Hello smart shoppers. This column is a keeper, you will refer to it time and again. Many of you have tried going green and in today's economy it can save you a bundle. When your vegetable garden is at its peak you have more than your family can possibly consume. Don't give it away, let your freezer be your friend. Just about all fruits and vegetables can be frozen. Taking advantage of foods that are in season whether you grow them or not can reduce your food budget. Remember, liquid expands in freezing; always leave a 1/2 inch space at the top of the container.
Most fruits except bananas can be frozen with almost no preparation, however peeled, ripe, frozen bananas are superb blended in a smoothie or thawed and mashed for banana bread. Berries and grapes of all kinds need only to be washed, drained and packed in freezer bags or containers. Sugar or syrup pack creates sweetened fruits.
A basic syrup/sugar pack requires dissolving 3 cups sugar in 4 cups water, placing fruit in container and covering with syrup. For a dry sugar pack place 4-6 cups in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 cup sugar; mix and pack. Use ripe, peeled, unblemished fruits such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, pineapple, etc. sliced or cubed.
Many light colored fruits such as apples, peaches, pears, apricots and nectarines will turn brownish when exposed to air. Powdered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) may be found in the canning supplies isle. Add to the syrup (1 teaspoon to 1 quart syrup, or for dry pack use 1/4-teaspoon ascorbic acid mixed with each cup of sugar). An easier preparation is to soak prepared fruit for 1 minute in a mixture of 3 tablespoons lemon juice to 1 gallon cold water.
I have not tried using Splenda in place of sugar. Try a container of fruit sprinkled with the substitute, freeze for a day, thaw on the counter and see what it tastes like. By freezing seasonal fruits at their cheapest prices especially buy one get on free specials can save a bundle. Fruit "candy" such as frozen grapes or blueberries will satisfy your child's sweet tooth in a healthy way.
Frozen, unsweetened apples can be prepared months before the holiday season making them readily available for sweet surprises.
Some foods don't freeze well. Lettuce, raw cabbage, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, any vegetable usually served raw will lose texture and flavor. It's better to freeze these foods after they've been cooked. Mayonnaise and salads prepared with such including dressings don't freeze well. Most vegetables with the exception of onions and peppers need some preparation like steaming or blanching (boiling very briefly) it will stop the production of enzymes that will cause the vegetables to become tough, discolored and flavorless. Sliced, cubed or chopped onions and seeded peppers can be measured into freezer bags with no advanced preparation. Peppers become soft, but in cooking, who cares?
Recently I got a fantastic buy at a local produce stand. Snow peas at $1 a pound. Neglecting to check my files was a mistake since washing, draining and freezing created fare for the trash. Clean and cut up vegetables, depending on size place vegetable, preferably in a metal basket in boiling water from 2-5 minutes.
For steaming place a rack or steaming basket in a kettle containing just enough water to come to the bottom of the rack.
Add vegetables, bring to a boil, cover and steam 2 minutes longer than for blanching. For both methods, cool by plunging vegetable immediately into ice cold water; this will stop the cooking process. Drain, pack and freeze. Now you have access to expensive veggies at sale prices.
Frozen vegetables, especially those frozen right after picking as in store bought, many times have more nutrition than "fresh."
We shop, load up the cart with all those fresh veggies and sometimes refrigerate them for days before using.
Potatoes may be left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large; blanched for 8 minutes, cooled, drained, packed and frozen.
For years I've been freezing mashed potatoes; now suddenly they're everywhere, all done up with butter and cream making them a nightmare on every diet. Buy one get one free is a great time to make and freeze your mashed potatoes. The question for any fruit or veggie, "will it freeze well" is answered by trying one serving. That's how I found out you can't freeze a whole lemon or lime-no juice, just pulp.
Enjoy, until next week.
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