While finding a can of beans and a box of pasta at your grocery store right now is as rare as a unicorn sighting, the produce aisles at your local markets are brimming with fresh, delicious produce. But how can you extend the life of your perishables? Studies show the search query ‘freezing food’ has been googled 220% more often this year compared to 2019. This article on Yahoo shares tips to extend the life of your produce!
To avoid freezer-burn you must first blanch your produce! Blanching is the process produce packagers use to extend the life of your freezer stash while helping to enhance flavors and vitamins. It is effective because it cleans fruits and vegetables and deactivates the enzymes that signal the food to start the rotting process. So your food will taste fresher, longer.
Start by placing your produce in a pot with hot water and a steamer basket. When the timer goes off, move them to an ice-water bath for a minute or so until they’re cooled. Then drain. Next, you’ll want to freeze each floret or piece individually so you can prevent freezer burn and preserve nutrients and flavor, this is called flash freezing! Finally, transfer veggies to a storage bag.
Freezing water-y produce:
For water-logged veggies like zucchini, squash and bell peppers, spiral and freeze for a quick “veggie spaghetti” stir fry. Drain your veggies once you remove them from the freezer by popping them in the salad spinner to get rid of excess water.
For tomatoes that you can use in sauces and soups, slice, freeze and layer in a freezer bag, they can last up to nine months.
As we move into summer, consider blending fruit, too – like watermelon! Freeze it in ice cube trays for quick smoothies and popsicles.
Storing produce that ripens quickly:
Here’s how to freeze produce that ripens very quickly like avocados, bananas and more. When freezing bananas, peel them ahead of and pop them into an airtight container. As far as avocados, you have a few options, but cracking them open, scooping them out and mashing are critical – never freeze a whole avocado.
Guess what? You can also freeze guacamole! When making your guacamole, adding an acid like lime or lemon juice helps prevent your avocados from browning but you can also add an unflavored vitamin C tablet to your guacamole to prevent browning.
Clean berries by soaking them in water and allowing them to get bone dry in a colander overnight. They are now ready for freezer bags. Make sure to remove all stems, so your fruit is ready for the blender or pot.
Storing delicate greens:
First, pick through leaves and discard any that already look past their prime. A few slimy leaves will accelerate spoilage. Wash well and take greens for a spin in a salad spinner.
This next step is crucial; allow the leaves to dry fully overnight on a baking sheet before freezing. Doing so will ensure leaves don’t stick together and you don’t get freezer burn.
Once frozen, store in an airtight container to avoid crystallization. “Air is the enemy of the freezer so just taking an extra moment to press it out will dramatically improve the quality of your frozen produce,” explains Ali Rosen, host of Emmy-nominated show Potluck with Ali Rosen.
How to freeze what you thought was unfreeze-able:
Skim and low-fat milks freeze the best, the less fat, the less separation you’ll have!
Remove enough milk from your container to get at least two-inches of headspace in the container. Like water, milk expands when it freezes, so this step is crucial to avoid a big mess.
Pop your plastic jug right into the freezer, don’t transfer to a glass container because it could shatter! Once de-thawed, give it a shake! You can use this milk for cooking, baking, even your morning oatmeal and smoothies.
Harder cheeses are best for freezing, that’s because the more water, the more food crystallizes in the ice box and that damage really messes with the food’s texture. Look to store parmesan and other hard cheeses. First, cut cheese into 2-3 inch pieces, then double wrap each in parchment paper. Now it’s ready for the freezer.