Freezing: lessons to be learned
My first recollection of preserving was with my mother during the Second World War, coping with gluts from the garden, bottling and making jams, pickles and chutneys. I even remember the excitement of acquiring a domestic canning machine, which Dad operated using surplus fruits at the end of the season. Herbs and apple rings were dried over the stove and we sliced beans with a machine that clipped onto the kitchen table – we then packed the slices in layers with salt to use in winter.
But times have changed, and the freezer has without doubt revolutionised preservation. Now, little or no extra specialist equipment is needed. Freezing produce is the most efficient way to preserve fruit and vegetables until the season comes round again, as long as the freezer is kept below ‑18°C (0°F). It retains maximum flavour, colour and nutrients.
You can freeze fruits and vegetables when they are at their best (such as carrots) and when they are small and tender (broad beans). Soft fruits such as raspberries freeze brilliantly: I grow far more ‘Autumn Bliss’ than can be eaten so the surplus is frozen. The best ones are kept whole and the softer ones are made into coulis to serve with ice cream (rhubarb coulis is also great).
When freezing soft fruit, ‘open freeze’ them on trays (separated from each other so they are not touching) until firm and then the frozen berries can be put into plastic tubs and returned to the freezer.
Freeze blackcurrants and redcurrants separately, ready to use later in crumbles, pies or summer puddings. Fruits can be frozen without blanching, then used straight from the freezer when you have time to make jams and jellies.