Things like meat, dairy and breads freeze very well and you just put them into the freezer as they are.
Fruits and veges are a little different but with a little preperation you can freeze your excess produce, locking in texture, flavour and as many nutrients as possible.
General rule of thumb #1: DO NOT freeze fruits or vege that are normally eaten RAW i.e. cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, sprouts.
General rule of thumb #2: DO NOT freeze fruits or vege containing a lot of water i.e. whole tomatoes, melons etc. You can puree things like these and freeze them after that.
So, now onto the technique for freezing your home grown produce!
Blanching is the act of quick immersion in boiling water followed by quick immersion in cold water.
Blanching helps to lock in freshness, flavour and nutrients. All produce contain "enzymes" which serve to break down that food stuffs. Once this breaking down process starts to occur, you will lose flavour, nutrients, texture and freshness. Its part of the reason foods turn in the fridge and what you are hoping to avoid by freezing in the first place.
It has also been proven that foods which are blanched before freezing retain more Vitamin C than those that are frozen unblanched.
To blanch, you need a wire basket or cheesecloth bag and a large pot of boiling water or a blanching kit.
Sloppy blanching creates sloppy (literally!) vegetables so you need to take your time with this and ensure you are thorough to avoid wasting your precious harvest.
You will need:
- Set of measuring scales
- Large pot / saucepan to hold at least 4 litres of water
- A net, basket (fryer baskets are great) or strainer that fits inside the pot
- Stopwater or accurate (to the second) timer device
- Colander for straining your blanched vege
- Access to really cold water - a sink full with ice for example
- Blanching times chart like the one here
Step 2: DO NOT DISTURB sign on the kitchen. It is vital to take the time to get the timings absolutely perfect. 30 seconds to an extra minute will ruin a batch of blanched vegetables and you'll be eating them for dinner that night!
Step 3: Fill your pot with 4 litres of water and bring to a fast boil.
Step 4: Measure out HALF A KILO (1/2 kg) of your chosen vegetables, already cut and pre-prepared as above into your net or basket ready for plunging into the pot.
Step 5: Plunge the vegetables into the pot. When you do this, the water will stop boiling. Wait for the water to return to the boil. When the water is BOILING once again, start your timer. If the water doesn't return to the boil you have to much vege or too much water. Ensure you stick to the measures above.
Step 6: When the timer is up, immediately remove the vegetables from the boiling water and plunge into the ICED water for the same length of time (so 3 minutes in the pot then 3 minutes in the iced water etc). Doing this for less time than they were cooked for means they will keep on cooking in their own heat & will ruin your batch of vege.
Step 7: Use your colander or strainer to drain the veges out of the iced water. Spread them on a cookie rack or towel until they are no longer dripping wet.
Step 8: Spread the veges onto shallow baking trays and put them in the fast freeze section (if you have one) until frozen. Take them out, pack them into containers or re-usable bags, date and label.
Your own HOME GROWN organic frozen vege!
This method may sound fiddly but it means you can freeze as much or as little of what you grow, retaining flavour, vital nutrients and freshness. You can do up a batch of various vege that you like to eat for meals - we love broccoli, cauliflower, carrot and beans just about every night in different ways. So I would do up batches of these veges then freeze them on trays and bag them together in meal sized portions for 3 people. That way I just take out a bag of vege, lightly steam them or toss them in a stir fry on a busy night and I KNOW that my family are getting good, organic food whilst I am saving time when I need to.
Of course eating fresh is best but if you don't want wastage, this is a great way to preserve the nutrients and flavours of organic foods so you can enjoy them later on!
Blanching is used by commercial companies for things like peas, spinach, Brussel sprouts because it provides such great results.
You don't have to change the boiling water over either - reuse it up to 7 or 8 times if you want which also helps retain Vitamin C content.
Happy Freezing this winter!
Love The Eco Mum xo