AUBURN, Ala. – One of the best things about summer is eating fresh vegetables. However, summer is not the only time people can enjoy fresh vegetables. You can have fresh vegetables year round by simply freezing them.
Janice Hall, an Alabama Extension regional agent in food safety and quality, said freezing vegetables is easy,
“When properly selected, prepared and stored, they hold their fresh qualities for about a year,” Hall said. “The flavor, texture and nutritional value doesn’t change.”
The best vegetables to freeze are ones that are tender and just matured. The fresher the vegetable, the better it is after freezing. The rule of thumb is have vegetables in the freezer within two hours of picking them.
To prepare vegetables, wash them thoroughly. Lift the vegetable up and down in running water to better rinse off any dirt. While washing, look for inferior vegetables or overly mature ones and lay them aside.
“Blanching is a must,” Hall said. “It must be done properly to stop the enzymes from destroying the fresh flavor of the vegetables. It also removes bacteria.”
Once vegetables are blanched, cool them down quickly to stop the cooking process. This is sometimes known as “shocking”. To cool, submerge the vegetables into cold water at least 60ºF or below. Blanching and cooling should take about the same length of time.
Pack vegetables in meal-size portions. Choose a moisture-vapor-resistant freezer container. Also, choose containers that are odor free, crack proof at zero degrees and grease resistant. Pack vegetables firmly to remove any air.
If you are packing butterbeans, peas or snap beans, Hall says to add enough cold water to just cover the vegetable. Be sure to leave three-fourths to one inch of space at the top of the container. Write the name of the vegetable and the date on the container and place in the freezer.
Place vegetables in the coldest part of the freezer and store at zero degrees or below. When winter comes, you will have a harvest of fresh vegetable that will taste as if they have just come from the garden.
The Home Foods Preservation manual, written by Alabama Extension, goes into detail about freezing, canning and others ways of preparing and storing foods. Download this manual for free by visiting Alabama Extension here.
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