By: Carolyn Malcoun
I’m a sucker for a good deal. So whenever I see not-so-perfect organic tomatoes for $2/pound or piles of corn at a rock-bottom price, I stock up. Instead of subsisting on a diet of the vegetable-deal-of-the-day until they’re all gone, I preserve them. But the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot stove processing canning jars for hours, so I turn to the freezer. Full disclaimer: You will have to stand over the stove for a couple of minutes to blanch (quickly-cooking in boiling water) vegetables before freezing. This step kills bacteria and stops the action of food-degrading enzymes, slows vitamin and mineral loss and brightens color. The subsequent freeze locks the vegetables in a relatively nutrient-rich state.
But before I put my bounty into the freezer, I freeze the cut-up fruits and vegetables on a large baking sheet. That way, the individual pieces don’t congeal into a single, solid block. I can take whatever I need out of the bag and put the rest back in the freezer. I no longer have to commit to using the entire container. I scoop out a few cups of berries, peaches or other fruit to make a pie, crisp or easy no-fuss frozen yogurt.
I stir my frozen vegetables into a soup, stew or make a quick vegetable side dish. And nothing beats homemade tomato sauce with summer-ripe tomatoes: I can make it—even at the height of winter—with tomatoes I froze this summer. So don’t pass up a great deal—just freeze it.
Freezing Fruits & Vegetables
For prep and timing, see guidelines in the slideshow above.
1. Prepare produce according to the guidelines in the slideshow above.
2. Most vegetables should be blanched (briefly cooked in boiling water) before freezing. Fruit does not need to be blanched. Check the "Blanching Time" in the guidelines above to see which vegetables benefit from blanching.
To blanch: Bring 1 gallon of water per pound of prepped vegetables (about 2 cups) to a boil in a large pot. Add the vegetables, cover, return to a boil and cook according to the guidelines above. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl of ice water. Drain well; pat dry.
3. Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet and freeze until solid.
4. Pack the frozen vegetables or fruit in quart- or gallon-size freezer bags or pack them in bags that are made to use with a vacuum sealer and seal them airtight before storing in the freezer.
To reheat frozen vegetables for a quick side dish:
Microwave: Place in a microwave-safe dish, add 2 tablespoons water and cover. See guidelines below for reheating times.
Steam: Place in a steamer basket in a large saucepan over 1 inch of boiling water. See guidelines below for reheating times.
Seal It Up—Airtight!
When frozen foods come in contact with air, off flavors can develop. Vacuum sealers, which remove all the air from a package, help keep flavors fresh. Hand-held models, such as the FoodSaver Freshsaver ($29.99, foodsaver.com) and the Reynolds Handi-Vac ($12.79, amazon.com and housewares stores), are economical, light and easy to store. They come with reusable plastic bags with zip-close tops and a vent where the sealer attaches to suck the air from the bag. Larger models, such as the FoodSaver V3840 Vacuum Sealer ($173.40, foodsaver.com), are bulkier to store, but they’re more durable so they’re great if you plan to freeze food regularly. Their heavy-duty plastic bags can be cut and sealed to create any size bag.
Check out the slideshow above to learn how to freeze 16 fruits and vegetables.