Saturday, July 28, 2012

Its Freezing Time!!

Its really getting into the best (food) parts of summer. Corn, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, cherries, cantalopes, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash are but a FEW of the crops in season right now. Whether you're a backyard farmer or just a savvy shopper, now is the time to take advantage!

I know I already did a post on freezing. AND, its soooo super easy that people probably don't need to read about it. BUT, until recently, it didn't even occur to me to consider using my freezer this way. I always thought about canning during summer but never had the nerve (or equipment) to do so. This is definitely the cheap and easy way to get more fruits and veggies into your family's food plan!

As I talked about in my previous post: Less time= less money, much of the work of kitchen projects can be reduced by just doing a few extra items when you are already prepping. A week or so ago, the family had some nice grilled corn on the cob at dinner. Instead of just doing up 3 for the family, I had the hubby do 5. Since he was already cooking corn, a few more made very little difference. After dinner, I cut the kernels off of the cob, dropped them into a ziptop baggie and threw it into the freezer. Just last night, for an easy supper, we did burritos. It was so nice to be able to pull out just a 1/4 or 1/2 of cup of already cooked corn. A few seconds in the microwave and we had a nice veggie addition to our wraps!

We've also been getting a lot of fruit in our farm boxes and we're starting to get a small stream of family/neighbor garden goodies as well.  I already have some peaches put up and I'm off to do some blueberries and strawberries today. I'm looking forward to reaching into my freezer in the middle of December and pulling out a little piece of summer!

Why Freeze?
1) Fruits and veggies saved now will taste better. When you save something picked at the peak of season and locally produced, the flavor can't be beat. Freezing will preserve those qualities!

2) Frozen fruits and veggies are better for you (and the environment) than trying to get them off-season later. Freezing got a bad rap somewhere along the line but it is, in fact, a GREAT way of preserving foods. Freezing has been shown to keep a higher nutrient level in fruits and vegetables than any other way of preserving-- especially if you freeze them as close to the time they were picked as possible. Think of your foods as having a timer inside of them. As the time ticks down, more and more of the nutrients and flavor inside the foods will disappear due to enzyme activity and oxidation. So if you are buying those strawberries from Argentina in December, consider how long it took them to get to your local grocery store (and what nutrients are likely to be left in them) AND what kind of environmental impact there is from transporting them.

3) Freezing IN SEASON saves money. Whether you are buying frozen fruits and veggies or fresh imported ones out of season, there will be a premium to be paid. Right now, farmers need to get that produce sold and distributed-- they've got a limited window to move that food and prices reflect that. Its especially true for organic produce -- this is the best prices you'll find all year! And, if you are lucky enough to have your own garden or have friends or family who do, nothing beats FREE!

4) Its SOOOOOO easy!! While many people out there are big canners, I haven't quite gotten up the nerve to tackle that skill yet. But what I can do (and so can you!) is freeze. Most fruits and veggies will require a little bit of prep-- but is a small price for the payoff of a well stocked freezer!

Seasonal produce (organic, optional)
ziptop baggies
baking sheet
parchment paper. wax paper or silicon mat
prep tools-- peeler, knife, cutting board

Prepare produce as you will want to use it (peel peaches, slice/hull strawberries)
Spread produce evenly on a lined baking sheet.
Put in freezer for several hours or overnight.
Place fully frozen food into baggie, remove as much air as possible and seal completely.
Label food with name & date!

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