Freezing Food Properly

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asparagus_cFreezing is one of the easiest, most convenient and least time-consuming ways to preserve foods at home. The extreme cold stops growth of microorganisms and slows down changes that cause spoilage and affect quality in food. But you should know some peculiarities of freezing food.


By April Reese Sorrow and Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation, hosted by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia, recently conducted a survey of home freezing practices. The survey revealed that 94.4 percent of respondents home freeze some type of food item. Plastic bags are the most frequently used packaging material for freezing food items.

Other containers suitable for freezing fruits and vegetables, however, are plastic freezer containers, or glass canning/freezing jars.

"Don't use paper cartons, like milk boxes," said Elizabeth Andress, director of the National Center for Home Food Preservation. "Many plastic containers that foods are packaged in for purchase, like yogurt, dips and sour cream, do not provide characteristics for preserving quality in the freezer. Freezer foil and coated paper are good for odd shaped foods."

Preparing the food

Fruits should be washed and sorted before freezing. Discard those that are not yet ripe or of poor quality. Allowing fruit to soak in water will cause loss of nutrients and flavor.

"Stem, pit, peel or slice fruit as desired; prepare enough fruit for only a few packages at a time to prevent browning," Andress explained. "Do not use galvanized equipment in direct contact with fruit, the acid in the fruit dissolves zinc, which can be harmful in large amounts."

Use vegetables at peak flavor and texture. Whenever possible, harvest in the morning and freeze within a few hours. Wash vegetables thoroughly in cold water and sort according to size for blanching and packing. Blanching, which is scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short period of time, should be done to ensure highest frozen food quality and shelf life.

"Blanching stops the action of enzymes that can cause loss of flavor, color and texture," Andress said. "Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and its size. Under-blanching stimulates the activity of enzymes and is worse than not blanching at all; over-blanching can cause loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals."

Water blanching is the most widely recommended method for blanching vegetables. Use one gallon of water per pound of vegetables. Put the vegetables in a blanching basket and lower into vigorously boiling water. Place a lid on the pot and start counting blanching time as soon as the water returns to a boil.

As soon as blanching is complete, cool vegetables quickly to stop the cooking process by plunging the basket of vegetables immediately into a large quantity of cold water. Cooling vegetables should take as long as blanching. Drain vegetables completely after cooling.


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