Sure, most supermarkets carry berries and tomatoes even in the heart of winter—but they pale in comparison to the heavy, juicy jewels in stores and farmer’s markets right now. Freeze them at their peak season, and enjoy their deep flavor later in soups, stir fries, and even pies.
Know Your Freezer
When fruits and vegetables freeze, the water inside turns into ice crystals, which rupture cell walls and make for watery, brown thawed produce. The quicker produces freezes, the smaller the crystals—and the less damage they cause. Read: the colder your freezer, the better.
- Set your freezer to the coldest setting. Most dials have a range of numbers that correspond to power level. The higher the number, the higher the power, and the colder the freezer. Most come set on a mid-level power.
- Keep produce away from vents to help cool air circulate.
- Place in the coldest part of the freezer: the rear center.
- Avoid overcrowding the freezer, which will raise the temperature inside.
Most vegetables freeze well, but steer clear of watery produce that you’d normally eat raw: think lettuce and cucumbers.
- Wash and prepare your produce just as you would normally. Cut green beans into segments, remove seeds from bell peppers, cut corn from the cob.
- Blanching and shocking your vegetables before freezing them is a sure-fire way to prevent them from thawing into watery pulp. Let them dry in a single layer, then spread out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and freeze in a single layer. Once frozen, transfer to an airtight freezer bag.
- Vegetables like zucchini, squash, eggplant, and tomatoes, which have a high water content, generally don’t hold their structure well. Try cooking down into a sauce first, and then freezing.
- Tomatoes can be frozen whole with the skin on. Bonus: when you thaw, their skins slip off easily, so they’re instantly ready for marinara.
- Wash all fruit, let dry, and prep as you normally would: hull strawberries, remove seeds and rinds, slice peaches and plums.
- Fruit is too delicate to blanch. If it’s destined for pie filling, simply spread out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and freeze in a single layer. Once frozen, transfer to an airtight freezer bag.
- Or, to preserve the fruit’s shape and texture, try freezing it packed in sugar, which reduces the formation of ice crystals. Shoot for a ratio of about 2 cups of fruit to 1 cup of sugar.
Tips on Freezing
- Remove all air to prevent freezer burn—dry, grey discoloration. Double bag, and squeeze (then re-squeeze) all of that air out!
- Remember, overcrowding your freezer will cause the temperature to rise. Don’t freeze more than 8 cups of fruit in one go.
- Eat your frozen produce within three months!