Monday, September 10, 2012

Freezing Summer

Photo by Renato Ghio
Summer is once again coming to a close. I do love the change of seasons in the Northeast, but I will miss that quintessential taste of summer. Thankfully, I have saved, and continue to save, as much of it as possible. My FoodSaver has come in handy, allowing me to stock my freezer full of vacuum-sealed goodness.

So far one section of my freezer is filled with homemade "prepared" items including: marinara sauce, tomatillo sauce for enchilada suisas, ratatouille, and various permutations of veggie soup. Another section of my freezer is dedicated to individual packets including: corn, blueberries, green beans, whole cherry tomatoes, shredded zucchini, and dark, leafy greens.

If, like me, you have a canning-phobia but still want to save summer's bounty, freezing is an easy alternative. To get you started here are a few of my quick tips.

Dark Leafy Greens (Swiss Chard, Kale)
  • Trim, wash thoroughly and drain. Blanch (in small portions) for 2 minutes. Lay flat on towels to cool, squeeze out excess moisture. Vacuum-seal or store in rigid containers leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
Corn
  • Strip off husks and silks, rinse and dry throughly. Hold the cob upright in a large bowl and careful cut the kernels off the cob. (The bowl catches the falling kernels.) Package the kernels. Vacuum-seal in 2 cup portions or store in rigid container with 1/4 inch headspace.
  • You could also blanch the kernels while on the cob for 4-6 minutes and them remove the kernels and store.
Zucchini
  • Trim the ends, wash and shred. Vacuum-seal in 2 cup portions or store in rigid container with 1/4 inch headspace.
  • You can also slice, then blanch the slices for about 1 minute. Let them cool, drain excess moisture and dry. Store in rigid containers by layering the slices and separating the layers with parchment paper.
Cherry Tomatoes
  • With the small abundant little tomatoes wash them and freeze them whole. You can pop them into stews and soups where they will just melt away leaving only their wonderful flavor. Wash them, drain and dry thoroughly. Spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, pop it into the freezer for about an hour. Remove the sheet and vacuum-seal in 2 cup portions.
Green Beans
  • Remove the tops and tails. Wash and cut into 1-inch pieces. Blanch for 304 minutes, cool in ice water for 5 minutes, drain thoroughly and dry. Vacuum-seal.
Peppers (Hot and Sweet)
  • Select crisp peppers. Wash, remove stem and seeds. Cut into strips or rings. Vacuum-seal.
  • You can also blanch the slices for 3 minutes and them vacuum-seal or store in baggies.
Berries
  • Wash them, drain and dry thoroughly. Spread them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, pop it into the freezer and freeze overnight. Remove the sheet and vacuum-seal the individually frozen berries into small portions.
In many cases I don't bother blanching certain veggies first, I find they last just as long and often times hold up better when thawed. Another quick tip is to label the bag with permanent market before you vacuum-seal. I always label with what's inside and the date.

Photo by Renato Ghio
Now, you might be asking, "What if you don't have a vacuum-sealer?" No biggie. Use resealable freezer storage bags and be sure remove as much air as possible. This will sound ridiculous, but a really good way to remove the excess air from a resealable bag is to place a straw inside the bag and zip it closed as far as possible. Then suck the air out of the bag, pinch the straw shut where it enters the bag and pull it from the bag and quickly zip the bag the rest of the way. It works pretty well.

This is just a place to start. For detailed information about freezing, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
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