Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
Preserve a bumper crop by freezing these common fruits and vegetables
Corn - The only thing better than fresh corn on the cob is freshly frozen corn off the cob. You will not believe the difference in flavor between freezing your own corn and store bought frozen corn. Choose sweet corn that has been picked that day and stored in the fridge until it's ready for processing. Any variety is fine. Remove the husk and all the silk as best as you can and cut off the stem close to the cob to make it easier to fit in the pot. Fill a very large pot with water. Add the corn to the boiling water and blanch for 4-6 minutes depending on the size of the ears; 4 minutes for 6"-7" long ears, 5 minutes for 8"-9" long ears and 6 minutes for 9"+ long ears. Once cooled, with a very sharp knife or a corn cutter, cut the kernels off the corn. To make this easier, invert a smaller bowl inside a larger bowl. Stand the corn up on top of the smaller bowl and allow the kernels to fall into the larger bowl as you cut off the kernels. You can also use a bundt pan to accomplish the same thing. Stand the ear of corn on top of the middle of the bundt pan and allow the kernels to fall into the pan as they are cut away from the ear. The kernels will be in sheets but will separate easily once frozen. Store in bags or containers in the freezer for 8 to 12 months. If you have only a few ears and will be eating them quickly, you can freeze the cobs whole, still in the silk inside a freezer bag for up to 3-4 weeks without blanching first. Any longer than that and the fresh taste will suffer greatly.
Dried Beans - I prefer to eat dried beans I have cooked myself rather then canned beans that came from the store. There is a larger variety of dried beans available than canned beans and you can better control your sodium intake by cooking the beans yourself. Since dried beans store fine in the cabinet all on their own, I like to cook several varieties ahead of time and freeze them so that they are just as convenient to use as canned beans. To start, simply sort thru your dried beans looking for debris and any shriveled up beans that need to be removed. Rinse the beans well and then soak them overnight in cold water before cooking. I prefer this method as the beans don't split as easily. The next morning, using the same liquid the beans were soaked in, bring the beans to a boil and then lower the temperature to medium-low so that they simmer for 1-3 hours until tender. Cooking time will very based on the size of the bean being used. Make sure you check the water level as the beans will expand as they absorb the water and add more water as needed while they are cooking. Beans should always be covered with water while cooking. Once your beans are at their desired tenderness, remove from the heat, strain out the water and allow them to cool in the colander for at least 30 minutes, until they are easy to handle. Place the cooked beans inside freezer bags or containers, cool in the refrigerator and then freeze for up to 12 months. When you are ready to use your beans, simply remove them from the freezer, allow to thaw an hour or so on the counter or in microwave for a few minutes on half power, then season and add them to your favorite dishes. Use the beans within 6 months for maximum freshness and flavor.
Green Beans - Choose fresh, crisp, tender beans that were picked the same day, if at all possible. This will ensure that the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals and flavor in the green bean is preserved. Remove any beans that might be discolored or have insect damage (salvage what you can of those beans and eat them fresh if you like). Wash the beans well and cut off the ends. Cut the beans into bite sized pieces about one inch long. Blanch the green beans for 3 minutes and dry them well before freezing. If you want the beans to stay fairly loose in the container, spread them out on a sheet lined with parchment paper, freeze for one hour and then transfer them to bags or containers and place them in the freezer immediately. Use within 8 months.
Greens - These instructions for freezing greens apply to all kinds of greens from spinach to kale to collard greens to swiss chard. Choose young, tender, freshly picked greens. If they are limp, forget it. They will not taste good after being frozen. Rinse the greens really well. I like to spin them in a salad spinner as it gets out any little bits of sand or soil that might be lingering behind. Cut off any tough stems if necessary and then blanch the greens for 2 minutes (3 minutes for collard greens). Dry well and pack them in freezer bags or containers. Since the greens will freeze solid, portion them out accordingly so that they are easier to use in your cooking later on. Use within 6 months.
Peas - Peas are best frozen immediately after picking. Rinse the pods if they are excessively muddy, otherwise you can just shell them and set them aside in a bowl until all have been shelled. Blanch the peas for 90 seconds. Drain the peas well and freeze them in bags or containers. If you'd like them to stay loose in the container, you can freeze them on a sheet lined with parchment paper first before adding them to the container. Use within 8 months.
Peppers - As with all other fruits and vegetables, freeze peppers at their peak of freshness. If the peppers will be used in an uncooked state and within a couple of months, go ahead and slice them up and freeze them immediately. If the peppers will be used in a cooked dish later on, it is best to blanch them first before freezing. Blanch peppers that were cut in half for 3 minutes and cut up peppers for 2 minutes. Freeze on a tray lined with parchment paper for a couple of hours before adding them to bags or containers. Use the peppers within 6-8 months.