Safe Food Storage for Fruits and Vegetables
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Freezing preserves fruits and vegetables, and their fabulous freshness, flavor, texture and nutrients, by slowing down enzyme activity and growth of microorganisms via extreme cold set at zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Fruits and herbs are ideal to freeze as are many vegetables. Young, tender vegetables are best for freezing. (Vegetables that are mature or slightly past mature are better suited to canning.) Fruits can be frozen using the “flash-freeze” method, or by packing them in syrup (wet pack). To flash-freeze, place washed and drained fruit in a single layer on trays lined with wax paper and freeze until fruit is firm. (Chop or slice large fruit such as apples; leave berries and other small fruits whole.) Flash-frozen fruit stored in airtight freezer containers or snap-and-seal type freezer bags makes it easy to pour out the exact amount needed for blueberry muffins or apple pie.
When cutting certain fruits, such as peaches, apples and pears, you’ll need to coat them with lemon juice, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) or honey prior to freezing to keep them from turning brown. Either mix it with the prepared fruit and syrup for the wet pack method, or mix with water and dip fruit prior to flash-freezing.
Many vegetables and herbs (including whole corn kernels) can be frozen for up to four weeks by “flash-freezing” or popping them directly into a freezer-safe container or bag. However, if you plan to store food for longer than four weeks in the freezer, most veggies will need to be blanched first.
Blanching involves heating food for several minutes in boiling water to inactivate enzymes and prevent the breakdown in the texture, flavor and color of vegetables.
Green onions, tomatoes, hot peppers, most herbs and sweet peppers cut into strips or chunks are the exception to the blanching rule and will freeze well without it. The key to blanching is to process veggies in small batches, then immediately cool the blanched batch in ice water to stop the cooking process.
Drying is easy
You can dry foods in several ways: Sun drying, oven drying and using a food dehydrator. Regardless of the drying method, the process is basically the same – warm air temperatures evaporate the moisture in foods. Remove the moisture and you remove the potential for spoilage. The key is to keep the surrounding temperature between 95 and 140 degrees. Foods dried at lower temperatures are subject to spoilage; higher temperatures will cook foods rather than dry them. Adequate air circulation and less than 60 percent relative humidity are also essential to successful drying.