Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Freezing

So like anyone else planning a u-pick expedition, I am delayed by late springs.  That is the buzz in the orchards and fields.  Cool weather, fewer bees, slow, late or small crop.   My own beans seem to be faring pretty well.  But I am growing Romano green beans and don't know if they are an earlier crop then the typical pole beans like kentucky wonder or blue lake.  I definitely have enough to pick and eat daily of my Romanos and yesterday I froze up a 1/2 pound for some later meal sometime.  Which brings me to freezing foods.

Freezing foods is one of the ways to preserve the yield.  It is fast, easy and given adequate freezer space, very effective.  There are a few rules for freezing well however.  Anyone can shove something in the freezer but taking something out of the freezer that has been worth your time is another things.

So here are some points to consider.

First, is the temperature low enough?  For best quality the temp should be at zero degrees or lower.  Buy a thermometer to check.  Holding foods at proper temperatures is really a quality issue since most folks freezers freeze but not just low enough.  The simply guide is your ice cream -- if it is soft enough to scoop out of the container then the freezer is too warm.  And this lower temperature will effect quality.  In the case of a green bean, my guide to food preservation from the University of Georgia indicates that frozen green beans stored at zero degrees will keep in good quality for one year, at 10 degrees for three months, at 20 degrees for three weeks and at 30 degrees five days.  So you get the picture.

Check, if you can, to learn the freezing capacity of you freezer or how much product can be frozen per cubic feet.  Usually this is 2 - 3 pounds per cubic foot over a 24 hour period of time.  So don't freeze all the berries or beans or cow at the same time.  Once the first batch is properly frozen, go onto the next.  If your serious about freezing foods invest in a good freezer.  I got a chest freezer for my birthday a couple of years ago.  Pretty homesteady I know but hey, I was happy.  I use it a lot.  

Choose containers that can offer good, air-tight seals.  I also got a vaccum sealer for a present and that, too, melts my butter (so to speak).  I like to freeze my berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet for quick, individual freezes and then throw the frozen marbles in the bag for some serious air removing suction action.  That keeps them in great condition because there is no air there to allow freezer burn or deteriorate the quality of my berries.  And that is the issue - quality.  You can use regular freezer bags (marked as such - thicker then reg.) but try and get out the air when you close them.  You can use plastic containers if you want but put something in the top like a crumpled plastic bag to fill in the space between the contents and lid to use up the air space.  You can use glass containers (heavy as in for canning) but remember to leave space for the foods to expand.  I use bottles for freezing chicken stock or tomatoes but do leave one inch head space in a narrow neck jar and two inches head space in a wide neck (there are only two size necks so you can figure out what I mean).  I generally leave freezing in bottles to liquid contents and solid contents like berries or beans to the bag.

Proper preparation is important.  Some things like berries can be frozen straight off the farm.  They do not require any pretreatment except maybe washing which I admit to skipping sometime (only if they are organic).  Most fruits would be fine to freezing flat on the tray but some, like apples for example, really don't take to freezing unless you intend to just cook them up into sauce later. I do freeze peach slices on the tray and then through into a vacuum bag but only when I'm tired of canning them.  You can freeze them in a syrup which works to improve the texture but I think they hold up best in canning. Which is another topic.  Knowing which foods lend themselves to which process is helpful.  They all will generally work for all foods but some varieties will fare better.  Which is why I was talking about Romano beans in the first place.  They freeze better, which actually means taste better, then regular pole beans. But with regard to vegetables, you need to blanch them to get best quality. 

I admit to finding the blanching times given in most extension guides hard to follow.  They seem so long.  But I'm sure they know something.  I don't worry too much if I skim time off the suggested time because I know it will only be a matter of quality not safety.  So decide how long you want to blanch them before freezing but do blanch them.  It works to slow down the enzyme action that is present and instructed by universal law to decompose fruits and vegetables.  When you blanch them first - you are slowing down the action.  Then you freeze them - more slow down.  Again, traditional guides are more aggressive then me but there you have it.  That is a quality issue not safety.  Which is another topic all together.

I'll mention this only briefly but since so many folks ask me this I want to interject here that there is a difference between preserving foods that will have the best quality to preserving for safety.  Jam is safe without all that sugar or acid or pectin only it will not be jam.  It will be syrup or cooked fruit.  Once you seal it properly and in the required time it will be shelf stable until you open it.  Then store it in the fridge.  High acid foods like fruit are safe from botulism which is the thing most folks worry about.  Low acid foods like vegies are a different story but if you freeze them - which is the topic of this post - you will be fine.  Again, proper freezing at the right temperature, in the right container, with the best quality and variety will get you the best product on the other end.  Nothing tastes better coming out of the freezer then it did going in which is a rule of thumb in food preservation.  Best quality and techniques going in, best quality coming out.  But again - this is a quality issue not a safety one. 

Finally, label stuff and use it within a year.  Again -not a safety issue but a quality one. 

Do pick up a book on this stuff so you will have something to refer to but I encourage you to incorporate it into your preserving efforts.  But be selective - there is only so much room in there so don't get lazy and freeze it all.  Some stuff works better in other techniques so learn them all.   

So this morning I am going to make some more jam - loganberries await, can up some more of my apple pectin (lord let this be the last), can up some of my kraut - I made tons for demonstration for my classes, and quick pickle some of my emerging kentucky wonder green beans.  Pickling????  Next post.

1 comment:

Leslie Lim said...

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