One of the quickest things to do when you have more fresh produce than you know what to do with is to freeze it. Simple tips for freezing fresh produce.
A surprisingly large variety of fruits and veggies can be frozen “as is” or you can wash and chop them into a form that’s easy to pull out and cook with down the road.
There are several benefits to freezing fruits and vegetables
- Freezing stops the enzyme process right in its tracks.
- It is much easier to use these items when you have time. You have already done the prep work.
- Cutting fruits and vegetables also lets you pack them tighter in storage containers, giving you more space in the freezer.
- Frozen fruit and vegetables taste just like fresh. This might be important if you have picky eaters.
Let’s run through a couple of fruits that you might want to freeze. Be sure to wash and dry each piece before cutting.
Berries are a quick fruit to freeze and they are easiest to use if frozen whole. Keep them in the freezer, then pour them out as needed to top oatmeal, make smoothies, or bake a pie. If you are going to use them for jam the best process is to clean, mash and freeze it in the right proportions for a batch.
Other fruits like peaches can be frozen with their skins on, or blanched to remove the skin. Bananas freeze well as slices or even whole with the skin on. Pineapple should be cut and cored before freezing.
Apples and pears don’t freeze well unless you turn them into pie filling or sauce first.
Grapes can be frozen, but don’t thaw well. If you have too many grapes, toss them in the freezer and eat them frozen. They are terrific on a hot day.
Melons can be seeded and separated from the rind, then cut into bitesize chunks.
I like to freeze my fruit in a plastic tub with dehydrator sheets as a separator. I find that it takes up much less space in the freezer than using cookie sheets and is easier to handle. Once the fruit is thoroughly frozen, I take it out and package into individual freezer bags.
There are only a few vegetables that can be rinsed, chopped and frozen straight away. Just rinse the produce as it comes out of the garden or from the farmers market, chop it and put it in freezer bags. Those are:
- Leafy greens
- Summer Squash
As a general rule, vegetables need to be blanched before they can be frozen. You can skip the blanching process if you are only storing them for a week or two, any longer than that and the texture and quality of the items will be in question. It is better to continue with the blanching process and be sure.
Green beans, peas, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and the likes also freeze very well but need to be blanched. If you see it in the frozen food section at the grocery store, chances are it will freeze well. You can even freeze potatoes if you peel and grate them first.
Don’t forget to label everything really well.
Tomatoes can be a bit tricky. If you don’t have the time to do anything with them right away, chop and freeze them and then use them in green smoothies, to make salsa or to make pasta sauce and tomato soup down the road. If you have a bit of extra time on your hands, I find you get much better results cooking the sauce or soup now and then freezing it.
This also makes it much easier to put together a meal down the road. It is so nice to be able to grab a container of frozen tomato soup, slowly heat it up on the stove while you make a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches and dinner is done. And there’s nothing more convenient than a batch of tomato sauce to pull together a quick dinner.
Fresh herbs can also be frozen, but it isn’t as simple as washing and popping them in the freezer. The easiest way to do it is to wash and chop your herbs and scoop them into ice cube trays. Top them with water, chicken broth, or olive oil and freeze until solid.
When they are frozen, you can pop them out of the ice cube tray and put them in a freezer bag for longer storage. Throughout the year whenever you want to brighten the flavor of a dish, just add one of the frozen herb cubes to the pot.
Last but not least, try making your favorite freezer-friendly meals with the leftover produce. Soups and stews work really well as do pot pies and casseroles.
Cook up a big batch of chili or vegetable soup, so you can serve some for dinner and freeze the rest for a rainy day.
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