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Freezing Fruits and Vegetables: A beginner’s guide

Have you ever felt unsure about freezing fruits and vegetables? I used to avoid it too, thinking they would lose nutrients and taste awful. But guess what? I was wrong! Freezing fresh produce can be super easy and tasty if you know the right steps. Let me walk you through it, even if you’re a total newbie in the kitchen.

Glossary of Terms

Before we dive in, let’s go over some common terms you’ll encounter:

  • Blanching: Quickly boiling vegetables or fruits and then plunging them into ice water to stop the cooking process. This helps retain color, flavor, and texture.
  • Freezer Bags: Special heavy-duty bags designed to store food in the freezer without getting freezer burn.
  • Flash Freeze: Freezing individual pieces of food (like fruit slices) on a baking sheet so they don’t stick together, before transferring them to a freezer bag.
  • Vacuum Sealer: A device that removes air from a bag before sealing it, to keep food fresh longer.
  • Heavy-Duty: Strong and durable, often referring to freezer bags that can withstand cold temperatures without breaking.
  • Enzymes: Natural chemicals in fruits and vegetables that can cause them to spoil or lose color and flavor over time.

Beginner’s Guide to Freezing

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    Why Freeze Fruits and Veggies?

    1. Preserves Nutrients: Freezing locks in the nutrients, so your fruits and veggies stay healthy and fresh.
    2. Reduces Food Waste: Got extra fruits and veggies? Freeze them before they spoil!
    3. Saves Time: Pre-freeze produce for quick meal prep on busy days.
    4. Convenient and Cost-Effective: Enjoy your favorite produce all year round without spending a fortune.

    Quick Start Tips for Freezing

    • Choose Fresh Produce: Pick fruits and veggies that are ripe and at their peak.
    • Freeze Quickly: After buying or harvesting, freeze them as soon as possible.
    • Use the Right Bags: Heavy-duty freezer bags are best. Store them flat to save space.
    • Remove Air: Squeeze out as much air as possible for better texture and taste. Use a straw to suck out the air if needed.
    • Freeze at Zero Degrees or Colder: This keeps your produce fresh.
    • Wash and Dry Thoroughly: Clean and dry your fruits and veggies before freezing.


    Janel Hutton from NellieBellie shows you how to blanch fruits and veggies

    How to Blanch Fruits and Veggies

    Blanching might sound fancy, but it’s simple! It helps keep your fruits and veggies looking and tasting great. Here’s how to do it:

    What You’ll Need:

    • A good knife
    • A large pot of boiling water
    • A slotted spoon
    • A big bowl of ice water
    • Paper towels

    Steps:

    1. Boil Water: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.
    2. Prepare Produce: While waiting for the water to boil, wash and cut your fruits and veggies.
    3. Blanching: Drop the produce into the boiling water for a short time (usually 1-3 minutes).
    4. Ice Bath: Quickly move them to the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
    5. Drying: Lay them out on paper towels to dry completely before freezing.

    Why Blanch Before Freezing?

    Blanching stops enzymes that can cause loss of flavor, color, and texture. It also cleans the produce, making it safe to store.

    Can You Freeze Without Blanching?

    Some fruits and veggies, like berries and bananas, don’t need blanching. But for most, blanching gives the best results.

    Janel Hutton from NellieBellie shows you how to freeze specific fruits.

    Apples

    1. Freeze Slices: Core, peel, and slice apples. Lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze until solid. Then, transfer to freezer bags, squeeze out the air, seal, and label.
    2. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    3. Tip: Use frozen apple slices in smoothies, baked goods, or as a topping for oatmeal. When using for baking, thaw first and pat dry to remove excess moisture.

    Blueberries

    1. Wash and Dry: Rinse the blueberries and dry them thoroughly.
    2. Freeze Individually: Spread them on a baking tray, freeze until solid, then transfer to freezer bags. Squeeze out the air and seal.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 10 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen blueberries directly in smoothies, muffins, or pancakes. No need to thaw first!

    Blackberries and Raspberries

    1. Wash and Dry: Rinse the berries and dry them thoroughly.
    2. Freeze Individually: Spread them on a baking tray, freeze until solid, then transfer to freezer bags. Squeeze out the air and seal.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 8 months.
    4. Tip: Frozen blackberries and raspberries are perfect for making sauces, jams, or adding to desserts. They can be used directly from the freezer.

    Strawberries

    1. Prepare: Wash, dry, and hull the strawberries. Decide if you want to freeze them plain or with sugar.
    2. Freeze: Spread plain or sugared strawberries on a baking tray, freeze, then transfer to freezer bags.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    4. Tip: Frozen strawberries are great for smoothies, baking, or making strawberry sauce. Thaw slightly before using in recipes that require a softer texture.

    Peaches

    1. Peel Easily: Make a small X on the bottom of each peach and blanch briefly to peel easily.
    2. Slice and Toss: Slice the peaches, toss with lemon juice and sugar, then freeze on a baking sheet before bagging.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen peach slices in smoothies, pies, or as a topping for yogurt. Thaw before baking or using in desserts.

    Bananas

    1. For Smoothies: Peel and slice bananas. Freeze the slices on a tray, then transfer to freezer bags.
    2. For Baking: Freeze whole bananas in their peel for baking later.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen banana slices directly in smoothies for a creamy texture. Thaw whole bananas before using in baking recipes.

    Lemons

    1. Juice or Zest: Juice or zest lemons and freeze in small bags with the air squeezed out.
    2. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 4 months.
    3. Tip: Use frozen lemon juice or zest in cooking, baking, or making lemonade. No need to thaw; use directly from the freezer.

    Avocado

    1. Slice and Scoop: Slice avocados in half, remove the pit, and scoop out the flesh.
    2. Flash Freeze: Lay slices on a baking sheet, freeze until solid, then transfer to bags.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
    4. Tip: Frozen avocado works well in smoothies or guacamole. Thaw in the refrigerator before using for the best texture.

    Tomatoes

    1. Blanch and Peel: Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 60-90 seconds, then into ice water. Peel and core them.
    2. Freeze Whole or Chunked: Freeze smaller tomatoes whole and larger ones in chunks. Bag them up and squeeze out the air.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 18 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen tomatoes in soups, stews, or sauces. Thaw before using for easier handling.
    Janel Hutton from NellieBellie shows you how to freeze vegetables.

    How to Freeze Different Vegetables

    Corn

    1. Blanch: Boil corn on the cob for 5-9 minutes, depending on size. Cool in ice water for the same time.
    2. Dry and Bag: Dry the corn, then place in freezer bags, ensuring the ears don’t touch until fully frozen.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen corn in soups, casseroles, or as a side dish. No need to thaw; cook directly from the freezer.

    Green Beans

    1. Blanch: Boil for a few minutes, then chill in ice water.
    2. Dry and Freeze: Dry thoroughly, spread on a baking tray, freeze, then transfer to bags.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen green beans in stir-fries, casseroles, or as a side dish. Cook directly from the freezer for the best texture.

    Zucchini and Potatoes

    1. Shred and Blanch: Shred the veggies, blanch for 1-2 minutes, then chill in ice water.
    2. Dry and Bag: Dry well, portion into bags, and freeze.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen shredded zucchini in baking (like zucchini bread) or frozen potatoes in hash browns or soups. Thaw before using for better texture.

    Broccoli

    1. Blanch: Boil florets for 3 minutes, then chill in ice water.
    2. Dry and Freeze: Use a salad spinner to dry, then lay on a baking sheet to freeze before bagging.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen broccoli in soups, casseroles, or as a side dish. Steam or microwave directly from the freezer.

    Carrots

    1. Blanch: Whole carrots for 5 minutes, or slices for 2 minutes. Chill in ice water.
    2. Dry and Bag: Dry thoroughly and freeze.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen carrots in soups, stews, or casseroles. No need to thaw; cook directly from the freezer.

    Greens (Spinach, Kale, etc.)

    1. Blanch: Boil for 1-2 minutes, then chill in ice water.
    2. Dry and Bag: Squeeze out as much water as possible, then portion and freeze.
    3. Storage: Store in the freezer for up to 12 months.
    4. Tip: Use frozen greens in smoothies, soups, or sautéed dishes. No need to thaw; cook directly from the freezer.

    Now you’re ready to freeze fruits and vegetables like a pro! Enjoy the fresh taste of summer produce all year round and feel good about reducing food waste. Happy freezing!

    You can use your frozen veggies and fruit instead of fresh in many recipes. Especially when those frozen veggies and fruit were super fresh when frozen. I love using frozen fruit for pies, frozen veggies for soups, and tater tot casserole.

    Additional Resources:

    Products for freezing fruits and veggies like a pro:

    Moisture-proof, heavy-duty freezer bags (get the brand name for this!)
    REUSABLE Freezer Bags (game-changer!)
    Vaccuum sealer
    Baggie holders (seriously…these are awesome!)

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