Our little backyard garden has been doing well and we've again been enjoying the bounties of summer but, even with us sharing our harvest with family and friends, we still end up with a welcomed surplus. I'm not that big on canning (I've exploded one or two jars before) so I tend to freeze a lot of vegetables. I want to share a few tips I've learned from experience and from the web on freezing vegetables and food in general.
Cool Before Freezing - This applies to cooked food and some vegetables that need to be blanched first before freezing. Make sure they are totally cool before sticking them in the freezer. As explained below, moisture causes ice to form on the outside of the food you're freezing that in turn causes freezer burn. It's that frozen taste you occasionally get when eating previously frozen food. Well when you don't cool your food down all the way before freezing, it causes it to sweat in the freezer thus creating the icy crystals. Plus, when you put warm things in the freezer, it works harder to stay cool and uses up more energy.
Packaging - to avoid ice crystals and thus freezer burn, try to use packaging that will eliminate as much air as possible. The thicker freezer bags work well in protecting your food from icing up. Another technique is to double up your wrappers. Wrapping up first in plastic, taking out as much air as you can, then wrapping again with foil really keeps out any moisture that can cause icing.
Some ziplok freezer bags now come with the gadget to suck all the air out.
Pack Thin - I used to cram as much food in a ziplok bag as I can thinking this would eliminate the extra space where air and moisture can form. But when it came time to use the food, it was either too much for my use or too hard to defrost. It's better to freeze your food in the servings that you're going to use. There's five of us so my portions are larger than for a household of 2 or 3. And rather than just throwing a lumpy bag in the freezer, lay them out in cookie sheets first then stick them in the freezer. After they harden, you can just stack them up in one corner, saving space and utilizing the space that you have more efficiently.
Label - You may think you'll remember that the green stuff is greens and you just might and that's all good and well. But what if you have collard greens, and mustard greens and kale and chard, and so on? How are you going to tell them apart then? The best way is to label all your packages. I usually write down what's in the bag and the date that I put it in the freezer. That way, I'll know to use the older ones first before the newer ones.
If you're organized enough (which I'm not), you can also keep a list outside of the freezer. Either taped to the front of it or in a notebook nearby, list the contents of your freezer that way you won't have to go riffling through the whole freezer looking for something you swear you froze but forgot that you already ate it. Not that it ever happened to me, mind you.
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Cooked from the Heart - our new food blog
Our New Backyard - garden & photo blog
Found Not Lost - about all the things we 'find' worth talking about