What freezing fresh food taught me—that you need to know



Sometime in January, I dove into my freezer to see what there was I could add to dinner. I grabbed a bag of corn that I’d cooked when it was at its peak the previous August. When I served it with a little salt and butter I was astonished at how tender and how incredibly sweet it was. It didn’t compare to any of the commercial corn I’ve purchased either frozen or canned—they had nothing in common. The flavor of my frozen fresh corn was spectacular.

I’ve known and written about the importance of preserving fresh herbs. That intense aroma signals what makes our food taste so good and well worth the amount of time it takes to preserve those herbs at their height of freshness (very little).

That mouthful of corn that surprised my tastebuds was an important lesson. One that has me tasting everything I eat with a new question: how can I preserve this flavor to enjoy all year long?

The first thing to do is consider what foods are currently in season. Those are the foods you want to preserve.

Strawberries are at their peak right now. I really like strawberry preserve but I don’t like it when it is very sweet so preserving it myself allows me to determine the amount of sugar I put in. It also enables me to add other fruits, flavors, or spices that I may like.

I have never been a big fan of canning. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great way to preserve food, but it just isn’t my favorite way to do it. Instead, I like freezing foods so I look for easy ways to do that.

Making freezer jams is easy and works really well. One of the advantages is that you can make small quantities.

Freezer jams can be made with fruits that are fresh or pre-frozen. The advantage is that if you do not have time to make the jam when the fruit is at its peak you can freeze your fruits in bulk and process them later.


Freezer Strawberry Jam

Prep time: 10 minutes Total-time: 40 minutes Quantity: about 3 containers Ingredients 3 pints fresh strawberries (7 cups of whole strawberries or 5 ¼ cups of sliced strawberries). 1 ½ cups to 2 cups sugar 1 to 2 teaspoons of lemon juice Optional: lemon zest from 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Clean, core, and chop your strawberries. They do not need to be small as they will break up as they cook.

  2. Place the cut-up strawberries in a pot with 1 ½ cups sugar.

  3. Add the lemon juice

  4. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to medium, and continue to cook until the jam starts to thicken.

Make sure to stir the mixture so the fruit does not stick to the bottom and burn. Cook about 10 to 15 minutes

  1. If the strawberries are still large you can break them up with either a potato masher or a fork.

  2. If you think the jam needs more sugar, add another ½ cup of sugar. Keep in mind that when the jam thickens and cools it will taste sweeter.

  3. Continue to cook the jam at a slow boil, letting the moisture evaporate so the jam will thicken. I find that it needs to keep cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes.

  4. Let the jam cool.

  5. When the jam is cold, spoon it into containers: glass, plastic, or freezer bags. Make certain they are very clean, just out of the dishwasher or rinsed in very hot water.

  6. Fill your containers leaving about ½ inch of room at the top for them to expand in the freezer.

  7. If you use freezer bags, remove as much of the air as possible, also leaving ½ inch from the top.

  8. Label everything with what it contains and the date and freeze.

The jam will last up to a year frozen, or 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

This method works perfectly for other fruits, such as apricots, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, rhubarb, melon, peaches, plums, apples, and pears.

As the season progresses, I will keep experimenting with the best ways to process the fruits and vegetables that are at their peak and let you know what works best.

My goal is to find ways of preserving all the fresh foods and flavors that are abundant during the growing season so we can continue to enjoy them during those months when they are no longer available.

Bon Appétit

 


This post was created prior to our site upgrade. Comments at the time of our upgrade included:


Arlene Vaquer April 08, 2022

As a very messy baker and cook, I took your advice to prepare and measure in advance. And it really worked for the meals I made this past week. Thank you! —Arlene

 


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