NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Ready Set Freeze

Ready. Set, Freeze

 

                The gardens and the wonderful veggies in them are coming on strong with all of this summer’s moisture. Canning and freezing are in full swing in many kitchens are we attempt to preserve as much of that summer goodness as possible. Freezing is a fast and fairly easy way to enjoy your veggies later.  It important though to follow each step in the freezing process, as skipping any one of those few steps will result in an unsafe or unsavory product.

                Start with the containers for freezing.  Choose containers that are made for freezer storage, and label with contents and date. Containers should be moisture-vapor resistant, durable and leak-proof. These preserve the quality of the vegetables by keeping moisture in and air out. Loss of moisture causes brownish-white spot on food known as freezer burn.

                Freezer burn actually does not spoil the food but can cause toughness and often results in off-flavors. Plastic freezer bags and rigid freezer containers are convenient for freezing vegetables. Plastic sandwich bags, bread wrappers and cartons from dairy products such as cottage cheese, sour cream or milk are not suitable for long-term freezer storage.

                Yes, blanching is needed. Blanching is scalding the vegetables in water or steam for a short period of time. It is a very important step in freezing vegetables because it slows or stops the action of enzymes. These enzymes are essential for growth and maturation of the plant. If the enzyme action is not stopped before freezing, the vegetables may discolor, toughen or develop off-colors, so they may be unappetizing in a few weeks. Proper blanching also brightens color and helps prevent loss of nutrients.

Blanching times vary with the size and kind of vegetable. The times recommended are just long enough to stop or destroy the enzymes. Be sure to follow the recommended blanching times. In under blanched vegetables, enzyme action continues. Over blanching vegetables can lead to changes in color, flavor and nutrients. Over blanched vegetables have a “leftover look” when served.  Use at least 1 gallon of water for each pound of vegetables.

                After the veggies are heated during blanching, they should be cooled quickly and thoroughly to stop the cooking. After heating, plunge the basket of vegetables immediately into a large quantity of cold water. Change water frequently or use cold running water or iced water. When vegetables are cool, remove from water and drain thoroughly.

                Now you are ready to pack the veggies into containers. Food expands when it freezes and the top may pop off containers if too full. When using rigid containers, leave a half-inch of head space. When using freezer bags, press air out of the unfilled part of the bag, seal and freeze. Vegetables can also be packed in a loose pack.  This enables you to pour out as much as you want from a large package. Spread the drained vegetables in a single layer on a tray and freeze. As soon as they are frozen, pour into rigid freezer containers or freezer bags, seal and return to freezer.  Add no more veggie packages to your freezer than will freeze within 24 hours. After the packages are frozen solid they may be stored closer together.

                For best quality, use frozen vegetables within 12 months.

ASPARAGUS -   Wash thoroughly; sort by size. Cut into 2-inch lengths or leave in spears. Blanch, cool and drain. Small stalks – 2 minutes

Package, seal and freeze. Medium stalks – 3 minutes   Large stalks – 4 minutes

BEETS  -   Wash and sort according to size. Trim tops, leaving ½-inch of stem. Cook in boiling water until tender. Cool, peel and cut into slices or cubes. Package, seal and freeze. Small beets – 25 to 30 mins

Medium beets – 45 to 50 mins

BROCCOLI - Wash and trim. If insects are present, soak ½ hour in a solution of 4 teaspoons salt to 1 gallon of in water – 3 minutes cold water. Split lengthwise into pieces no more than 1½ inches across. Blanch, cool and drain. In steam – 5 minutes. Package, seal and freeze.

CARROTS - Select tender, mild-flavored carrots. Remove tops. Wash and peel. Leave small carrots whole. Small, whole – 5 minutes. Cut others into ¼-inch cubes, thin slices or lengthwise strips. Blanch – 2 minutes, cool and drain.

CORN - Select ears with plump kernels and thin, sweet milk. Husk ears, remove silk and wash. Sort ears according to size: small ears – 1¼ inches or less in diameter; 7 minutes medium ears - 1¼-1½ inches in diameter; 9 minutes. Large ears – 11 minutes.  Blanch, cool and drain. Package, seal and freeze.

PUMPKIN - Select mature squash or pumpkins. Wash, remove seeds and cut into small pieces. Cook until tender. Measure into amounts needed for desired recipe, package and freeze.

SUMMER SQUASH (ZUCCHINI) - Select young, tender squash. Wash and cut into ½-inch slices. Blanch, 3 minutes cool and drain. Package, seal and freeze.

ZUCCHINI – grated.  Steam in small quantities until translucent 1-2 minutes.  Pack in amounts used in recipes, allowing head space. Put containers in cold water to cool. Seal and freeze. Drain before using in baking.

TOMATOES, juice  - Wash, sort and trim tomatoes. Cut in quarters or eighths. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Press through a sieve. Cool. Pour into freezer containers. Leave 1½-inch head space. Seal and freeze.

Stewed Wash and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skin, core and peel. Cut into quarters.

Cover and cook until tender (10 to 20 minutes). Place pan containing tomatoes in cold water to cool.

Pack into freezer containers. Leave 1-inch head space. Seal and freeze.

Raw -Peel and core tomato as above. Cut into quarters or smaller. Put into freezer containers. Press down with wooden spoon to release juice to cover. Leave 1-inch head space. Seal and freeze. Use in cooking because tomatoes will not be solid.

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