Summer is (finally, thankfully) here in New England and the fruits and vegetables of the season are starting to fill the market shelves. An abundance of ripe seasonal produce means grocers and farmers need to move it or lose it, and this means deep discounts for you when compared to prices the rest of the year. Fresh produce is wonderful, but if you have the chance to take advantage of sales and stock up, you can preserve it in the freezer for when produce season is months away. Summer fruit smoothies, pancakes and cobblers in February? Let’s do this!
Produce needs a little bit of prep before you can freeze it, like cutting it into small pieces, washing, pitting or destemming.
Fruit doesn’t’ need this step (definitely wash it), but most vegetables should be blanched – cooked in boiling water for a very short time – before they can be frozen. This locks in their nutrients and stops the enzymes that cause loss of color and flavor. An ice bath right afterwards stops the cooking process.
- Use one gallon (16 cups) of water per one pound of prepared vegetables
- Bring water to a boil, then lower the vegetables in
- Return the water to a boil, set cooking timer when boiling starts (see details for length of time below)
- Prepare an ice bath. In a large bowl, place 4-6 cups of ice and add cool water until just covered
- When timer is done, scoop the vegetables into the ice bath and swirl them around to chill (you can reuse the water for another batch)
- Drain the vegetables by scooping them out and placing them on a clean kitchen towel
- Pat them dry, if they are too wet they will freeze together
After they are dried off, put them in a single layer on a baking sheet. As long as there is a little bit of space between each piece, you’re good to go. You can freeze different foods on one pan, just make sure anything that gives off flavor, like peppers, isn’t touching other foods. You don’t want pepper-flavored strawberries! Put the pan in the freezer until the food is frozen solid. If you have parchment paper, lining the pan before adding the produce will help with removing it after it’s frozen but it isn’t necessary. Store the frozen food in resealable bags or containers.
Frozen vegetables can be reheated in the microwave. Put them into a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of water and cover. Fruit can be used frozen for baking and smoothies, or defrosted in the refrigerator. Some fruits can get a little mushy when they defrost, but they are still just as tasty.
|Fruit or Vegetable||Prep||Blanch Time||Reheat|
|Bell Peppers||Remove seeds and stems, cut into ½ inch pieces||2-3 minutes||1-2 minutes|
|Berries (blue, black, raspberries)||Wash, keep whole||N/A||N/A|
|Broccoli & Cauliflower||Cut into 1-1 ½ inch florets||3 minutes||2-4 minutes|
|Cherries||Wash, remove stems and pits, cut in half||N/A||N/A|
|Corn on the Cob||Remove husks; cut large ears in half||7 minutes||3-4 minutes|
|Greens (chard, kale, collards, spinach)||Remove woody stems; chop if desired||2-3 minutes||1-2 minutes|
|Green Beans||Trim stem ends||3 minutes||1-2 minutes|
|Peaches, Nectarines, Plums||Wash, remove pit, cut into 4 or 8 slices||N/A||N/A|
|Strawberries||Wash, remove stems, cut big ones in half||N/A||N/A|
|Zucchini & Summer Squash||Cut into ½ inch pieces||3 minutes||1-2 minutes|
Written by Adriene Worthington, RDN, LDN#prepschool. #produce