Tips for freezing summer produce

STORAGE TIMES

Longer storage of fruits and vegetables than those recommended will not make the food unsafe for use but will decrease its quality.

Fruits: Most frozen fruits maintain high quality for eight to 12 months. Unsweetened fruits lose quality faster than fruits packed in sugar or syrups.

Vegetables: Most vegetables will maintain high quality for 12 to 18 months at 0 °F or lower. However, it is a good idea to use your home-frozen vegetables before the next year’s crop is ready for freezing.

FREEZER CONTAINERS

Use quality freezer containers that are both moisture– and vapor–proof so moisture can be kept in the product and air kept away from it.

Heavy–weight aluminum foil, plastic-coated freezer paper and saran are effective at excluding oxygen. Seal these only with tape that is designed for the freezer because other household tapes lose adhesive in the freezer. Wraps are not as convenient for fruits and vegetables as plastic bags or rigid freezer containers.

Plastic film bags: These seal with twist–and–tie tops. Collapsible cardboard freezer boxes are frequently used as an outer covering for plastic bags.

Freeze–and–cook bags: These bags withstand temperatures from below zero degrees to above the boiling point and are suitable for freezing and cooking the product. They come in pint and quart sizes and also as large rolls of plastic. A heat sealer is necessary for closing these bags. These products are more expensive but convenient since you can cook in them.

TEMPERATURE

To maintain top quality, frozen fruits and vegetables should be stored at zero degrees or lower. Higher temperatures increase the rate at which deterioration can take place and can shorten the shelf life of frozen foods. Do not attempt to save energy by raising the temperature. Changing temperatures can cause the migration of water vapors from the product to the surface of the container.