Freezing summer

>> Saturday, September 12, 2009

Summer is way too short in my neck of the woods. Though winter is still a little ways off, the trees are already starting to change color, and we've had a few frosts already. I've been wiling away my time trying to preserve a little of the summer goodness that we have been enjoying by freezing just a few of our favorite summer foods.

Freezing foods can be time consuming, but the results are so worth it. There's nothing better than pulling out a bag of properly frozen peaches in the dead of winter to enjoy in a recipe or just eat straight. It's a little bit of summer in the dead of winter. I don't freeze all of the summer goodies that come our way for various reasons - I don't like the end result of frozen green beans, for example - but there are a few that I find well worth freezing. So...I'm going to lay out a little primer of what I do with these favorites - corn, raspberries, peaches, and sweet potatoes (not really a summer food, but I happened to have a ton of sweet potatoes at my disposal this summer).

Corn Corn is so easy to freeze. This year I bought 3 dozen ears of really good, sweet, fresh corn from my local vegetable stand to freeze for winter. It's easy to properly freeze corn. Simply shuck and silk the corn, and then boil the corn (blanch it) for a few minutes (I did them in 3 min batches this year). After boiling, quickly cool in a bucket of ice water. Then cut the kernels off of the corn. Be sure to scrape your knife across the cob after cutting the kernels to get all of the leftover milk and juicy bits! Put in a bag, and freeze. Easy-peasy.

The resulting corn is quite a bit different than the corn you will find in the freezer section of your grocery store. It seems in texture more like a creamed corn (without all of the added sugar, though). When I'm ready to use my frozen corn, I just stick it in a pan with just a little bit of water and add salt and onion powder (my own thing - you can always leave that out) to taste. YUM!Raspberries This is my first year to freeze raspberries. We were fortunate to inherit a big bunch of raspberry canes when we bought our house. The raspberries from our canes are impossibly tender - definitely not like the raspberries you find in the grocery store - and so sweet and juicy. Usually we just eat them out of hand as we pick them, but we always have more than we can eat, so this year I decided to freeze the extra raspberries.

To freeze the raspberries, I simply laid the washed and dried raspberries in a single layer on a baking sheet and put in the freezer. Once the berries were frozen, I transferred them to a ziploc bag and back into the freezer. This winter I'll pull them out to use in pies, put into yogurt and smoothies, or maybe make these divine looking dark chocolate raspberry bars from Fake Food Free.

Peaches This is my second year to freeze peaches. I was so happy with the results of last year's frozen peaches. Such a treat in the middle of winter! It's a little time consuming, but I promise well worth the effort. I froze my peaches three ways this year. First, last year I made these frozen peach crisps in a jar from Eating Well Anywhere. Delicious! Well worth making.

Second, I used Alton Brown's method of freezing peaches. This method works well. The peaches retain their color and flavor and much of their texture all through the winter in the sugar/vitamin C solution. I should note, however, that I left out the Hungarian paprika his recipe calls for. I just want my peaches plain. Last year I used Fruit Fresh instead of crushed vitamin C (which is essentially what Fruit Fresh is), and the results were equally satisfying. I'll pop open a bag of these peaches in the middle of winter to make some peach bread, some peach BBQ sauce, or whatever peachy dish tickles my fancy.

Last, I froze my peaches whole. Kitchen Scoop peaked my interest with this article about freezing whole peaches. I did things just slightly different, though. I cut my peaches in half to remove the pit, but left the peel on. I'm really curious how these peaches will turn out. This is by far the easiest way to freeze peaches, but I'm a bit worried that they will be a mushy mess - that without the sugar pack they'll lose their texture - when they thaw. But, even peaches that are a mushy mess will be delish in a smoothie! I'll let you know next Spring what I think of this freezing method.
Sweet Potatoes Ah, sweet potatoes! A favorite among the adults around here. I was fortunate enough to be gifted two boxes of sweet potatoes this summer - that's 80 lbs of delicious orange tubers! Sweet potatoes keep in a cool, dry place for a long time, so we used them fresh as long as we could (my kids groaned when they saw sweet potato fries coming their way by the end of the summer), and then I got busy freezing.

I froze my sweet potatoes two ways. First, I froze them as a puree. I like to keep sweet potato puree on hand to throw into my dishes. It's great mixed into taco meat, spaghetti (adds a little natural sweetness), pizza sauce, soups...anything I can think to throw it in. This is a great way to get a little extra goodness into picky kids (as long as you also offer the unhidden deal often to give their taste buds a chance to accept the whole vegetable or whatever you're hiding), and my husband and I have found that we actually like the taste of the foods that we add sweet potato puree better. The puree doesn't add an overwhelming sweet potato taste to most dishes, just a little sweetness.

To make the puree, I roast my sweet potatoes for an hour at 425 F. You could also boil, steam, or microwave the potatoes. Once they're cool enough to handle, I remove the peel and put the sweet potatoes (cut into large chunks) in my food processor. Process until a nice, smooth puree. I like to then freeze my puree in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I can put the cubes in a ziploc bag, stick them back into the freezer, and have nice cubes of pureed sweet potato ready to use when I need it.

The second way I froze sweet potatoes this year was whole. I took my roasted sweet potatoes, wrapped them in aluminum foil, and put them in the freezer. I've never done this before, but I think that it will turn out ok, and it's a great way to bulk freeze sweet potatoes. How will I use these? We'll see! It depends on what the texture is like. I hope that the texture holds up enough that I can use these to make sweet potato hash or other dishes with cubes of cooked sweet potatoes. If not, they'll always be good eaten as a plain old baked sweet potato!

There you have it. Maybe next year I'll add more to my repertoire, but this little bit makes me happy for now!

Do you preserve summer's bounty? Tell me what you do in the comments!


coleen~ September 18, 2009 at 11:22 AM  

For corn, I normally buy a dozen at a time (there are just 2 of us) we'll grill it all and what is leftover, I will cut off and freeze. It takes barely any time and before you know it, the freezer shelf is full of corn!

Thanks for the other great ideas!

Natalie September 21, 2009 at 5:36 AM  

This post reminds me that I really need to get a deep freezer this week. My freezer is full already of corn, frozen tomoato sauce and more. But, it's really not nearly enough.

Anyway, do you have an immersion hand blender? I just moved back from Portugal and they use them all the time. It's easier and less messy to puree soup and all kinds of veggies - even your sweet potatoes. Just a suggestion.

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