Monday, November 10, 2014

Freezing Produce #1: pumpkin & green beans

While I am doing childcare and on the USDA food program (monthly 'reimbursement' check for feeding balanced meals by their guidelines & turning in completed paperwork) I have to freeze to preserve anything I plan to feed the children later.  No Home Canned items --boo! as I have more cupboard space than freezer space but I do what I can.

This year, I have frozen produce such as; pumpkin, green beans, zucchini, stewed tomatoes, bananas, pear butter, & applesauce.

The pumpkins, I bought at the farmer's market & Iowa Food Coop. The bigger ones from the market, I cut in half, put on a baking sheet with sides & about a cup of water & baked at 300 for a few hours, until the rind was fork tender. The smaller ones I baked whole at the same temp for about an hour until they were fork tender.  Then I pull it out & let it cool until I can safely handle it.  Then, I use a spoon & scrap the seeds & strings out to put in the compost bin or trash, then I scrape the 'meat' of the potato from the rind & freeze it in 2 cup portions. 2 cups because that's how I use it in recipes.  Currently, I am freezing those portions in jars because, even though jars take up much more freezer space, a)that's what I always have on hand and b)there is no waste. With a baggie, which is much more space friendly, I not only toss the baggie, but inevitably some pumpkin sticks to it as well.  After I have marked them with the measurement, ingredient & date on a piece of scotch tape right on the side of the jar, I then prefer to chill them in their jars in the fridge overnight to help ward off any freezer crystals that tend to form when things are put in the freezer too warm.  I will pull these portions out periodically for muffins, bars or combine with chocolate chips for a yummy bread. Oh, I have pureed it before freezing & after, it didn't seem to matter on texture so this year, I plan puree it as I use it. FYI: Pumpkin puree is great for pups with constipation or other bowel blockage.

The green beans were either donated from childcare families or purchased at market this year. In years past, I have been able to put up my own garden beans & I do them all the same way.  After snapping the ends & rinsing, I blanch them for just a few seconds until they turn a darker green.  (To me, blanching=dipped in boiling water, after reading this article, I see I am missing a crucial step & will be sure to add it next year.) When I removed from boiling water I would let them cool & air dry on a towel on the counter, package into jars or freezer containers (I like to cook the green beans from frozen as I think they get mushy when I let them thaw overnight in the fridge so putting them in a freezer container that they can pop out of as a frozen clump works well for me), mark with tape & sharpie, then chill in the fridge overnight before I put them in the freezer.  This one I am able to involve the kids on because anyone can snap the ends off the beans, and we often do this one in the yard during morning playtime. Then I can blanch them during lunch, cool & dry them during quiet time & pack to chill during their snack time, moving them to the freezer the next morning. To use them, I just pull from freezer, run under hot water to thaw them away from the container then dump them into a warming cast iron skillet with some roasted garlic olive oil (from Iowa Food Coop), extra virgin olive oil, butter (from IFC) or some leftover bacon grease-oh yes, I did just go there.  :)

How is that for starters? I wish I had captured these processes with the camera to be more enjoyable to learn about. Stay tuned for the next installment :)

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