Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
All fruits and vegetables can be frozen with various levels of success. Melons loose their firm texture when frozen and then thawed so alternate ways of preserving these products are usually used.
Always use the freshest, most blemish-free produce available for your freezing projects. This will insure that the maximum nutritional values are preserved. The longer produce sits around, the lower the vitamins and nutrients will be. The deterioration process begins as soon as the produce is picked, allowing the produce to start loosing vital vitamins and making it vulnerable to bacteria spores that accelerate the decaying process.
For the purpose of our demonstration, I will freeze apples, using a vacuum sealer.
Basic Freezing Equipment
The basic equipment necessary for freezing fruits or vegetables are as follows:
1. Large stainless steel or enamel cooking pot to blanch the apples in.
2. Large bowl for the pre-treatment of the apples.
3. Apple corer and sharp paring knife.
4. Long handled slotted spoon to remove apples from blanching pot.
5. Cider vinegar or lemon juice to a ratio of 1 tablespoon to 1 quart of water for pre-treatment solution for apples. NOTE: Some fruits, such as berries, cranberries, grapes, strawberries and rhubarb, will not need this pre-treatment process in order tofreeze. The pre-treatment is basically used to prevent discoloration of light fleshed fruits such as apples, apricots, peaches and pears.
6. Vacuum sealer with bag rolls.
7. Any sugar or spices, such as cinnamon, that you would like to sprinkle on the fruit before freezing.
Basic Freezing Instructions
Step 1. Always use the freshest, ripest, most blemish-free fruits available when purchasing for home freezing projects. Inspect for blemishes and separate the damaged fruit from the good.
Step 2. Fill the large cooking pot about two-thirds to the top with water and bring to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the fruit.
Step 2. Wash, core and slice the apples or other fruit into wedges. (I do not peel the apples I use in apple pies.) If you prefer your apples peeled, then that will also need to be done in this step.
Step 3. Pre-treat the fruit, if required, by soaking the slices in a solution of 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice to 1 quart of water, (to make a larger amount of pre-treatment, double the above solution recipe), for a minute or two per layer of fruit. Pre-treat the fruit in batches, one layer at a time, until all of the fruit has been pre-treated.
Step 4: Lift fruit out of the pre-treatment bowl with the slotted spoon and drop into the pot containing the boiling water for blanching.
Step 5: Blanch the fruit for two minutes or so, again in layers, and remove from the boiling water into the emptied large bowl that was used to pre-treat the fruit. If you are going to add spices or sugar before freezing, now is the time that you do that. Sprinkle the cinnamon, or other spices, and/or sugars, if desired, over the fruit and stir gently to coat.
Step 6: Make a bag big enough for the batch of fruit to be filled into. I like to package the fruit in quantities that would be required for a pie...usually 4 to 6 cups or so (check your fruit pie recipe for specific proportions for your favorite pies).
Step 7: Place prepared fruit into the sealer bags and load into the front of the vacuum sealer, as pictured below.
Step 8: Vacuum seal the bag as per the instructions for the specific vacuum sealer that you are using. This usually entails placing the open end of the filled bag into the heat and vacuum element on the front of the machine, locking the front bar down over the bag ends to hold in place and turning on the sealer. The air will be vacuumed completely out of the bag if you adjust the bag as it is sealing to help press out the air around the fruit. Once the sealer finishes sealing the bag, remove from the sealer by releasing the vacuum seal of the machine and removing the sealed bag.
Step 9: Check to make sure the bag is completely sealed. If it is, record the contents and date frozen on the bag with a permanent marker and place flat on the freezer shelf. Do not place more than 5 or 6 packages to be frozen at a time in the freezer. Placing too many warm bags for freezing into a freezer can lower the temperature within the freezer, endangering the conditions within of the other food products.
To thaw the fruit, place the frozen package in the refrigerator overnight for use the next day for best results.