It’s not too early to start thinking about preserving this summer’s harvest from
your garden or orchard.
Freezing has many advantages. It requires less time than drying or canning, and it retains foods’ natural color, flavor, and nutritive value. Amounts can be adapted to suit individual or family needs.
The freezing process may cause undesirable changes in the texture of some foods. Almost all vegetables must be blanched before being frozen. This process involves scalding the vegetable (in boiling water or steam) for a short time, followed by cooling in ice water.
Blanching stops enzyme actions that cause losses in flavor and color. It brightens the color and retards vitamin loss. It also wilts or softens vegetables, making them easier to pack. The ice water bath prevents further cooking. Blanching times vary with each vegetable. Fruits usually are not blanched.
To get satisfactory results from home freezing, you need three things: good-quality fresh food, reliable information, and appropriate equipment.
- Good-quality fresh food – No preservation method will improve the quality of the food so you must start with the freshest possible food, which is at the proper stage of maturity and has no bruises or decay.
- Reliable information – For specific information about blanching and freezing, check with a reliable source such as your WVU Extension Service county office or the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
- Appropriate equipment – Foods in your freezer need proper packaging to protect their flavor, color, moisture content, and nutritive value. In general, packing materials must be durable, leakproof, easy to seal, easy to mark, and resistant to moisture vapor. The type of container you use depends on the type of food to be frozen, your personal preference, and availability. Rigid containers and flexible bags or wrappings are two main types of packaging materials. Vacuum-sealing products are becoming more popular also.
- Freeze and hold foods at 0 degrees F or lower. Set freezer at -10 degrees F or lower for 24 hours before freezing large quantities of food.
- Freeze foods immediately after preparation. Spread out packages inside the freezer. Stack them after they are frozen.
- Avoid overloading freezer with unfrozen food. Freeze only the amount that will freeze in 24 hours (2 to 3 pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer space).
- Stack already-frozen foods together so they don’t thaw when you add unfrozen food.
- Place unfrozen foods in contact with freezer surfaces in coldest parts of freezer.
- Leave space around packages so cold air can circulate.
- Organize frozen food by types.
- Arrange frozen foods so that those frozen the longest will be used first.
- Frequently update your frozen foods inventory.
- Periodically check the freezer’s temperature to make sure it’s zero.
By Sue Flanagan, Retired Berkeley County Extension Agent, WVU Extension Service