I’m hearing from many of you that gardens are in full production, the green beans are ready, the zucchini and squash are multiplying rapidly and the tomatoes are coming on strong. We are so fortunate to live in a community where local foods are abundant and the bounty ready for many of us to enjoy. If you have your own garden what happens when you have more than you planned for? Or when you find a great bargain at the market? Even if you don’t have canning equipment, freezing is a wonderful option to save fruits and vegetables for use later in the fall and winter. How do you do it for best results? The answer is really simple, for vegetables:
*Choose young, tender vegetables. Over-mature vegetables may be hard, tough or flavorless when frozen.
*Wash, peel and cut into pieces.
*Blanch vegetables to inactivate the enzymes—this will help them maintain their color and nutrients and destroy any microorganisms on the surface. Each vegetable is a little different, follow the chart in the Ohioline Fact Sheet Freezing Vegetables found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5333
*Use a gallon of water for a pound of vegetables, water should return to a boil within a minute or you are putting too many vegetables in at one time. Start your blanching time when water returns to a boil.
*Remove vegetables from the water and dip into ice water to stop the heating process, and drain thoroughly.
*Pack items into freezer bags or freezer containers and squeeze as much air out as possible. Leave ½ to 1 inch headspace at the top for expansion. If you want to freeze items like onions, to use a few at a time, freeze them on a cookie sheet, place in freezer package, label and date, and then put back into the freezer.
*Freezing fruits is very similar, but instead of blanching, most of them need to be treated with ascorbic acid or something similar to prevent discoloration during the freezing time.
*Decide if you want to freeze them sweetened or unsweetened (they lose their quality faster than sweetened fruits). Artificial sweeteners do not provide the benefits of sugar by preserving quality; they only give them the sweet flavor. Follow the guidelines found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5349 to make a syrup pack to meet your family’s needs. There is also a new fact sheet on Preserving Food with Less Sugar http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5359 to help answer questions you might have.
*Frozen fruits and vegetables should be used within the 12 months for best quality. Citrus fruits and juices should be used within 6 months. Keep a list on top of the freezer with the items you have and make notes when you remove items to keep a running inventory.
Freezing is the simplest method of food preservation. Why not give it a try today with your family’s favorite summer food? If you have other food preservation questions, please feel free to give me a call at the office at 330-264-8722 or e-mail email@example.com Might I also remind you that gauge style pressure canners need to be tested on a yearly basis. I can do that in our office by appointment ($5.00 fee) or at Lehman’s in Mt. Hope on August 17 or Kidron on August 18.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.