FREEZING FOODS AND WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GENERAL TECHNIQUES
I have discussed on gardenersgardening how to pressure cook and boiling water bath canning now freezing Foods is another method that for some folks maybe a lot easier to accomplish and with less required equipment then either of the other techniques. This is freezing both vegetables and fruits. The first thing I am going to do is focus on the general techniques of freezing foods and then apply this to some specific items being among the most popular items to freeze.
The garden is filled with fresh vegetables or you purchased an abundance of a vegetable you or your family particularly enjoys but it is really too too much for one meal. You should prepare these exactly as you would do if you were to eat them immediately for the evening meal.
Blanch the vegetables first thing
Before freezing foods you need a pretreatment called blanching. This results in a short period of heating your vegetables in boiling water or steam to deactivate enzymes that occur quite naturally in the vegetable. If allowed to remain these enzymes can create unwanted changes during the period of frozen storage. The changes result in very fast nutrient loss,the vegetables can be tough,loss of color and flavor.
There is little art to blanching,just place in water in a kettle or vegetable blancher and bring to a rolling boil. It will require a gallon of water to a pound of vegetables. The vegtables should be washed,peeled,dried,shredded or cut into cubes or sticks. Simply put,do the same thing you would need to do before immediate consumption.
The steam blanch is accomplished by the placement of one layer of vegetables in a wire basket and hang it above a few inches of fast boiling water in steamer and cover. It should be steamed for about one and half times the amount shown in boiling. I feel the nutrient loss is somewhat less with the steam blanching method.
The use of containers and or plastic bags is useful in freezing foods. It is best to store whatever is your freezing in individual pieces by placing them on a tray freeze and then put them in a plastic bag or container for storage. This results in much less frustration when you remove the product for consumption and you will have the ability to use as little or as much as you desire since it will not be all clumped and frozen together.
Tip Number 1: If freezing foods includes a hot dish for serving later don't add milk,yogurt,or sour cream as they are lousy at freezing. The best thing to do is attach a label to the bag or container as a reminder to add these items when ready for use.
- Tip Number 2: Freezing foods in water or broth make certain to leave extra space for increase in volume due to freezing. Leave at least two-three inches or your bags or containers will burst.
- Tip Number 3: A summer fun thing to do is to add an edible flower,maybe a raspberry,or a mint leaf to each square in your ice cube tray and fill tray with cooled boiled water because it will contain no air bubbles and it will make the ice translucent. In the winter I have tried orange peel,or zested lemon in lieu of the above. Your guests will marvel at the result.
- Tip Number 4: The thawing of frozen fruit can result in less flavor than in your fresh fruit. You can restore the flavor by adding a few tablespoons of brandy or fruit brandy. You may want to try honey as it can also be helpful.
FROZEN FOODS CAN ALSO INCLUDE FREEZING OF FRUITS
Freezing foods can also include your favorite fruits. Freezing is one of the best methods to preserve original color,flavor(not always),and nutritive worth of many fruits. The texture is another problem,not always,but it is sometimes disappointing. THe maximum storage time is twelve to eighteen months. The trick to frozen fruit is freezing at the correct maturity. The fruit needs to be firm and completely ripe. If you have unripe fruit keep at room temperature until it ripens.
Sometimes freezing foods requires working quickly as in the case with freezing fruit. Your quantities must be small and the fruit should be washed in cold water again in small amounts as fruits are very sensitive to touch and can be easily bruised. This should be packed in quantities that can be consumed at one meal and then quickly freeze it. It is essential to use containers that are made for freezing foods and also remember to use lemon juice or ascorbic acid as these act as an antioxident keeping your fruits from turning into an unappetizing color of brown use with light colored fruits.
The texture and flavor of many fruits are best if packed in sugar or a sugar syrup. If you are going to serve the fruit uncooked,then a syrup would be your best choice. The best dissolving method would be to use 1 cup of sugar to 3 cups of water. The fruit should be packed in sturdy containers covered with syrup. Remember to leave the headspace as previously mentioned for expansion during freezing. There is a little trick to keeping your fruit submerged as it has a tendency to float into the air space at the top of your container. A tiny piece of freezer paper crumpled between the fruit and the lid will resolve this problem.
If you desire what is known as a "dry"sugar pack then slice the fruit in a container and sprinkle the sugar over the fruit and carefully stir it until all the sugar dissolves. This should be frozen immediately as with all frozen foods. This method will actually allow freezing of the fruit in its own juices.
FREEZING FOODS SOME SPECIFIC VEGETABLES AND FRUITS
It is best to select a compact dark green broccoli head. A good inspection should be made to ensure that heads are in good condition as in no yellowing or dark brown spots. I would also check the stalks to make sure they are tender there is no percentage in freezing tough stalks. I would soak in a gallon of water with 6 teaspoons of added salt for at least one-half hour. This is especially important to loosen any insects seen or unseen. The Broccoli head may then be separated into sections no thicker than one and one-half inches and split larger stems lengthwise Give it the boiling water blanch for three minutes,chill quickly in cold ice water and drain. The broccoli must be packaged in an airtight container and frozen immediately.
Your ears should be husked and the end stalk removed as if preparing for table use. Examine your corn for any under ripe ears with watery milk and over ripe ears with tough kernels and thicker milk. The ears should be given a good washing before cutting the corn from the cob and blanched at least four minutes. It would be good to blanch only a few ears at once. The cob then should be chill quickly in cold ice water and allowed to drain. Using a good sharp vegetable knife,cut the kernels away from the cob but only enough corn to fill one container at a time. The whole kernel corn should be cut from the cob at two thirds the kernel depth and the cream style corn cut about one-half the kernel depth on the cob.
Your idea is to freeze the entire cob well that can also be done. You select your best looking ears after husking and removal of silk. I would trim each end of the cob and place in groups as in small,medium and large. It is still necessary to wash the ears completely before doing any other procedure. Now blanch the small ears for 7 minutes,the medium ears for 9 minutes and the large ears for 11 minutes all in boiling water. Now it is time to chill the ears quickly in cold ice water. The ears should be drained well and then put them individually in freezer wrap.
Now take two or three of your wrapped ears and package them together in heavy duty freezer foil. Any formation of steam indicates that you did not chill throughly. It requires at least 2-3 times longer to chill than it does to heat. Frozen ears must be used within 3 months or taste will become bland. It would be a good idea to date this package with a label indicating when it was placed in your freezer. Maybe some of you want to,in freezing foods like corn,precook your corn. You simply cut the corn from the cob without the blanching step add some water to a sauce pan add your corn and maybe some seasoning if desired and begin cooking. The corn should be cooked over a low heat while constantly stirring for approximately ten minutes or until it becomes thick. Again prepare only enough for a quart at a time. It is too difficult to work with more than this at one time. Place your sauce pan in ice cold water and stir quite often to chill. Place in airtight containers remembering to leave a space at the top and freeze immediately.
The freezing of any vegetable will not improve the quality of the vegetable so it is very important to begin with fresh green peas. The use of old peas having sat around in their shells will only result in the peas becoming tougher during freezing. In a large pot with a good tight lid add five quarts of water and bring to a rolling boil and while this is taking place,wash,trim and shell your peas.
The same holds true for this vegetable as others meaning blanch no more than one pound of peas at a time. Drop your peas in the boiling water and quickly cover the pot with your tight fitting lid. Now time your boiling peas as soon as the lid is placed on the pot and blanch your shelled peas for two minutes. At the same time ready a sink with an ice water bath or a container using five to six quarts of water. Now extract your peas from the pot using a slotted spoon being careful not to spill any of this still hot boiling water on yourself.
Submerge the peas in the cold ice water for at least five minutes or until completely cooled off. If you have no ice available it will be necessary to use a number of changes of cold faucet water to accomplish the cool down of the vegetables. My suggestion if no ice water is available not to place the peas in the sink because it will be necessary to drain each time between adding more cold water. The other means would be to use a wire basket with the peas submerged and when you drain the water there will be no need to remove the peas. If all else fails use a container to perform this operation.
Now all that is left to do is drain the water from the peas and place them in a zip lock freezer bag. In doing so,attempt to squeeze out as much air as posssible by creasing the top part of the bag and gently push the air out and seal. The peas can be frozen for one year at 32 degrees or less another method of freezing foods. This page will provide more detail on additonal vegetables blanched and frozen
The canning of tomatoes results in your best flavor and texture. The frozen tomato should be used primarily for cooking. Tomato sauces freeze wonderfully and are good for those of you who are not in to or have the desire to attempt home canning.Home canning or pressure canning is not for everyone but by clicking here you can learn all about it
A whole tomato has the tendency to crack and collaspe when thawed. Freezing foods like tomatoes must be sliced into one-half inch size and position a good piece of freezer paper between two slices and place in an airtight container and fast freeze. The other method would be to place the slices on a pan or maybe a tray and freeze for two hours and then place them in an airtight container. Remember to have a period of time to do this because those slices on the tray or pan must be removed in two hours and placed in a container or they will dry out. Frozen sliced tomato is a vegetable that should be eaten in a half frozen state. You can use them in salads on a nice hot summer day.
THe juicing of tomatoes is an altogether different story. I would pick full ripe tomatoes with a high colored skin for juicing. As in any other freezing foods procedure wash your tomatoes completely and then scald for one minute for easy removal of the outer skin. Now remove the skin,the cores and any green parts and put them in a pot and heat quickly to boiling. They should simmer for five to ten minutes or until parts seperate easily. The next step is pouring them through a stainer,sieve or food mill. If you encounter difficulty doing this then you have not simmered your tomatoes long enough. After completion of this task,you add one-half teaspoon of salt to each quart of tomatoes. Let your juice cool and pour into an air tight container leaving the headspace and label your container.
FREEZING FOODS AND MAKING A PUREED PRODUCT
Here a blender is required and the use of three or four large tomatoes in the raw state that have been peeled and cored. Put them in the blender,add one green pepper without the seeds,one-half a medium onion,one tablespoon of sugar or alternatively one-half teaspoon of salt and blend. You also may add celery or carrots if desired. The blending of the mixture into tiny pieces and the quick freezing will create a definite separation of water from pulp upon freezing. I would heat to simmering to obtain a better mixing of the pulp with the water and the flavoring. Then let it cool and place in your airtight container again allowing space for expansion. A method you may want to consider is freezing this liquid in ice cube trays and placing them in solid containers with freezer paper betweeen the layers. This way you only need to thaw as many cubes as required for your cooking. This page will provide more detail on additonal vegetables and fruits that maybe blanched and frozen
I have selected peaches as one of the most canned or frozen fruits but there are many others that can be treated the same way but because of space restraints on this page peaches are the name of the game. .This page will provide more detail on additonal fruits for freezing
The selection of peaches of good quality is the most important factor ripe but firm. Now the freezing of peaches will hold the quality in its present state but will not improve the quality by any measure. The peaches should be washed quicky in cold water.
The addition of an antioxdant to any light colored fruit should take place at this time. You have a choice of a number of anti-browning methods. After you have sliced the peaches you can sprinkle the peaches with an ascorbic acid available in your canning and freezing department at your local grocery store. You can dip them into a solution of vitamin C by the crushing of three 500 mg tablets of vitamin C per quart of water. Last but not least by dipping them into a solution of bottled lemon juice that is three tablespoons to a quart of water.IMPORTANT:FRUIT DIPPED IN AN ACID MIXTURE NEED TO BE DRAINED PRIOR TO PLACEMENT IN A FREEZER CONTAINER.
The same holds true as with apples that is peaches will have better color,texture and flavor if frozen with sugar. Peaches are best for dessert if immersed in a sugar syrup while those packed in a dry sugar mixture are best for cooking. In this case you sprinkle the sugar on to the fruit to your own taste and mix carefully trying not to bruise the peaches. In either case one and one-half pound of peaches should yield a pint of preserved peaches. If using the peaches for cooking as in dry sugar state it maybe wise to record how much sugar was used in freezing before cooking as you maybe in for an ultimate surprise.
Freezing foods can be fun and is certainly economical without a lot fuss and equipment. Just think you can be partaking of your own fruits and vegetables if you live in a winter climate.
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