21 September 2009
what's in my freezer
Sounds thrilling, doesn't it? Frankly, I am thrilled about the contents of my freezer. Along with my overflowing pantry. I was out to lunch with my coworker today, and out of nowhere I said "I'm really feeling good about my preserving this summer." He looked at me like I was more than a little bit crazy. Oh well. This year, I made a commitment to preserve more food that we were really going to eat, rather than just the jam and applesauce that I had done the past two years.
The first step was to freeze more vegetables and fruits. We don't have a chest freezer, or even a particularly large freezer, but I've definitely made the most of what space we do have. We don't normally keep too much in the freezer--some frozen soups, lots of ice, the occasional pint of ice cream, and a few bottles of booze- so there was plenty of room to begin with. Maybe next year I'll get a pressure canner so we can just can veggies. Or maybe I'll get a chest freezer so I have more space. Or both...
What I froze this summer (so far). All bags are approximately one-quart.
-Kale (4 bags, blanched)
-Spinach (2 bags, blanched)
-Corn (5 bags, blanched)
-Apricots (3 bags, sliced+raw)
-Strawberries (2 bags, hulled+raw)
-Raspberries (3 bags, raw)
-Sour Cherries (2 bags, pitted+raw)
-Pesto (1 half-pint jar)
-Rhubarb (2 bags chopped+raw)
-Zucchini (1 bag grated+raw)
A few freezing tips...
Label and date everything. I know that might sound either obvious or pointless (depending on your personality), but seriously. You'll appreciate it later. Also, if you're freezing things in certain measurements, write the measurement on the bag too.
For berries, spread them out on a baking sheet (or even a plate if you're not doing a ton or don't have room for a baking sheet in your freezer) so that each berry freezes individually. Once they're frozen, you can throw them in a ziploc bag and they won't all stick together. This is really helpful if you just want a handful of berries and don't want to defrost a whole bag. I realized this too late this year, but this would actually have worked really well for individual corn kernels as well.
If you're freezing something with an end use in mind (for example, I freeze raw grated zucchini to use in bread or muffins), it's super helpful to freeze the food in the quantity that the recipe calls for. Also think about how the food needs to be prepared for that recipe (sliced, grated, etc.) and do that before freezing. I froze strawberries hulled and whole, and now I'm wishing I had done some sliced so I could easily throw them on cereal or something. I freeze grated zucchini in one-cup portions. This would be great for veggies that will eventually go in soups or other recipes, as well.
Make sure you read up on how different fruits/veggies should be processed before freezing. Putting Food By is an excellent resource, along with probably any other book on preserving that you might find at your local library or bookstore. Or the internet. Duh. Some things can be frozen raw, some need to be blanched. In thinking about what I froze, it seems that fruits (or at least berries) can be raw, but veggies should be blanched. But I would definitely not go by that as a rule. Always consult the experts.
Don't put hot food into plastic ziploc bags. This might just be my personal paranoia about plastic, but you should never put hot food into a plastic container, and especially not a plastic bag. So make sure that all food (if you've cooked it) is cooled before packing into bags. That being said, ziploc bags are reusable (obviously). They wash out great and sharpie writing comes off easily. My boss throws away ziplocs after one use and it drives me insane.
Baked goods freeze really well. I haven't frozen anything yet this summer (actually, that's a lie- I did freeze half a loaf of strawberry banana bread, but we've already eaten it) but this is a really great convenience. If you like to make muffins or breads with summer fruits, that's another great way to preserve those fruits. I've actually never frozen muffins before, but with quick breads (banana, strawberry, zucchini, etc), I just wrap them in tin foil and seal that in a bag. These usually take a few hours to defrost, but it's great if you've got a last minute potluck in the winter!
Phew! Who knew I had so much to say about freezing fruits and vegetables? I am by no means an expert on this, if you have any tips or suggestions from your own experience, please share in the comments section!
Labels: in the kitchen