freeze some of your garden goodies:
- Pick crops at the height of ripeness. Freezing won’t make spoiled fruit good, nor ripen under-ripe produce.
- Invest in top quality, heavy-duty freezer containers.
- Blanch any green vegetables to stop the enzyme action that discolors produce and robs nutrition. Do this by cooking vegetables in boiling water a few minutes until bright green, and then plunging them into ice water to stop the process. Drain and freeze.
- Berries can be rinsed and flash frozen on cookie sheets, then packed into freezer bags. Soft fruits should have a sugar syrup or commercial ascorbic acid added before freezing to retain color. Herbs can be cleaned and frozen into ice cubes, or frozen in bunches in plastic containers.
- Frozen foods don’t last forever, but have a “shelf life” of six to 12 months. Be sure to mark dates on freezer containers and rotate the stock.
- Check freezer temperature. It should be below 0 degrees F.
With freezing, a bumper crop needn’t be a big headache. Just freeze the freshest batches every day. And enjoy in the months to come!