Follow these steps for perfectly frozen fruits and vegetables.
1. Select only the best-quality fruits and vegetables that are at their peak of maturity. Fruits should be firm yet ripe. Vegetables should be young, tender, unwilted, and garden-fresh. Hold produce in the refrigerator if it can't be frozen immediately. Rinse and drain small quantities through several changes of cold water. Lift fruits and vegetables out of the water; do not let them soak. Prepare cleaned produce as specified in the charts.
2a. Blanch vegetables (and fruits when directed) by scalding them in boiling water for a short time. This stops or slows the enzymes that cause loss of flavor, color, and tenderness. Blanching in the microwave is not recommended because some enzymes may not be activated. Timings vary according to vegetable type and size.
2b. Blanching is a heat-and-cool process. Fill a large pot with water using 1 gallon of water per pound of prepared vegetables. Heat to boiling.
2c. Add prepared food to the boiling water (or place in a wire basket and lower into the water); cover. Start timing immediately. Cook over high heat for the time specified in the charts. (Add 1 minute if you live 5,000 feet above sea level or higher.)
2d. Near the end of the time, fill your sink or a large container with ice water. As soon as the blanching time is complete, use a slotted spoon to transfer the food from the boiling water to a colander (or lift the basket out of the water). Immediately plunge the food into the ice water. Chill food for the same amount of time it was boiled; drain well.
3. Package the cooled, drained food into freezer containers, leaving the specified headspace.
Fruits often are frozen with added sugar or liquid for better texture and flavor. Refer to the directions in the chart.
Unsweetened or dry pack: Add no sugar or liquid to the fruit; simply pack in a container. This works well for small whole fruits, such as berries.
Water pack: Cover the fruit with water. Do not use glass jars. Maintain the recommended headspace. Unsweetened fruit juice also can be used.
Sugar pack: Place a small amount of fruit in the container and sprinkle lightly with sugar; repeat layering. Cover and let stand about 15 minutes or until juicy; seal.
Syrup pack: Cover fruit with a syrup of sugar and water (see "Syrup for Fruit").
4. Wipe container rims. Seal according to the manufacturer's directions, pressing out as much air as possible. If necessary, use freezer tape around the edges of the lids to ensure a tight seal.
5. Label each container with its contents, the amount, and the date.
6. Add packages to the freezer in batches to make sure that the food freezes quickly and solidly. Leave some space between the packages so air can circulate around them. When frozen solid, the packages can be placed closer together.
7. Use frozen fruits and vegetables within 8 to 10 months. Post an inventory sheet near the freezer. When adding food to the freezer, write down the date, type of food, and number of packages. Cross off items as you remove them. Vegetables are best cooked from a frozen state, without thawing them first. Thaw fruits in their containers either in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cool water.
Letting your freezer in an organized way will maintain the quality of your food and put meals close at hand. Here's the best way to arrange and pack foods in the freezer. It's essential to pack your food properly before you put it in the freezer. Match the food with the right size freezer container so there's no waste to the air space. And you stack little storage containers so they fit neatly inside the freezer and with small freezers, double check that your containers will fit. Some pizza boxes and containers are too big. Freezer-safe containers and glass jars should be packed within 1/2 inch of the rim to allow for expansion when frozen. Freezer bags should be packed in the [unk]. Squeeze the air out before sealing them to prevent freezer burn. Let hot food cool before sealing the back and stashing it in the freezer. If you pack liquids like soups or stews in a freezer bag place them first by placing them on the cookie sheet. Then stand the flat bags up right in the freezer so they take up less room. Use freezer labels to know the date and contents of every bag and container. Put the label on a spot that will face towards the door when the container is in the freezer. Once the food is packaged, you're ready to load everything into the freezer. Sort items by, storing meat in one area, fruit in another, pasta in another and so on. Keep foods away from the vent in the back wall that will let cold area circulate more freely. Place the freshest food in the back and the older food toward the front that way use the items that have been frozen longest first. The freezer door doesn't get as cold as the interior so save this space for items you'll use up quickly like ice cream, coffee beans and cans of juice concentrate. You can also put cold packs here or anything unlikely to go rancid. Freezers perform best when they are tightly packed. Fill extra room with bags of ice, bottled water or with ice packs for coolers and lunch bags. These items will cut down on a freezer's energy use and they also keep food cool in case of a power failure.