As we roll into September, fruit and vegetable patches are (hopefully!) producing an abundance of fresh produce faster than you can eat. This week we were delighted to harvest 3 kilos of beans in a single day at our allotment!
If you want to prevent waste by saving produce for later in the year, there are many ways to preserve it- freezing, fermenting, canning and drying to name a few. Freezing is arguably one of the easiest methods, so in this blog post we share our top tips.
How to freeze vegetables
Most vegetables can be frozen, although vegetables with a high water content (like salad greens, cucumbers and celery) will become mushy. This isn’t a problem for veg you’ll cook (e.g. spinach) but is to be avoided if you plan to eat them raw. Tomatoes are best frozen as a puree or juice.
Vegetables must be ‘blanched’ before freezing, as this prevents enzymes that affect their the flavour, colour and nutritional value. Blanching means cooking them lightly, in boiling water or in steam. We prefer using steam as boiling vegetables results in some of their nutrient content leaching into the water.
Step 1. Clean and chop vegetables, sprinkle some salt over them and steam for about 4 minutes over boiling water. Or to boil blanch, place vegetables in lightly salted boiling water – small vegetables (likes peas) for 1 minute, beans for 2 minutes and chopped larger veg (like carrots) for 4 minutes.
Step 2. Cool vegetables quickly by plunging them into an ice bath.
Step 3. Pack them into containers in meal-sized portions, making sure there is as little air in the container as possible.
5 methods for freezing fruit
Most fruits freeze well, although the method of freezing depends on the fruit in question. Here are 5 methods:
Dry-freezing: Most suitable for berries such as raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and loganberries. Spread the clean, dry fruit in layers on a clean tray. Freeze for about 1 hour (to firm them up) and then pack into a container and freeze.
Sugar-freezing: Best for soft fruits that will later be cooked in desserts or jams. Place the fruit into containers, sprinkling sugar onto every other layer.
Purees: Works well for over-ripe fruits. Rub them (cooked or uncooked) through a sieve, add some sugar (optional) and freeze when cold.
Syrup-freezing: This brings out the flavour of more milder fruits like damsons, grapes and peaches. Make a syrup by dissolving sugar in hot water, using 500g sugar for every 1 litre of water. Put the fruit into hard containers, pour the syrup (once cold) over it and put crumpled greaseproof paper over them to keep them immersed. Leave some space for them to expand when frozen. For fruits with a tart flavour – like loganberries, rhubarb and quinces – make a heavy syrup by doubling the amount of sugar.
Poaching: Prevents the skin of thick-skinned fruits – like plums, peaches and apricots – from going hard. Halve and stone the fruits, then simmer for a few minutes in a heavy syrup (500g sugar to 600ml water), then cool and freeze.
Top tips for successful freezing
- Freeze foods in perfect condition, and as soon as possible after harvesting
- Use moisture- and air-proof containers
- Cool hot foods quickly before freezing
- Freeze in meal-sized portions
- Label the packs with contents and date frozen
- Cook vegetables from frozen; thaw fruits slowly
- Never refreeze food without cooking it first
- Fully-stocked freezers are more energy efficient
See here for how to harvest and store a range of garden vegetables.