Thursday, September 18, 2008

Food Preservation Series: Freezing

Today we'll be starting a mini series on food preservation. We'll be covering four basic procedures over the next few weeks: freezing, drying, water-bath canning, and pressure-cooker canning. These series are here to give you an overview of the methods that are available.

Preserving produce at the peak of harvest time is a frugal way of storing food. Some argue that it's not cost effective given the amount of time it takes (sheesh, had that argument before here and here) but it's not always about cost effectiveness. Home preserved food just tastes better! But you don't have to preserve your own food to be a good food storage person--no guilt required! We're just here to provide the facts and information.

Freezing bell peppers is one of those methods that IS cost effective. For some reason, bell peppers are ridiculously pricey in my part of the country, and I'm assuming all over as well. I just can't afford to pay $5 for a red bell pepper for a recipe every other week or so. However, I can pay $2 for a pepper plant in April and stick it in my backyard. When the peppers are ripe, I pick them and either use them or freeze them. Takes two seconds. Also, when peppers go on sell at the store for 50 cents a piece, I buy a ton (figuratively) and freeze them so I can have them WHENEVER I want.

So what you need is peppers, freezer bags and a sharp knife.

Make sure you rinse your peppers whether they come from the garden or the store.

The main deal is to get rid of the seeds and get them ready to use. If I was going to use these bad boys for stuffed peppers someday, I'd slice off the tops...

Pull out the seeds and the whiter membrane on the sides.

Until it looks like this more or less!

Now I stick it in a freezer bag and tada! A pepper ready to be stuffed whenever I want it! Stick as many as you can fit in a bag without scrunching them together, you don't want to disturb their shape.

You can also try flash freezing to better preserve the shape. Prepare the peppers then lay them on a tray and stick it in the freezer until frozen, then remove from tray and place in bags. But I can't be bothered with that, 'cause I'm lazy.

I usually don't do the whole peppers, because we rarely have stuffed peppers (re: picky eaters). So I slice mine in half.

Stick your thumb underneath the top knob of seeds/stem thing, (wow, I'm really slaughtering this) and pop it out. Pull out the membranes on the side and shake out the seeds.

If you are feeling confused about how to do this, or if it looks hard, just go watch an episode of 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray one where she uses a pepper. I used to hate cutting peppers until I saw her do one. It takes her thrity seconds or less! Amazing. Isn't it funny how watching someone do something fast, makes it so much easier for you. It's all pschological when it comes to bell peppers.

Now, you can freeze them in halves or stack them and slice them.

Freeze them in strips or....

Chop them up.

It all depends on how you want to use them.

I generally will leave them in halves. Then when a recipe calls for a pepper, I will pull a bag out of my freezer, pull out the number of peppers I need, judging by how many halves there are, let them sit on the counter to defrost for a few minutes then slice/chop them up to whatever I need.

Make sure your bags are freezer bags. You don't want the peppers getting freezer burn.

That's all the stuff you DON'T want in your freezer.

Make sure you label your bags. You'll probably be able to tell what it is, but you'll want to double check the date. Although I have yet to have a pepper go bad in the freezer. I'll let you know when it does and how long it lasted.

You can do this with a variety of foods: strawberries and other berries, tomatoes and peaches (although they require a little sprinkling of a fruit fresh product). The possibilities are endless, depending on your freezer space!


Ann Marie said...

I have loads of peppers, and had no idea that they could be frozen! Great post! I am exited now!!

Jessica Marie said...

Thank you for the post!

Cecilia said...

what is the product you need to sprinkle on peaches, strawberries and tomatoes to be able to freeze them?
I froze a bunch of sliced peaches a couple of weeks ago, but once they thaw they lose their shape and don't look very good. I'm hoping I can find a way to avoid that next time.Thanks.

Abs said...

It's actually called "Fruit Fresh." It comes in a little bottle, like a spice bottle, and you can find it in the canning section of the grocery store.

Cecilia said...

Thank you!