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Home Freezing and Food Preservation Ideas: Fruits and Veggies

The beginner's guide to preserving fresh produce.

Freezing Vegetables continued...

"After vegetables are frozen solid (2-3 hours), transfer vegetables to a freezer-safe plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until needed," she says.

The blanching step inactivates enzymes in fresh produce that can cause changes in color, nutrient content, and flavor when frozen. It also helps destroy microorganisms on the surface of the vegetables, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

To blanch vegetables for freezing, follow these steps:

  • Use about 1 gallon of water for each pound of vegetables.
  • Bring water to rolling boil.
  • Submerge a wire basket containing the vegetables into the boiling water.
  • Boil briefly (depending on the vegetable, about 1 to 2 minutes)
  • Lift the basket and cool vegetables immediately in ice water (to prevent further cooking) then drain the vegetables thoroughly.
  • Follow the steps for the dry pack freezing technique above.

Some microwaves offer directions in their manuals on blanching vegetables. Refer to your manual for times and directions because the power levels vary among different brands and types of microwave ovens.

And don't forget: when you're ready to use your frozen vegetables, cook them only until just tender. (Your cooking time will usually be about half as long as if the vegetables were fresh.) This way, the color will be brighter and the texture firmer.

Freezer Jams and Preserves

When it comes to uncooked freezer jams, it's all about the berries! According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries work best in uncooked freezer jam recipes. Uncooked jams can be safely stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or up to a year in the freezer. (Check out the recipe for Strawberry Orange Freezer Jam below.)

If you want to cut down on sugar in your jam or fruit preserves, you can buy packages of pectin made especially for "less sugar" or "no sugar" recipes (they work for freezer recipes as well as cooked ones). Sure-Jell and Ball Fruit Jell are the two brands available in most supermarkets. Inside each box is an instruction sheet. Don't lose this; it's your go-to guide for making your less-sugar jam.

You'll also need some freezer jars. Many companies that make glass jars for canning also make plastic jars for freezing. Ball, for example, sells a five-pack of 8-ounce plastic freezer jars. Ideally, you want containers that have a screw top so the top won't pop off when the mixture freezes and expands. Rubbermaid sells a "twist & seal" plastic container three-pack, with each container holding about 1 1/2 cups of jam or sauce.

Fruits other than berries may require a bit of cooking for turning them into jam. You can either buy the "less sugar" or "no sugar" pectin described above, or, if you've got time, you can boil the fruit pulp for a longer period of time and eventually it will thicken into a fruit butter or preserve. Apple butter is often made this way. (Check out the recipe for 1-Hour Apple Pie Apple Butter below.)

And how do you cook yourself a batch of fruit jam in the winter months? Simple -- use the fruit you froze last summer. Just partially thaw the fruit in the refrigerator, until a few ice crystals still remain. But, because fruit tends to collapse during thawing, use the measurement of the fruit before it was frozen (you could label your bag with this measurement before freezing.) Three cups of unfrozen fruit might measure as 2 cups after partial thawing.

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