Freezing fruit and vegetables is an excellent way to make your produce last a lot longer than its normal shelf-life. It also protects your produce from spoiling and keeps it handy for when you wish to use it, avoiding having to spend a lot of money for out-of-season produce. Plus it allows you to preserve a fall harvest or a great sale at the grocery store and freezing fruits and veggies when their fresh helps retain all of their important nutrients. But there is a right way to freeze fruits and vegetables so you don’t end up disappointed and wasting money.
How to Prep Vegetables for Freezing
To prepare your vegetables for freezing, wash them thoroughly with a vegetable wash and allow them to air dry completely. Then cut them up into small pieces.
To freeze vegetables, it is a good idea to blanch them first. You can blanch the vegetables by immersing them in boiling water for up to five minutes. By blanching them, you are killing any bacteria that may be present. Sure, some bacteria will be killed by freezing them, but many can tolerate very cold temperatures and flare up when you defrost the vegetables. Blanching helps make sure that doesn’t happen. In addition to killing bacteria, blanching also helps to kill any little bugs that you might not be able to see.
Once you have finished blanching your vegetables, move them to a large bowl filled with water and ice. Keep them in the in the ice bath for the same amount of time as you blanched them. Add more ice as necessary to keep the water cold.
Vegetable Freezer Storage
Be sure to store your foods in freezer bags as the bags are designed to help keep your fruits and vegetables from developing freezer burn. Using standard sandwich bags or non-freezer bags will result in ice crystals forming inside, ruining your veggies. If you’re trying to eliminate plastic from your life, use canning jars (yes, they can go in the freezer!). They come in a wide variety of sizes from as small as 4-ounces to as large as 16-ounces, which make staking them in the freezer easier, and can be reused for a lifetime.
How to Prep Fruits for Freezing
Freezing fruit is a little different as it does not require blanching. Blanching fruit may actually destroy it before you get the chance to use it. To freeze your fruit, after you pick, use a fruit wash and then allow the fruit to drain for up to 30 minutes. For some fruits, placing them on layers of paper towel will help with the drying process.
After you have let the fruit dry, arrange it in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Lining the pan with a silicone baking mat,waxed paper, freezer paper, or parchment paper makes the fruit easier to remove later and can work as a pseudo funnel to help move the frozen fruit to its storage container. Place the uncovered or lightly covered pan of fruit in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour. Once frozen, bag in individual bags.
Make sure you label the fruit and vegetables with the date they were packed. Mostly so you know how long they’ve been there, but also, because once frozen, it’s really difficult to tell what’s in a package.
How long will your fruits and vegetables last? It depends a lot on your freezer. Standard freezer/refrigerator combinations don’t get or stay cold enough for long-term storage. Never store them in the door of the freezer, that’s the warmest location.
In a deep freezer (stand alone), most fruits and vegetables are good for up to 3 to 6 months. If you choose to vacuum seal your bags then freeze them, the fruits and vegetables may last up to one year. Be sure to rotate your freezer stock and put the oldest fruits and veggies at the front so they’re used first.
Create Pre-Made Fruit Smoothie Mixes for the Freezer
To create pre-made fruit smoothie bags, cut the fruit after washing into the size your blender requires. Freeze the cut fruit. Once frozen, place the measured amount needed for smoothies (I do 1 cup portions) in individual sandwich bags. Put the individual bags into one large gallon freezer bag. Use the frozen fruit right from the bag for instant smoothies! Just add liquid – milk, juice, frozen yogurt, etc.
Freezing fruits and vegetables is easy. Just be sure to take the proper steps of washing and prepping and you’ll be rewarded with a great freezer stockpile!