One of the best things about summer is all the fresh fruits and veggies that are in abundance. Whether you grow them yourself in your backyard garden, or support your local farmers by purchasing them from your community farmers market, it’s always the best time of year to get a large variety of fruits and vegetables.
I know my kids and I are always stuffing our faces full of delicious seasonal fruits, berries and corn on the cob, and my hubby is the best at whipping up a unique twist on fresh salads.
Before long it seems like the season is over and we’re back to eating store bought produce. A great way to enjoy farm fresh fruits and veggies longer is to freeze them and store them in a large freezer. Read on to see why you need a large freezer, and get my top 10 tips for preserving and getting the most out of your fruits and veggies throughout the year.
Why you need a large freezer
I know I personally need a large freezer because I never seem to have enough room in my fridge freezer. Fridge freezers are great to store foods that you eat on a daily basis such as frozen meals, meats, breads and of course popsicles and ice cream during the summer months. In fact, I currently have one freezer drawer designated to popsicles and freezies, but when it comes to storing frozen foods that I want to use throughout the year, I just don’t have enough room. This is where having a large freezer will come in handy.
Large freezers are also great for storing pre-made meals. If you have a very busy schedule with kids, jobs and extra curricular activities, it can be difficult to ensure you’re getting a healthy meal every day. Once a week batch cooking is a great way to prepare and store your meals for the week, and will help you avoid having to hit the drive-thru too often.
Growing up we always had a chest freezer like this Insignia 7.0 Cu. Ft. Chest Freezer. This freezer is large enough to store plenty of fruits and veggies from your summer harvest and has a convenient wire storage basket for those items you want readily accessible. I remember it being full of frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries that us kids would regularly take a bowlful out for our after dinner ice cream.
An alternate to the chest style freezer is an upright freezer like this Insignia 5.8 Cu. Ft. Upright Freezer. The benefit of the upright freezer it that it has built-in shelves to store your summer harvest, and you can organize your freezer into food groups if you like. Berries on one shelf, veggies on another, meats on another, etc.
10 tips to get the most out of your harvest
1. Know which fruits and veggies like to be frozen whole and which ones like to be cut up. Preparing them the correct way will make them easier to use and prepare in your meal.
2. Check to see if the veggies you want to freeze need to be blanched first. This is simply giving them a quick cook in boiling water then immediately dunking them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
3. Be prepared with all your harvest storage needs. Freezing your harvest requires very little equipment. All you will really require is the packaging you are going to store your fruits and veggies in such as freezer bags or plastic containers, a cookie or flat baking sheet, a pot and possibly a few ingredients like lemons, sugar and water. Most of these items are probably already in your cupboards at home, so no special shopping trips needed.
4. As we all know, many fruits and veggies like to turn brown once you cut them up. To avoid this you can give them a sprinkle with lemon water.
5. Freeze your fruits and veggies in a single layer before bagging them for long term storage. To do this simply lay them flat, a cookie sheet is great for this, and put them in the freezer until they are frozen. Once they are frozen you can move them over to a freezer bag and store them in your large freezer for future use. Freezing them first on a cookie sheet stops them from turning into one large clump of fruit or veggies.
6. Freeze your fruits pre-made into fruit pie filling or individual smoothie packs. This makes smoothie and homemade pie making a breeze.
7. Label your harvest. Simply write on your freezer bags or containers with a black marker, include the date of freezing and what’s inside.
8. Make sure to squeeze out any extra air pockets from your freezer bags before sealing them to maintain your frozen fruits and veggies freshness for a longer period of time.
9. Pack your harvest in the freezer with the newest frozen fruits and veggies on the bottom. This way you’ll ensure to eat the oldest ones first and not risk wasting a bag that got stuck at the bottom of the freezer and is past it’s best before date.
10. Speaking of best before dates, your frozen fruits should last the year through to the next season, and your veggies should last longer, closer to 18 months.
With these tips you’re pretty much ready to start freezing and packaging your extra fruits and veggies from your summer harvest. I try to freeze as much fresh produce as I can through the season. This helps me avoid a lot of bland produce eating throughout the rest of the year. Fruits and veggies really taste so much better when they are in season.
If you were to ask my family, they would probably tell you the best thing about freezing fresh berries over the summer months is being able to request a delicious homemade pie for dessert all year long.
Check out bestbuy.ca for a variety of large freezers and all your harvest storage needs.
Main image @www.byrneshec.org
Fruit image @www.unconventionalkitchen.com