A little planning ahead can save a lot of dough.
Money, that is.
And if you live in an area where winter includes snow, freezing temperatures and lots of root vegetables, then you know that a variety of low-cost produce is hard to acquire once September passes by.
A crafty and cost-effective solution to this dilemma is to cash in on the opportunity to extend your purchasing power with a frozen stockpile of summer vegetables. With the right freezing techniques you can serve fresh bell peppers and other produce well into January. Here’s how to do it.
To start the freezing process right, begin with the freshest vegetables you can acquire. Produce that is frozen at its peak ripeness will retain the best flavor and texture. Next, make sure to wash all of your veggies thoroughly. Bacteria will not spread when frozen, but it can come back to life once your produce regains room-temperature. »Learn more about how temperature affects bacteria
Get everything you need in your workstation together and keep it in one organized place. Once the process gets going, it will move pretty fast.
Here is what you will need:
- A cutting board
- A chef’s knife and a vegetable peeler
- A stockpot filled with water
- A slotted spoon or tongs
- A large bowl of ice water
- A rimmed sheet pan
- Paper towels
- Parchment paper
- Vacuum pack machine or zipper-lock plastic bags
- Freezer Space
Preparing the Vegetables
There are a few steps to take before you can freeze your vegetable inventory. These steps include, chopping, peeling if necessary, blanching and shocking all of your veggies.
What is blanching and shocking? Let’s take a look at what each of those terms mean.
- Blanching is cooking vegetables in boiling water for just a few minutes.
- Shocking is placing the just blanched veggies in ice water for one minute.
To be ready for this process, follow these steps:
- Organize your work station. Be sure to keep everything you need within reach.
- Prepare vegetables for freezing. This includes washing, chopping and peeling.
- Boil water in the stock pot. Keep the water boiling until you are through with the batch.
- Fill a large bowl with ice water. Keep the water cold and add in more ice as needed.
Work through one batch of vegetables before proceeding on to the next batch. As soon as the vegetables are blanched and shocked, dry them off carefully on a sheet pan with paper towels. Next, it is important to freeze the veggies as quickly as possible after they have been blanched and shocked and dried. It will take longer to warm vegetables and this can result in ice crystals forming on the produce. » See our Cheat Sheet for on Preparing Vegetables for Freezing
The Science of Blanching and Shocking: Blanching vegetables before freezing them is an important step because it deactivates the enzymes in vegetables. When enzymes are active during the freezing process, they break down the vegetable’s cell structure. The shocking process that follows is just as important. Placing the veggies directly into ice water stops the cooking process that began when the vegetables sat in boiling water. This keeps veggies closer to their raw state, which is optimal for freezing.
There are a few methods that can be used for freezing:
Vacuum sealing: Use a vacuum pack machine to ensure airtight packaging. Air creates freezer burn and diminishes the quality of your inventory. Once packed, sealed and labeled, place the veggies in the freezer and your done!
Freezing and bagging: Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the veggies in the freezer. When the veggies are frozen solid, transfer them into a sealed plastic bag. Consider double bagging to minimize the amount of air getting into the bag. This open air freezing will freeze the vegetables in one to two hours, and it is important that the vegetables are packaged immediately after they are frozen. Do not leave the vegetables exposed to the freezer air for longer than two hours.
Label: Be sure to label all of your frozen veggies. Write down what vegetables are inside the package and the date they were frozen.
Create your own stockpile of frozen produce for cost-effective menu planning. With just a little work and preparation, you can save a lot of money in the wintery months ahead.