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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 29, 2009

Dear Mark: Freezer Essentials

By Mark Sisson
36 Comments

Dear Mark,

Your website inspired me to join a CSA this year, and I’ve been frequenting a local farmers’ market since May. I absolutely love all the produce selections, but this has me thinking that come late fall/winter I’m going to feel pretty limited by what’s usually available (and affordable) in the grocery store. (I live in the Northern Plains.) I’d like to begin thinking about freezing some items to enjoy them post-season. What tips do you have for doing this? Thank you!

Thanks for the timely question. I’ve actually gotten similar inquiries from a few readers this week. Yes, we’re rounding the corner on June if you can believe it. It’s a great time of year for taking advantage of the variety – try some new items, find new recipes for old favorites. (Anybody wanna share new discoveries?) However, as incredible as it is to enjoy fresh veggies and fruits now, it’s smart to look ahead to the “scarcer” months. One of the best ways to carry over the season’s best, of course, is freezing. (Grok would’ve traded a lot of hides for a deep freeze chest….) As you load up on summer produce, here are a few suggestions (and resources) for best freezer prep and storage.

Set Up

First off, I’d highly recommend investing in a deep freezer. You can certainly make use of the freezer compartment of your refrigerator, but it’s typically a limited space and doesn’t stay as consistently cold as a deep freezer chest. (For best results, freezers should be kept at 0° Fahrenheit or less. A simple freezer gauge can give you an accurate reading.) Although items should still last a number of months, you aren’t going to get the same longevity (8-12 months for most produce when properly prepped and packaged). If you’re worried about initial outlay, keep in mind that there are plenty of good used ones for sale. Check scratch and dent sales, classifieds and Craigslist for starters. And also keep in mind that you have the potential to recoup much if not all of that money within the first year alone, depending on how much you choose to freeze (produce, meats, etc.). It’s less expensive to buy good quality produce in season and make it last through much of the winter than it is to buy your full produce needs in the off-season. When you add the savings of cowpooling or other bulk meat/poultry/game storage, it won’t be long before your freezer will pay for itself.

As for wraps, bags and such, don’t skimp. You’ll need high quality storage to keep out moisture. Lined freezer paper and freezer tape can work for “dry” packing of produce. Another option, particularly for purees or fruits that will be stored with juice, is freezer appropriate canning jars. Many people find it more convenient to use plastic freezer bags (either the Ziploc kind or the self-cut kind that requires a heat sealer). In any case, the freezer wrap or bags should be freezer-designated, vapor proof as well as pliant. The idea here is to mold the packaging as close to the outline of the food as possible and to prevent the exchange of moisture. If the item is allowed to give off its own moisture, freezer burn will set in. You know those brownish, tough, odd-tasting areas on thawed veggies? Spare your produce the calamity and yourself the frustration (and lost money) by investing a little extra change in good storage.

Prep the Produce

For the sake of taste and nutrients, you’ll want the freshest produce you can get your hands on. If you’re not a gardener yourself, the next best thing can be found in CSA packages or farmers’ markets. Items are generally picked within a day or even a few hours of sale/distribution.

Wash, cut, peel and prep as needed. (The smaller the pieces the more tightly you can pack your produce.) Nearly all produce items – other than a few like melon and herbs – will need to be blanched before freezing. (A few like sweet potatoes and pumpkin should be thoroughly cooked before freezing.) The quick shot in boiling water or steam will halt the enzyme action responsible for natural decomposition. Too little, and you run the risk of not shutting down the enzyme activity (maybe even accelerating it). Too much, and you might be sacrificing nutrients as well as texture and taste. (A brief “shock” in ice water immediately after blanching will keep the items from cooking further.) The timing on blanching, however, is a delicate dance. Check out these resources for specific blanching times tailored to specific fruits and vegetables. If you choose to “steam blanch,” the times are generally 1.5 times the given minutes for traditional blanching.

A few other notes to keep in mind… You won’t need a lot of complicated equipment – just some large pots, bowls, tongs, towels and wire baskets. Although microwave blanching may work for small batches that will be eaten in a short period of time, many experts recommend against it for long-term freezing. There’s doubt that it halts all enzyme activity. Certain fruits like apples, peaches, avocado, and pears should be stored with ascorbic acid to prevent discoloration. You might also consider it for vegetables like artichokes and sweet potato to maintain peak color.

Package Well and Freeze Fast

Once the vegetables and fruits are appropriately prepped, cooked and cooled, allow them to thoroughly drain and dry. Dish or paper towels can speed up the process especially for certain intact items like green beans or whole berries. Most vegetables and many fruits can be packed without any juice. After draining, they can be tightly packed in freezer bags or wrap and frozen in their bulk packaging. Another choice is to allow individual pieces of drained vegetables and fruit to freeze on a tray first and then immediately pack them in bags or wrap. Cooked purees can be stored in large containers or in smaller portions/cubes that may be more useful for recipes or baby food. Some fruits like apples and nectarines tend to freeze better with juice. (Sugar or syrup packing is often recommended, but a small amount of juice and ascorbic acid can work just as well.)

Once you have your packages loaded and ready for storage, stack up already frozen items and move them to one side of your freezer. Spread the new packages across the open areas to encourage speedier freezing, which will discourage freezer burn and help preserve taste.

Have your own tips for freezing summer’s best? Favorite uses for your frozen stores? As always, thanks for your questions and comments, and keep ‘em coming!

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36 Comments on "Dear Mark: Freezer Essentials"

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Vin - NaturalBias
7 years 3 months ago

Great tips! I bought a chest freezer a few years ago for meat and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made! Highly recommended for anyone who has the room. I have a 7 cu ft model which is affordable and stores plenty.

Greg at Live Fit
7 years 3 months ago

We’ve had a chest freezer for years, and it has definitely paid for itself many times over. We’ve stored venison harvested from the field. It has been used to store our share of a beef cow that we split with my parents as well. I’ve done some storage of fresh produce – green beans mainly, by blanching, but I could definitely do more in this area.

Holly
Holly
7 years 3 months ago

We don’t have a freezer chest, but we do have a full sized freezer (next to the refrigerator) and keep lots of freshly frozen veggies and meats in there. Another one I do year round is freeze berries and add them to smoothies with the Responsibly Slim Vanilla for a quick meal on the go. Yum yum…

Henry Miller
Henry Miller
7 years 3 months ago

Full sized freezers use more energy, and often (but not always) don’t get as cold. However they are overall just as good. Just keep those limitations in mind.

David L
David L
7 years 3 months ago

I’m stuck with the little one above the fridge for right now, but I’ve been stuffing it full of blueberries over the past few weeks. Buying blueberries in the summer is like buying gold for the price of copper.

George
George
7 years 3 months ago

Good tips, my deep freeze is already half full from fresh veggies and fruits that have been frozen this year. Yes, you can all be jealous.

Peggy
Peggy
7 years 3 months ago

I have gotten “scratch & dent”,tree-ripend peaches which are perfect for freezing. All I did was peel & slice them, then store in freezer bags. Spinach & chard freeze well after a quick blanching. If I have too many onions & green peppers, I dice them up & freeze them raw. Then they are ready whenever I need. They need to be double wrapped so everything doesn’t taste like onions & green peppers.

Brian Fitness
Brian Fitness
7 years 3 months ago

Mark,
Great site, & such important information for health & vitality.. I do have a fitness question for you.. How would you suggest “gaining weight” & adding lean muscle on a Paleolithic Diet? I understand you’re not interested in putting on mass, but hypothetically, How would you personally go about add 10 pounds of muscle if wanted to?
Thanks Man.. Looking forward to your reply..

Ben P
Ben P
7 years 3 months ago
A heavily insulated cooler and some dry ice would also be useful. Alton Brown’s show, Good Eats on the Food Network, in the episode ‘Strawberry Sky’ had a nice piece on how to freeze strawberries using a cooler and dry ice. Dry ice causes things to freeze faster so they are less damaged in the freezing process than with a normal electric freezer. I assume the technique he described would work well for meat as well. I’d also assume this sort of method is described in many places on the interwebs. Also, FYI, Coleman makes a line of “Xtreme” coolers… Read more »
Patricia Biesen
7 years 3 months ago

Great post. I’m nibbling on some frozen blueberries as I’m reading this. They actually taste like candy. So much better for you than those silly little ice cream drops dipped in chocolate.

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[…] Fitness Article Links Freezer Essentials Way Cool Gym Getting CrossFit, Day 16: The Filthy […]

Steve
Steve
7 years 3 months ago

For years I’ve had NON FROST-FREE freezers – both chest and upright. I’ve found that if there is no frost thawing cycle the frozen food stays frozen better. Sure, you have to thaw it once a year. but that’s quick if you use a hair dryer.

I like to freeze my meat first and then use a vacuum sealing machine. This combination does an absolutely great job of keeping meat frozen perfectly with no freezer burn for extended periods of time.

warren
warren
7 years 3 months ago

Don’t forget pickles! Fermenting with some sea salt and a jar is pretty easy and most veggies will pickle easily in 3-4 days or so. You have to keep them in the fridge so you will need space.

Peggy
Peggy
7 years 3 months ago

yummmmmmm… I was just eating my spicy pickled blend & dilled brussel sprouts last night!

Donna
Donna
7 years 3 months ago

When i freeze meat, i always place a few pieces of meat inbetween freezer paper, it keeps the meat separate and prevents it from sticking together.
Then i place it in a Seal A Meal Bag and Vacuum pack it. I find that this way works best for freezing.

Mary
Mary
7 years 3 months ago
Peppers and berries don’t need to be blanched before freezing. There are lots of tables of specific foods and what you need to do to freeze them (internet search will find these). Any freezer will include a booklet with these tables. I’ve been freezing my garden produce for 30 years. I like to take my tomatoes and cook them down to a sauce, toss in some fresh basil and I’ve got the best tomato sauce ever for very quick meals in the winter. They take less room than bags of tomatoes. Vacuum sealing the foods preserves it the best but… Read more »
Rob
Rob
7 years 3 months ago

Any recommendations on particular chest freezer brands?

Mary
Mary
7 years 3 months ago

I have an old Tappan that is 17 and still going strong. Check Consumer’s Reports for current ratings.

Organic & Thrifty
7 years 3 months ago

Our freezer is the best investment we’ve ever made. It by far allows us to get the best deal on 100% grassfed, organic beef and poultry that we can buy for less in bulk. It’s also great for storing the summer produce bounty, of course! I also use mine to store homemade bone broth. You can also easily double a recipe and store half in the freezer for another time, for convenience! I also love to ferment veggies to preserve them, which adds beneficial microorganisms, enzymes, and increased nutrient content.

I LOVE your blog!

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[…] Dear Mark: Freezer Essentials <<Those of you living in states that aren’t California may want to start stocking your freezer now, before your farmers markets close up for the winter. Mark Sisson offers some tips on how to make that dream a reality. (Mark’s Daily Apple) […]

Rose
Rose
7 years 2 months ago

What about the thawing end of this? Specificly, will veggies be soggy when thawed if blanched? I haven’t frozen veggies like this, so I’d like to make sure that they come out right when I do. Nothing worse than trying to choke down soggy broccoli. I’m used to canning & pickling in jars.
Great Site & great information, Thanks Mark!

Mell
Mell
7 years 2 months ago

Organic and Thrifty – where do you buy your grass fed meat? We’ve been ordering from a company called Slanker’s out of Texas, though we’re in NC. We started buying at Whole Foods as well, which is good but expensive. Any tips?

Steve
Steve
7 years 2 months ago

Go to eatwild.com and use the farm locator to find local NC products

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[…] market with more than you need when there’s all that irresistible produce out there? Freezing is one way to handle the excess. Getting creative in the kitchen is another way. Start by looking […]

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[…] it within the context of the Primal Blueprint, but aren’t sure where to start. It’s a common question and it’s about time I addressed it head […]

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Bright
Bright
4 years 10 months ago

Can anyone advice me if it is possible to use C02 fire extinguisher to fast freeze vegetables?

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