Written By Avance Care Registered Dietitian Mindy McCullough, MS, RD, LDN
In North Carolina, summer is quickly approaching. Summer brings more than sun and mosquitos; it comes with a plethora of fresh seasonal produce. Soon the farm stands will be bursting with more berries, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn than we know what to do with. Sadly, summer and the goodies it brings cannot last forever. Or can it? While we cannot technically make summer produce last indefinitely, we can preserve the taste of summer in our freezers to enjoy long after the crisp air of fall arrives.
Out of all the appliances and kitchen gadgets, the freezer is often the unsung hero of the kitchen. Our freezers can do so much more than store ice cube trays and frozen pizzas. They can hold a treasure trove of nutritious staples and healthy meals that help make weeknight dinners a breeze. Freezers also have the potential to help us reduce food waste, which is a significant problem in America.
Check out the information below on how to properly prepare and freeze some of your favorite staple ingredients, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits.
How to Freeze Recipe Staples
Dice the onions, separate them into 1 cup portions (~1 onion), and freeze in freezer safe containers or bags for up to 12 months. No need to defrost prior to using1.
Slice, place in freezer bag or empty jar or container and freeze for up to 12 months1.
Slice, then freeze flat on a baking sheet. Once solid, transfer to a freezer safe bag or container and store frozen for up to 12 months1.
Peel and freeze in freezer safe container or bag for up to 6 months. The garlic’s appearance may change, however the flavor does not1.
Wash the ginger well, then freeze in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 6 months. Ginger that is frozen can still be grated into recipes while frozen. No need to peel it OR you can peel prior to freezing1.
Can be frozen in block or shredded form. Just make sure to wrap tightly to reduce air exposure prior to freezing in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 9 months1.
Divide meat, poultry, or seafood into appropriate portions for your household and cooking needs. Make sure to wrap tightly to prevent air exposure, which can lead to freezer burn1. Meat can be frozen for anywhere between 4 and 12 months depending on the cut.
**Remember to ALWAYS label and date everything you put into the freezer.
Many fresh fruits and vegetables can be frozen. In a few simple steps, you can have a freezer stocked with fruits and vegetables to enjoy all year long. Most vegetables, not fruits, must be blanched prior to freezing. Blanching is a method of quickly cooking the food in boiling water, which helps to kill bacteria and stop the action of food-degrading enzymes. Blanching also slows vitamin and mineral loss and helps to brighten the colors of the food. See the instructions and table below for information on blanching and freezing a variety of fruits and vegetables.
How to Blanch
Bring 1 gallon of water per pound of prepped vegetables (about 2 cups) to a boil in a large pot. Add the vegetables, cover, return to a boil, and cook. Check out the tables below for blanching times. Once done transfer the vegetables to a large bowl of ice water to quickly stop the cooking process. Drain well; pat dry1.
Prior to freezing, place cut fruits and blanched vegetables on a large baking sheet. Spread them out so they are not touching and then freeze until solid. Once solid, place into a freezer safe container or bag to freeze. This prevents the fruits/vegetables from becoming a single solid block in the freezer.
|Guidelines for Freezing Fruit1||Prep|
|Blackberries, Blueberries, & Raspberries||Wash and pat dry|
|Cherries||Remove stems and pits, if desired|
|Nectarines, Peaches, & Plums||Remove pit; cut into sixths|
|Rhubarb||Trim woody ends; cut into 1” pieces|
|Strawberries||Remove the stem and hull. Cut large ones in half.|
|Guidelines for Vegetables1||Prep||Blanching Time||Reheat (Microwave)||Reheat (Steaming)|
|Asparagus||Trim woody ends||2-3 minutes||1-2 minutes||2-3 minutes|
|Bell Peppers||Remove seeds; cut into 1/2” pieces||2-3 minutes||1-2 minutes||2-3 minutes|
|Broccoli & Cauliflower||Cut into 1- 1 ½” florets.||3 minutes||2-4 minutes||2-4 minutes|
|Brussels Sprouts||Remove outer leaves, trim stems. Halve small sprouts or quarter large sprouts.||2-3 minutes||2-4 minutes||4-6 minutes|
|Carrots||Peel and cut into ¼” slices or cubes||2 minutes||1-2 minutes||2-3 minutes|
|Corn||Husk corn and remove kernels||2 minutes||1-2 minutes||2-3 minutes|
|Dark leafy Greens: Chard, kale, and Spinach||Remove any woody stems and/or ribs; chop if desired.||2-3 minutes||1-2 minutes||2-3 minutes|
|Green Beans||Trim stem ends||3 minutes||1-2 minutes||2-3 minutes|
|Peas: Shelling Peas, Snap Peas & Snow Peas||Remove any fibrous stems; remove shelling peas from the pod.||1-2 minutes||1-2 minutes||2-3 minutes|
|Tomatoes||Remove the core||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Zucchini & Summer Squash||Cut into ½” slices||2-3 minutes||1-2 minutes||2-3 minutes|
We hope this guide helps you preserve the fresh taste of summer and learn how to maximize your freezer’s potential.
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Mindy is a Registered Dietitian working at the Central Raleigh location. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new area parks and greenways with her dog, Reese. She also loves to travel and experience new cultures. Many weekends you can find her watching hockey or hiking in the North Carolina mountains in search of waterfalls.