Freezing Is the Easiest Way to Preserve Almost Anything. But You Gotta Read This First.
When it comes to preserving summer produce, I use every method of preservation available. That means that I can, I ferment, I dry, and I freeze. No one method reigns supreme in my kitchen, because the different techniques are useful depending on the kind of produce, how I want to use the finished product, and (to be honest), the amount of time I have available to me.
When it comes to freezing, it’s often true that it’s as easy as tucking it in the freezer. This works beautifully for things like berries, peach slices, and cherries.
However, before you start filling up your deep freeze, there are a handful of tricks you should know to extend the lifespan of your frozen produce.
Why and When to Blanch Vegetables Before Freezing
While fruit can usually go straight into the freezer, most vegetables benefit from a quick dip in a pot of boiling water and then a rapid cool-down in iced water —also known as blanching — before being frozen. This not only ensures that the greens are well-cleaned, but it stops the enzymatic action that can degrade the quality and taste. Additionally, this reduces the bulk of things like leafy greens, so they take up less room in the freezer. That’s especially a boon if you don’t have a deep freeze or chest freezer to work with.
Once your produce is blanched and cooled, package it up in portion sizes that make sense for your kitchen. Whenever I prep leafy greens like kale or chard for instance, I shape them into 1/2 cup pucks, freeze them on a cookie sheet, and then transfer the pucks to a zippered plastic bag. It makes it easier to portion them out for egg scrambles, soups and stews.
Dry Freezing Fruit
Some produce does best if it’s completely dry before freezing. Chief among these contenders are raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, grape tomatoes, and stone fruit slices. These will freeze best if you arrange them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet so that they aren’t touching when they freeze. Once they’re solid, you can also transfer them to a zippered plastic bag or put them in a straight-sided jar for longer term storage.
Sugar Pack Fruit
Because sugar is a preservative, some fruits will last longer if you toss them with sugar before freezing. These won’t work as well for a healthy morning smoothie, but they are great for turning into jam later in the year, or transforming into a crisp, crumble or pie).
Strawberries, sliced peaches or nectarines, and pitted cherries work especially well like this. Toss 3 1/2 cups of fruit with 1/2 cup sugar and stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Pack the sugared fruit into containers (plastic deli containers or straight-sided jars are good choices), leaving some headspace to account for expansion. Voila!
Once you have that sugar-packed fruit frozen it’s a snap to turn it into a crumble for summer taste in the depths of winter.
The Most Delicious Recipe for Frozen Fruit
Ready to give it a try? Here’s a recipe for an easy freezer-to-oven fruit crumble.
Get the recipe: Easy Freezer-to-Oven Fruit Crumble
Weeknight Preserving is your beginner’s guide to preserving the best of the season even if you have a small kitchen or a couple hours on a weeknight. We asked Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars for a true beginner’s guide to preserving, from pickles to jams to freezing to fermenting. You (yes you!) can make a pickle or a jam to be proud of this summer. Share your preserving triumphs with us by tagging #thekitchn on Instagram.
Wondering what to do with the pickles you’ve made? Check out Marisa’s latest book, The Food in Jars Kitchen. It contains over 100 recipes to help you cook, bake, transform, and share your homemade preserves!