I will never forget the day I learned about freezing grapes. It was probably the third day after Pinterest came into existence, and people were posting all those pictures of frozen grapes on skewers. Oh my! We quickly found out that frozen grapes were a favorite food. The best part is, they can be thrown into the freezer when they are almost past eating, and they come out just fine! They make a little snack almost like ice cream by the bite.
Another frozen favorite is my dad’s corn. He grows an awesome garden each year and when he harvests the corn he will shuck, blanch, cut, and freeze dozens of bags of corn and then send them home with us kids. Everybody loves Papaw’s corn! It takes work to freeze corn, but it is so much better than store bought!
Shortly after I got my Vitamix, my friend told me about “Banana Ice Cream.” Just take a frozen banana and toss it in the blender and mush it with the stick thing. Voila. A dessert kids love. If you are really wanting to make it something special, add a little chocolate and milk. Just a tad.
Just throw whole veggies and fruit in a freezer bag.
When you have extra produce, or produce almost past eating, that’s a great time to throw it in the freezer. Brown bananas make awesome smoothies and banana bread from frozen. A surprisingly large variety of fruits and veggies can be frozen “as is” or washed.
Chop the veggies or fruit for faster use on the other side.
Chopping or dicing your fruit or veggies now will make them easy to pull out and cook with down the road. This won’t take long and will make cooking that much easier when it’s time to use these yummy foods. Cutting fruits and vegetables instead of throwing them in whole allows you to pack them in tighter too, giving you more space in the freezer. In several of my recipes (guacamole for instance) I use “part” of an onion. If I can just remember to chop the whole onion and freeze what I don’t need, it’s fabulous for the next time I need a little onion!
Use heavy-duty storage containers.
Air-tight bags, the food saver bagging system, or air-tight containers made for freezing are an important choice. Using bags designed for “storage” and not “freezer” will cause your food to get freezer burn or absorb bad odors and flavors from other foods. See the bag in that picture up there? It’s not the right kind of bag. It’s thin and wimpy. Don’t get those. As long as you invest in good storage containers of some kind, you can keep your foods safely frozen for a long time.
Freeze the bags flat.
If you can make room in your freezer to lay each bag out flat and stack them flat on top of each other until they are fully frozen, you will be able to fit much more in your freezer than if you just throw the bags in to freeze willy nilly. The size of your bag matters too. So don’t use gallon-sized bags if they won’t lay flat or fit in your freezer!
Choices for freezing produce.
Freeze whole fruits: Berries and grapes are some of the easiest fruits to freeze and they are best frozen whole. Keep them in the freezer, then pour them out as needed to snack on, top oatmeal, make smoothies, or bake a pie.
Freeze chopped fruits: Other fruits, like peaches, bananas, and pineapple for example, freeze really well, but it’s much easier to peel and chop or even mash them first.
Freeze fruit as sauce or filling: Apples and pears don’t freeze well unless you turn them into pie filling first. Berries make excellent sauce, jams, or filling which can all be frozen.
Freeze rinsed and chopped veggies: Lots of veggies can also be rinsed, chopped, and frozen. Onions, green peppers, peas, squash, broccoli, and carrots freeze very well. If you see it in the frozen food section at the grocery store, chances are it will freeze well. Just rinse the produce as it comes out of the garden or from the farmers market, chop it, and put it in freezer bags. You can even freeze potatoes if you peel and grate them first. Peppers and onions do well chopped and frozen. Don’t forget to label everything really well.
Freeze blanched veggies: Most leafy vegetables like kale, chard, and collard greens need to be quickly blanched in boiling water and then laid out on paper towels before freezing. Cauliflower and corn also do well with blanching. Blanch the corn on the cob, and then cut to freeze.
Freeze veggies as sauce or filling: Many vegetables can be made into sauce, soup, or fillings and frozen. Potatoes can be frozen mashed, and when reheated with extra milk and butter they taste just fine. If you don’t have the time to do anything with tomatoes, chop and freeze them and then use them in green smoothies, to make salsa, or to make pasta sauce and tomato soup down the road. But, you will get much better results cooking the sauce or soup now and then freezing it. This also makes it much easier to put together a meal down the road. Grab a container of frozen tomato soup, slowly heat it up on the stove while you make a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches and dinner is done. And there’s nothing more convenient than a batch of tomato sauce to pull together a quick dinner.
Freeze in water or oil: Fresh herbs can also be frozen. The easiest way to do it is to wash and chop your herbs and scoop them into ice cube trays. Top them with water, chicken broth, or olive oil and freeze until solid. At that point you can pop them out of the ice cube tray and put them in a labeled freezer bag for longer storage. Rinse and repeat as needed. Throughout the year, whenever you want to brighten the flavor of a dish, just add one of the frozen herb cubes to the pot.
Freeze the entire meal: Try making your favorite slow cooker meals, soups, stews, or casseroles with your leftover produce and freeze them in disposable cooking trays or freezer bags. You can freeze them pre-cooked or ready to cook. Cook up a big batch of chili or vegetable soup. Serve some for dinner and freeze the rest for a rainy day.