Making Your Produce Last
Hopefully you are finding enough time and water to keep your gardens going in this awful heat. If you are lucky enough to have an abundance of fresh produce, you might need some of these tips about freezing it to last into the winter!
If you like cooking with fresh onions, but frequently toss an unused portion, try freezing it! The following method works for fully mature onions:
1.Wash, peel and chop raw, fully mature onions into about 1/2" pieces. There is no need to blanch onions.
2.Bag and freeze in freezer bags for best quality and odor protection. Package — flat — in freezer bags to hasten freezing and make it easier to break off sections as needed. Express out the air and place bags on cookie sheets or metal pans until onions are frozen. Then, restack bags to take up less room.
3.Use in cooked products, such as soups and stews, ground meat mixtures, casseroles, etc. For most dishes, frozen onions may be used with little or no thawing. (Will keep 3-6 months.)
Did you know ... According to the National Onion Association:
*After you purchase onions, you should store them in a cool, dry, ventilated place - not in your refrigerator. Avoid storing onions in plastic bags during storage outside of the refrigerator; the lack of air movement will reduce their storage life. After onions are chopped or sliced, store them in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days
*One medium onion yields about 1 cup of chopped onions.
*Use low or medium heat when sautéing onions. High heat will make them bitter.
*Reduce crying when cutting onions by first chilling them for 30 minutes. Leave the root end intact when cutting onions. The root end has the highest concentration of the sulphuric compounds that cause tearing.
Freezing Sweet or Bell and Hot Peppers
Peppers are one of those foods you can quickly freeze raw without blanching them first. Thawed, raw peppers still retain some crispness and can be used in cooked dishes or raw in uncooked dishes.
Bell or Sweet Peppers (Green, Red, Yellow, Orange, Purple)
1.Select crisp, tender peppers.
3.Cut out stems and cut peppers in half.
4.Remove seeds and membrane — save time by using a melon baller or the tip of a spoon to scrape out seeds and membrane.
5.Cut peppers into strips, dice or slice, depending on how you plan to use them.
6.Freeze peppers in a single layer on a cookie sheet with sides, about an hour or longer until frozen. This method is often referred to as "tray freezing."
7.Transfer to a "freezer" bag when frozen, excluding as much air as possible from the bag. The peppers will remain separated for ease of use in measuring out for recipes.
8.Pour out the amount of frozen peppers needed, reseal the bag and return to the freezer.
Hot Peppers (including Jalapeno Peppers)
Wash and stem hot peppers. Package, leaving no headspace. Seal and freeze. It is not necessary to cut or chop hot peppers before freezing.
Caution: The National Center for Home Food Preservation warns, "Wear plastic or rubber gloves and do not touch your face while handling or cutting hot peppers. If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes."
HOT TIP: If your mouth is burning from eating hot peppers, help put out the fire with milk and other dairy products.
To extend the time frozen foods maintain good quality, package foods in material intended for freezing and keep the temperature of the freezer at 0 degrees F or below. It is generally recommended frozen vegetables be eaten within about 8 months for best quality.
Freezing Raw Tomatoes (with or without their skins)
It is possible to quickly freeze raw tomatoes without blanching them first. They may be frozen without their skins or frozen whole with their skins.
Frozen tomatoes are best used in cooked foods such as soups, sauces and stews as they become mushy when they’re thawed.
Tomatoes may be frozen whole, sliced, chopped, or puréed. Additionally, you can freeze them raw or cooked, as juice or sauce, or prepared in the recipe of your choice. Thawed raw tomatoes may be used in any cooked-tomato recipe. Do not try to substituted them for fresh tomatoes, however, since freezing causes their texture to become mushy.
Tomatoes should be seasoned just before serving rather than before freezing; freezing may either strengthen or weaken seasonings such as garlic, onion, and herbs.
Step 1. Preparation and Selection
Select firm, ripe tomatoes for freezing. Sort the tomatoes, discarding any that are spoiled.
Step 2. Wash Tomatoes
Tomatoes should be washed before cutting. To wash, wet each tomato with water, rub its surface, rinse it with running water, and dry it with a paper towel. After washing, cut away the stem scar and surrounding area and discard it before slicing or chopping the tomato.
Washing tomatoes in a sink filled with water is not recommended since contaminated water can be absorbed through the fruit’s stem scar. The use of soap or detergent is neither recommended nor approved for washing fruits and vegetables because they can absorb detergent residues.
Dry them by blotting with a clean cloth or paper towels.
Freezing whole tomatoes with peels: Prepare tomatoes as described above. Cut away the stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes do not need to be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time or all at once. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.
Freezing peeled tomatoes: If you prefer to freeze peeled tomatoes, you can wash the tomatoes and then dip them in boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skins split. Peel and then freeze as noted above.
Source: Alice Henneman, author of UNL Extension "Cook it Quick" e-newsletter