The freezer can preserve the shelf life and quality of most foods. Since roughly the mid-twentieth century, freezers have become an indispensable appliance for every single home on the planet. No matter how good your freezer might be, it cannot guarantee the best results every time, and you should take the necessary measures to make sure your food does not lose considerable quality while freezing. Some foods should outright not be stored in the freezer because of their particular compounds or properties. So now, the question is this. Can you freeze vegetables raw? How long do vegetables last in the fridge?
If you’re loaded on fruits purchased at the local market or you have extra raw vegetables that won’t be used for a long time, you can use the freezer to extend their lifespan beyond their usual “best by” date. Nonetheless, it’s not simply a matter of storing them in the freezer as they come. Most times, you need to prepare them beforehand.
You should, however, abstain from freezing lettuce, cabbage, endive, radishes, or watercress. These vegetables doesn’t freeze well. Due to their excessively high water content, they are very likely to turn mushy when thawed. If you decide to freeze them, they should be used only for certain cooked recipes.
The first thing you should do, before anything else, is clean the fresh vegetables. There are different methods for cleaning them, and rinsing is not recommended in some cases. For more delicate green vegetables, they can be cleaned using a wet paper towel. Also, if possible, chop and slice larger veggies or fruits for convenience purposes. Additionally, try to trim off leaves and stems from items like cauliflower or broccoli, and peel tomatoes to avoid hardened skin.
The next step is blanching. It’s very important that you blanch. Reason being that the enzymes that produce discoloration and loss of texture and flavor are deactivated when you shift your vegetables from hot boiling water to ice water.
Afterward, it’s extremely important that you drain all the excess water and moisture from the vegetables. Use a strainer and a generous amount of paper towel (or a cloth towel) for that purpose. Removing excess water is important as water turns into ice crystals, which expand and deteriorate the food’s tissue, ruining its consistency.
After that, transfer the vegetables into airtight freezer bags or containers, preferably of single-serving sizes, and seal them, but not before squeezing out all the air from the inside. Removing the cold air is important as cold air is detrimental to the food’s integrity since it may cause annoying freezer burns. Finally, it’s safe to store them in the freezer.
Optionally, before transferring the vegetables into the containers, you can place them over a layer of parchment paper, cover them with another layer and allow them to flash-freeze in the freezer for a couple of hours. Then, proceed accordingly.
If you skip blanching, the vegetables will not spoil. But over time, they’ll develop a funny appearance and overall taste. In this regard, some vegetables should be blanched for a longer time, owing to their density. But the average blanching time should not exceed 3 or 4 minutes. Peppers and onions are notable exceptions to this rule, for they can be frozen entirely raw.
It’s highly likely for vegetables and fruits to lose some of their original consistency. But it mostly depends on the amount of water content they originally carry.
Generally, it’s not recommended to refreeze vegetables or fresh fruits. If you have no other choice, at least make sure they were thawed in the refrigerator and not left sitting at room temperature for a long time.
In the fridge, it depends heavily on the type of vegetable or fruit, but most of them can endure 1 or 2 weeks in the fridge, while garlic and onions can last months at room temperature.
In the freezer, they usually endure in optimal conditions for an average of 8 to 12 months approximately. They should not suffer spoilage beyond that time, but they will lose quality.
By default, you should strive to thaw all vegetables and fruits in the fridge. It’s a lot slower but it’s also a lot safer and more effective. Immersing the packages in cold water helps, but you need to pay attention constantly to the water temperature and change it from time to time until the vegetables are defrosted. If you want to use the microwave’s defrost function, keep in mind that many of them will turn soggy when this method is applied.
Most frozen vegetables can be cooked while frozen. You can steam, sautée, microwave, fry, roast, or boil them. But some may require more specific methods. Potatoes, for example, need to be at least partially thawed if they’re big in size since they will most likely be cooked on the outside while remaining frozen or cold on the inside. The most efficient method of cooking large vegetables is in a preheated oven, at a temperature relative to their size and density. This is mainly because ovens cook in a more uniform way than most other kitchen appliances.