Congratulations! Last summer, you filled your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables from your garden. Now you’re ready to enjoy homegrown produce throughout the cold months. We have a few things we’d like you to keep in mind as you begin to cook with your stash of frozen goodies.
Using Frozen Vegetables
Frozen isn’t fresh
As much as we would all love to defrost a frozen tomato, slice it for a salad and savor that unique taste of summer, it’s never a good idea to use frozen vegetables the way we use fresh ones. The process of freezing expands the water that makes up the bulk of all vegetables. This stretches their skin and leaves them with a mushy texture when thawed out. This matters much less when you use your vegetables in hearty winter soups and stews, and even less than that when the final result is pureed (get that frozen tomato out of the salad and use it in this tomato soup instead). You can use your frozen vegetables in place of fresh ones in any soup or stew recipe.
If it’s not going in the soup pot, defrost and drain before cooking.
You can use frozen vegetables in stir-fries, casseroles and rice dishes, as pizza toppings, or even simply sautéed. But you do need to be mindful of the water these veggies will release while cooking, potentially making your dish soggy. Defrost the vegetables you want to use this way in a colander, so they drain and dry. Use paper towel, if necessary, to soak up excess moisture. Refrain from defrosting or cooking in a microwave before adding them to another dish as this will lead to overcooking the vegetables.
Freezing isn’t forever
Frozen vegetables are safe for eating for a year or more after freezing, but that doesn’t mean they’ll still taste good after all that time. The enzymes that lead vegetables to break down and lose their flavor are slowed but not stopped by freezing. Try to use most of your preserved produce within eight months of putting it up.
Using Frozen Fruit
Frozen isn’t fresh
Like vegetables, and for the same reasons, frozen fruits will not keep their just-picked crispness or texture. Like vegetables, they will do well in more soupy mixtures, such as compotes or pie fillings. They’re also good for use in baked goods such as muffins and cakes, or toss some in your pancake mix. Frozen fruits can also be used to make the jams and jellies you didn’t have time to put up during the hectic harvest season.
Cooking isn’t always necessary
Unlike vegetables, a jar of blueberries or a bag of peach slices left to defrost in the refrigerator is the perfect topping for a bowl of cereal or ice cream.
Sometimes defrosting isn’t even necessary
Frozen fruits are the secret to icy and delicious smoothies (like this strawberry smoothie). Or simply take a cup of frozen fruit straight from the freezer and plop it into your usual morning concoction. You’ll end up with a cool treat as scrumptious as ice cream and as nutritious as homegrown fruit salad.
Every home cook should make sure they dedicate ample freezer space to freeze fresh fruits and vegetables. And every gardener should make preserving homegrown produce part of the yearly garden planning.