In the middle of summer, most squash plants are producing more than most homeowners can put on the table. So what is the best way to put up squash and save it for later? The Alabama Extension Home Food Preservation Cookbook suggests freezing vegetables to save for later.
If properly selected, prepared, frozen and stored, squash will hold fresh qualities. The flavor, color, texture and nutritious values do not change. Frozen vegetables will keep in the freezer for approximately one year. While frozen vegetables can taste as good as when picked fresh, freezing does not improve the vegetable quality.
Choose only young and tender vegetables at the right stage for eating fresh. Do not put too much emphasis on varieties; other factors are equally important.
If possible, gather vegetables in the cool, early morning. Prepare and freeze squash with little delay. Vegetables deteriorate repidly at room temperature. Therefore, the shorter the time from harvest to freezing, the better the frozen vegetable will be.
Wash vegetables thoroughly to remove dirt and and trash before removing skins or shells. Washing removes dirt, as well as spray residues and limits numbers of spoilage bacteria in the finished product.
Most vegetables should be blanched before freezing. Blanching will slow or stop the action of the enzymes that cause the loss of color, flavor, and texture in vegetables. Blanching also helps retain vitamins, and also helps clean dirt and organizms from the surface, and it wilts, or softens vegetables, making them easier to pack into containers.
Blanching can be done in two different ways. Water blanching is recommended for summer squash. Water blanching is done in boiling water. Use one gallon of water per pint (pound) of vegetables. Put squash in a blanching basket and lower it into actively boiling water. Cover the blancher with a lid and count three minutes from the moment the water returns to boiling after adding the squash. Keep the range unit at the highest temperature throughout blanching time.
Vegetables must be cooled quickly and thoroughly to stop cooking after blanching. Cool squash by holding the blancher basket under cold running water or by plunging it immediately into a pan of cold water with ice cubes. Use one pound of ice for each pound of blanched squash. Water temperatures of 60 or cooler are necessary for cooling. Cooling squash should take approximately the same amount of time as blanching.
When the squash cools, remove from water and drain thoroughly. Sitting in water will cause squash to lose flavor and nutrients.
Immediately after the vegetables have been blanched, cooled and drained, pack in meal-size freezer bags or rigid containers. To dry pack, pack squash tightly in containers and remove as much air as possible. Leave headspace and fasten lids or seals securely. Label package. To tray pack, spread squash in a single layer on a baking sheet, place in freezer long enough for vegetable to freeze firm. When frozen, pack vegetable tightly in container and remove as much air as possible. Leave headspace and fasten lids or seals securely. Label package.
These squash freezing and storing instructions can be found in the Home Food Preservation Cookbook, a publication of Alabama Extension.
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