Stock Your Freezer with Summer
When nature's bounty overflows at the farmers markets or your local grocery, it's hard to resist buying more fresh green beans or tomatoes than you know your family wants to eat in a week's time. But freezing fruits and vegetables is an easy way to not only take advantage of great produce at great prices but also keep a little summer in your meals all year long.
Freezing is much easier than canning, says Chrissy Arsenault, a registered dietitian at Franciscan Health. "First, with freezing, you don't need a lot of extra equipment like you do with canning. And with canning, you usually have to prepare foods with additional salt before placing in jars, and extra salt in the diet can affect blood pressure. Freezing also can be a safer method to preserve food. There is less worry less about proper temperatures and sterilization that you need for canning."
To get started, all you need are some plastic freezer containers, a large colander and a large stock pot. All produce should be washed and drained before packaging. Most vegetables will need to be blanched to keep their flavor, color and texture, while berries require little more than a rinse. If you're new to food preservation or have limited time and space for storing frozen food, here are some simple produce choices to try. Ask the family to join in!
- Blueberries: After washing berries, place a single layer of berries on a tray that fits in your freezer. When they're firm (about an hour), place them in a plastic freezer container, label the container and return to your freezer. Repeat. Freezing the berries separately will make it easier for you to remove just the amount you need for baking or smoothies later.
- Sweet corn: Submerge husked, clean ears in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and immediately plunge into ice water for at least 5 minutes. When ears are cool enough to handle, cut off kernels with a sharp knife onto a cutting board; remove the leftover kernel sections and "milk" with the back of the knife. Place corn in containers.
- Green beans: Choose blemish-free beans for preserving and wash well. Collect beans in small bunches on your cutting board and cut off the stem ends. Then cut beans into bite-sized pieces. Blanch in batches for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the size of beans. Remove from the hot water and immediately place in ice water for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain beans well and place in containers.
- Tomatoes: Wash tomatoes and cut a small "X" in the skin on the bottom. Plunge them into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds and remove carefully. Remove the skin and scrape out the seeds. Then chop and cook with onions or garlic, basil, salt and red pepper flakes for a simple spaghetti or lasagna sauce, free of added preservatives and corn syrup! Place in containers and freeze.
For more information, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website at http://nchfp.uga.edu.
Good Health Today magazine