Home Freezing, Preservation Ideas: Fruits, Veggies (cont.)

If you want to cut down on sugar in your jam or fruit preserves, you can buy packages of pectin made especially for "less sugar" or "no sugar" recipes (they work for freezer recipes as well as cooked ones). Sure-Jell and Ball Fruit Jell are the two brands available in most supermarkets. Inside each box is an instruction sheet. Don't lose this; it's your go-to guide for making your less-sugar jam.

You'll also need some freezer jars. Many companies that make glass jars for canning also make plastic jars for freezing. Ball, for example, sells a five-pack of 8-ounce plastic freezer jars. Ideally, you want containers that have a screw top so the top won't pop off when the mixture freezes and expands. Rubbermaid sells a "twist & seal" plastic container three-pack, with each container holding about 1 1/2 cups of jam or sauce.

Fruits other than berries may require a bit of cooking for turning them into jam. You can either buy the "less sugar" or "no sugar" pectin described above, or, if you've got time, you can boil the fruit pulp for a longer period of time and eventually it will thicken into a fruit butter or preserve. Apple butter is often made this way. (Check out the recipe for 1-Hour Apple Pie Apple Butter below.)

And how do you cook yourself a batch of fruit jam in the winter months? Simple -- use the fruit you froze last summer. Just partially thaw the fruit in the refrigerator, until a few ice crystals still remain. But, because fruit tends to collapse during thawing, use the measurement of the fruit before it was frozen (you could label your bag with this measurement before freezing.) Three cups of unfrozen fruit might measure as 2 cups after partial thawing.

Freezing Basil

Basil is one of the most popular herbs with home gardeners, in part because it grows so quickly. There's nothing better than fresh basil, if you ask me, but dried and frozen basil will get you through the winter months. One of the best ways to preserve your fresh basil is to chop it up and make green ice cubes. Here's how you make them:

  • Chop up fresh basil leaves using a knife or pulse briefly in a food processor.
  • Pack the chopped basil into ice cube tray compartments and top with a mixture of lemon juice and water (1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1/2 cup of water). The antioxidants in the lemon juice help keep the leaves from turning brown.
  • Once the basil cubes are frozen, remove from the trays and store in plastic freezer bags.

Freezer Tomato Sauce

Homemade tomato sauce tastes great on pasta, pizza, and meat dishes, and is a great way to preserve all those extra tomatoes from your garden. Health-wise, it's best to cook tomato sauce or tomato puree for a short while and add some olive oil to the mixture, because these steps enhances your body's ability to absorb the healthy phytochemicals from the tomatoes. You can choose to cook your homemade spaghetti or marinara sauce before or after you freeze it. (See the Blender Marinara Sauce recipe below.)

Freezer Recipes for Preserving Fruits and Vegetables

Ready to start freezing? Check out these three recipes featuring fresh fruits and vegetables.

Strawberry Orange Freezer Jam
Ingredients:
4 cups crushed strawberries (about 8 cups sliced strawberries)
1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest (peel from 1 large orange)
Orange segments from 1 orange
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 box less-sugar jam package (such as Sure Jell No Sugar Needed)

Preparation:

  1. In large mixing bowl, combine crushed strawberries, orange zest, and sugar. Let mixture stand for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Dissolve the less-sugar jam powder in 1 cup of cold water in a small or medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil; boil for one minute.
  3. Stir the hot pectin mixture into the berry mixture and stir vigorously for two minutes.
  4. Pour the jam into clean freezer containers or jars, leaving one-half inch at the top of the container (the jam with expand as it freezes). Cover the containers and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours or until jam has set. Keep in freezer until ready to use.
  5. To use the jam, thaw jar or container in the refrigerator overnight. Stir the jam before using.

Yield: Makes at least 6 1-cup containers of jam
Nutrition Information: Per 1/8 cup serving: 45 calories, 0.2 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 0.1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0.6 g fiber, 10 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 2%.

1-Hour Apple Pie Apple Butter
Ingredients:
14 cup peeled and cored apple slices, about 10 large green apples (3.5 pounds)
3/4 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
2 tablespoons apple brandy or liqueur such as amaretto
2 teaspoons apple pie spice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preparation:

  1. In large, heavy-bottomed nonstick saucepan, combine apple slices, apple cider, brandy or liqueur, apple pie spice, sugar, and lemon juice. Begin heating mixture over medium-high heat. Cover saucepan and cook, stirring often with a large wooden spoon, until apples are broken down to applesauce-like consistency (about 30 minutes).
  2. Use a potato masher or the back of a large spoon to mash any large pieces of apple if necessary. Remove cover and reduce heat to LOW (or SIMMER if your stove runs hot). Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until applesauce turns into apple butter (very thick and dark), about 30 more minutes.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and let mixture cool about 15 minutes. Spoon apple butter into small, clean, airtight containers. It will keep for up to one month in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer. If you use 1-cup containers, you'll fill about three to four containers.

Yield: Makes about 3 cups of apple butter (24 servings of 2 tablespoons each)
Nutrition Information: Per serving: 80 calories, 0.2 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 0.2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2.2 g fiber, 1 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 2%.



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