Freezing is a great way to preserve many of your whole foods. The extreme cold simply retards growth of microorganisms and slows down changes that affect quality or cause you foods to spoil. Not all containers are suitable for freezing. I use plastic Ziploc bags made specifically for freezing. You can also use glass canning jars, but I'm too clumsy for that! If you decide to use the jars, remember wide-mouthes jars are easier to remove your foods than regular-mouth jars.
Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short period of time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. Blanching slows or stops the action of enzymes that can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and bacteria, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. Blanching also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.
Blanching time is really important and can vary with each type of vegetable. Blanching is NOT necessary for fruits. Overblanching vegetables causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals. I've included a list of vegetables below, how to prepare them for freezing & their blanching times.
I hate when my vegetables or fruit are frozen in one hard block. So "tray packing" for veggies & fruit is my favorite method. Tray Packing starts by placing chilled, well-drained vegetables in a single layer on baking sheets. Then place in freezer until firm, remove and quickly fill bags or containers. Close and freeze immediately. Tray-packed foods do not freeze in a block, but remain loose, so the amount needed can be poured from the container and the package reclosed. (Just like at the supermarket)
How long can I keep these in the Freezer? Most vegetables maintain high quality for 8 to 12 months at 0°F or lower. Longer storage will not make food unfit for use, but may impair quality. Frozen vegetables should be cooked without thawing. Like I said before, I post a list of the frozen vegetables, fruits, meats, meals & breads near the freezer and check off packages as they are used.
It's not that labor intensive & you can SAVE big this week on your produce by running over to Kroger and stocking up your freezers! :)