Time to freeze your favorite summer foods

Consumer Reports News: September 26, 2009 10:11 AM

The beginning of autumn unfortunately means the end of fresh summer fruits and vegetables. And while there are some amazing foods in season in the fall—more on that in future weekend posts—for me they don’t compare to the perfect peaches, plumbs, berries, corn, tomatoes, watermelons and other foods emblematic of summer. You can’t get those foods as fresh year round, but you can keep their flavors on hand by freezing them if you do it right.

Here are some tips from our experts on how to avoid freezer burn, ice crystals, food-borne illnesses and other problems:

Freeze quickly. Rapid freezing prevents ice crystals from forming. Use a thermometer to set your freezer’s temperature to minus 10° F or lower about a day ahead of filling it up. Once it’s frozen, it should be kept at 0° F or lower.

Don’t overload. Freeze no more than 2 to 3 pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer at a time. That’s because that’s usually about all that will actually freeze within 24 hours. Add more than that and you could slow down the freezing time and lose flavor.

Freeze in stages. Don’t stack a bunch of unfrozen foods in your freezer all at once. Spread them out. See that unfrozen packages come in contact with the surface of the coldest part of the freezer, and leave some space between them so the cold air can circulate. Once the food is fully frozen, stack away.

Keep air and moisture out. Make sure you have a tight seal on the foods you want to freeze to keep air moisture and other spoilers out. If you use foil, or laminated freezer paper, tape it shut with freezer tape. For plastic freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible before you zip it up.

Double bag. For extra freezer burn protection, double wrap or bag your foods.

Thaw right. When you’re ready to eat what you’ve stashed for the winter, the most important thing is to thaw it correctly. To reduce your risk of food-borne illnesses, thaw your food in the fridge at 40° F or less, or in cold running water. If your food is going to be cooked or served immediately, you can use the microwave. Don’t let it thaw on the counter.

—Kevin McCarthy, associate editor

For more, see our latest freezer report and Ratings  (available to subscribers).


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