Monday, 14 November 2016

What produce to freeze and what not

Frozen strawberries: superb in porridge
We only have very limited freezer space. Maybe in the long run we'll invest in an energy-efficient chest freezer, but in the meantime we're making do with three drawers. So we have to choose carefully what to put in. We also need to keep a bit of space aside for meat. After freezing almost every kind of veg in the first year, we've realised that some veg are not so nice after a freeze thaw (the texture is odd with a lot of them) and therefore should be preserved in other ways.

It should go without saying that all frozen fruit and veg are for further processing. They are not for defrosting and eating raw in salads. Most of them are best cooked straight from frozen, especially chips, which have to be cooked from frozen - otherwise you end up with a disgusting mush.

Our current favourites for freezing are:
  • Berries
  • Vegetables that don't need blanching such as tomatoes and chillies
  • Peas and podded beans
  • Blanched broccoli and cauliflower
  • Herbs
  • Par-fried chips
Probably one drawer is full of berries and another of tomatoes. I always hull strawberries and remove any greenery from other berries and the tomatoes so that everything is ready to go when it comes out of the freezer.

This week's candidates for tomato sauce
It's so very easy to shove any excess toms into a freezer bag or plastic container and then turn them into sauce later in the season. At the moment I'm taking out one or two litres of tomatoes a week to make that week's tomato sauce: I simply pour lukewarm water over them, skin them if desired (the skin just peels off), cut them into quarters and put them into the Rayburn in a cast-iron casserole dish for three hours. Then season and a quick puree with the blender - presto.

Cheyenne and Cayenne
Our year's supply of chillies takes up very little space in the freezer.
I add them to small plastic containers as they reach their desired colour. Then I just use one at a time, straight from frozen.

Another item that uses little space is herbs. I only bother with two of them: coriander and parsley. They can be frozen as they come, no need to use ice cube trays or suspend in oil.

Coriander stocks
Peas are well known for being good straight from frozen. Brassicas such as cauliflower and broccoli are not bad either. A quick 2-minute blanch is all they need. Podded beans can be frozen without blanching but will need to be soaked overnight before use, as you would do with dried beans. Ideally, I'd like to dry the beans on the plant, but it's a challenge in this climate!

In March I start to convert some of potatoes into frozen chips to bridge the gap in May and June when the old potatoes have run out or are getting a bit past it and the early potatoes aren't ready yet. You can just blanch the chips and then freeze. However, they tend to develop an oxidised edge, which doesn't look terribly appetising even if it doesn't affect the flavour. Par-frying avoids this.

Most other things I would now only freeze as part of a cooked dish, as a ready meal. Courgettes, especially, take on an odd rubbery texture when cooked from frozen. The same goes, to a slightly lesser extent, for green beans.

No need to freeze veg like chard that can
be left in the ground over winter.
Many other fruit and veg are best preserved in other ways. Here, where the ground doesn't freeze, we can leave a lot of vegetables in the ground over the winter: Jerusalem artichokes, chard, parsnips, swedes, kale, Brussels sprouts, leeks, celeriacs, winter cabbage and purple-sprouting broccoli. Obviously that is the easiest solution!

Potatoes, onions and garlic are stored in sheds. Pumpkins and squashes are stored at room temperature in the kitchen and lounge, as they're also quite decorative. Apples are mainly dried as rings, which can be munched as a snack or rehydrated for baking or cooking. All other vegetables (carrots, courgettes, beetroot etc.) have been chopped into chutneys and pickles. Any remaining are used fresh and then we bid them farewell till next summer.

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