Pack Your Freezer with Summer Flavors
I love fresh summer produce! At my local farmer’s market, I am told that strawberry season is ending. Raspberries, tomatoes, and blueberries are just arriving from the fields. While we get fruit year-round in our grocery stores, it tastes better in summer. I am going to freeze some of that fresh flavor.
It is tempting to rinse the fresh berries, dump them into a strong zip-lock bag and freeze them. With only slightly more effort, you will retain more sun warmed fruit goodness for those off-season smoothies, pies, pancakes, cobblers and oatmeal topping. The result will not be mistaken for absolutely fresh fruit, but they will have most of their peak summer flavor – certainly better than the fruits and berries available off season which have been shipped from the southern hemisphere or grown in greenhouses. Frozen fruit stays fresh for at least three months. After that it can begin to show freezer burn.
Here is the basic approach to freezing fresh fruit and berries:
- Wash the fruit. Rinse with water or use organic vegetable wash.
- Dry fruit well. Use a lettuce spinner or a colander to remove excess water and lay the fruit out on a dishcloth or paper towel.
- Lay a piece of parchment on a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) and cover it with one layer of fruit or berries.
- Freeze the fruit on the parchment until solid. Leave it in the freezer from four to twenty-four hours. Any longer and the fruit will develop freezer burn.
- Put the individual fruits or berries together in a zip lock bag and squeeze out as much air as possible. Note: Transfer frozen fruit from parchment to bag to freezer quickly so the fruit doesn’t thaw.
- Label the bags with type of fruit and date.
Strawberries raspberries –
Strawberries are best left unwashed, with stems intact until just before you prepare them for freezing. They can get moldy and mold spreads from one berry to another. Remove any spoiled berries. Hull the berries and wash them just before you lay them out to freeze them on the jelly roll pan.
Raspberries and blackberries –
Remove any leaves, twigs or spoiled berries. Wash the berries by swishing them in a colander of water. The pressure of running water can damage them. Dry the berries. Freeze the fruit in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Place frozen berries into a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible.
Rinse and dry large blueberries or my favorite tiny Maine cousins. Take out leaves and sticks. Freeze them on parchment paper on the jelly roll pan. Place the frozen berries in the freezer bag.
Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed and the peel. Brush the halves with lemon juice. Wrap each half tightly in cling wrap, even in the space left by the seed – with no room for air. Place all the avocado halves in a large Ziploc freezer bag.
Or, mash your ripe avocados with lemon juice. Put the mash into a freezer bag, squeeze out the air and lay it flat in the freezer. You can break off pieces for great guacamole or avocado toast.
Peaches and nectarines–
Rinse the peaches or nectarines. If you choose to remove the skin, place the fruit in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Remove them after 40 seconds and plunge them into ice cold water. The skin will peel easily.
Cut your fruit into the pieces and toss them with 1:4 parts lemon juice and water. This prevents browning. Freeze your fruit on parchment on a jelly roll pan and transfer them to a freezer bag. Squeeze out the air.
Choose firm ripe stalks with strong color. Wash it. Cut the tough ends. Peel off the outer skin if it is tough. Blanch rhubarb for one minute and plunge it into ice water. Dry it. Freeze it on the parchment on the jelly roll pan. Place it into the freezer bag.
Rinse the tomatoes and core them. Dry them and freeze them on the jelly roll pan. Place them in the freezer bag.
Note: Tomatoes can be blanched for one minute and plunged into ice water, then peeled and cored before freezing.
Cherry tomatoes –
These bursts of flavor freeze well without blanching. Remove stems. Wash and dry the small tomatoes and freeze them on the parchment covered jelly roll pan. Store them in a freezer bag. They will give fresh flavor to soups and stews or they can be sautéed with meats.
Organic Veggie Wash. 16 Fluid ounces for $14.11
$4.66 for 28 Gallon sized bags.
75 quart sized freezer bags for $7.79.
If you’re trying to stay away from using plastic, these re-useable BPA free bags are a solution. $12.99 for a pack of 5.
Evelots 250 Adhesive Food Storage Labels Freezer & Refrigerator. $5.99 for 250 labels.
If you want a spectacular summer flavored dessert long after the fields are empty, freeze your berries in simple syrup.
- Make the Simple Syrup before you get the berries.
- Dissolve one cup of sugar in four cups of water.
- For extra flair, add orange zest or a vanilla bean.
- Rinse the berries and place into clean containers. Cover with cool Simple Syrup.