There’s nothing like a fresh, in-season ingredient, but sometimes you need to freeze your ingredients to enjoy the taste of summer for longer. But, what should you freeze and how? We’ve put together some information that you should keep on your fridge door.
It goes without saying, everything is better when it’s in season. It’s even better if you live in a place where a wide variety of delicious ingredients grow. But there are some summer ingredients that we want to eat all year round. Instead of eating tasteless alternatives like greenhouse crops or canned food, you can save the tomatoes, aubergines and green vegetables you bought when in season and freeze them. Freeze the summer just like Han Solo in Star Wars!
I recently brought rhubarb all the way from Copenhagen to Istanbul. Rhubarb is a juicy, sour vegetable, ranging in colour from pink to auburn and is sold as long stalks. You can’t find it in Turkey but because its closest relative, the Syrian rhubarb, does not have the same flavour, it’s worth the trouble. Due to its tartness, rhubarb pairs well with desserts and jams. I tossed it into my bag to use it in pies but I froze it because I was not going to use it straight away. What a mistake! A few weeks later, I woke up thinking about a delicious rhubarb pie I wanted to make. I took the frozen rhubarb out of the freezer and left it to defrost. Two hours later, what I had was something so soft and mushy it was completely unfit for making a pie. The best I could have done with it was prepare a soup. The end result was not that bad but I couldn’t stop myself from researching how to properly freeze rhubarb. The secret is to chop it up and freeze it on a tray. This way, the rhubarb maintains its form and doesn’t absorb water. I learned my lesson.
There are some things to pay attention to when freezing vegetables and fruits. First, the ingredients must be as fresh as possible and you shouldn’t wait too long to freeze them after you buy them. Freezing changes the texture of the fruit or vegetable. It will not be as crisp as when it is fresh but you can still use it for cooking. After washing, you have to drain and dry it thoroughly using a towel or salad spinner. If you don’t, the water that’s left on the fruit or vegetable will form ice crystals.
If you are freezing it in a container, another tip is to leave some space. This is because the fruit or vegetable will expand during freezing and may damage the container. As the goal is to freeze it as quickly as possible, take care not to overfill your freezer. Leave some space between the ingredients to allow air to circulate. After your fruits or vegetables are frozen, they can be stored in a deep-freeze for 14 months and in a normal freezer for 9 months. You can still eat them after this, but the flavour may be different.
Some vegetables need to be blanched before freezing, which means boiling the vegetables for 2-3 minutes before shocking them in cold water. These vegetables include spinach, okra and asparagus. Blanching ensures that the enzymes which cause the vegetables to break down are stopped, even in the freezer, whilst preserving the colour, texture, taste and nutritional value of the vegetables. Take care not to overfill the pot when you are blanching the vegetables. If it takes more than 1 minute for the water to boil after you’ve added the vegetable, it means you’ve overfilled it. Don’t forget to save the water and use it in soups or vegetable juices. It’s not easy to keep enough ice on hand for the ice bath, so you could use ice packs instead.
The vegetable we miss the most in winter is the tomato. We can always make tomato sauce from the best tomatoes we find at the end of summer or even make tomato paste, but freezing is another option. Score the top of the tomato and boil it whole for 1-2 minutes. Then, leave to cool and peel off the skin. You can freeze it whole on a tray or in a container.
Due to their high water content, aubergines are not suitable for freezing raw. Slice them into circles or strips and bake them for 15-20 minutes. After they cool down, place them on non-stick parchment paper and freeze. If you are going to puree your aubergines at a later date, you can grill them whole or bake and mash them before freezing.
The best way to freeze fresh summer peppers is to slice them into strips and lay them on a tray.
There are two different opinions on beans. The vast majority believes that they should be blanched before freezing, but some argue that they should be frozen as they are. We prefer the second, more practical method.
The best way to freeze green vegetables like purslane or lamb’s ear is to cook and puree them. If you try to freeze them as they are, the result will be a dark green, tasteless lump.
You can freeze some relatively hardy herbs such as rosemary, thyme and bay leaves, without processing. For more delicate herbs like mint and basil, pluck the leaves, place them in ice trays and cover them with water. Once frozen, you can store your fresh herb ice cubes in a container.
There are several ways to store summer fruits for the winter. Drying or dehydrating them is the most common method but freezing them is also a very simple technique. Mountain fruits, such as berries, can be frozen as they are but some fruits should be pitted and placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet before freezing.
Try not to place the fruits on top of each other. They may take 4-6 hours or overnight to freeze but remember to transfer them to a container as soon as they are frozen to avoid freezer burn. You can freeze fruits such as peaches and figs in water or sugar syrup. Fruits can last for at least 3 months in the freezer.