The ground may be covered in snow, but with the promise of warmer weather comes fresh fruits and vegetables.
Some of those goodies end up packaged and placed in the freezer, becoming a convenient part of a winter meal.
“Almost anything is safe to freeze, other than items with high water content like lettuce,” says Barbara Fuller, Iowa State University Extension nutrition and wellness specialist in southwest Iowa.
“Fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products — nearly everything is safe to freeze.”
Fuller says food safety is generally not a concern, but poorly packaged items could end up with freezer burn. She says freezing items for a long time could also affect the taste of the food.
“As a rule, freezing is very safe and efficient,” Fuller says.
The most important step, she says, may come when thawing out the frozen product. There are four options — thawing food in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave, or cooking food while it’s still frozen.
“It’s unsafe just to set it out,” Fuller says. “Room temperature is when bacteria like to grow.”
A good rule of thumb, she says, is to allow 24 hours for a pound of frozen ground beef to thaw in the refrigerator.
Freezer bags must be able to protect the food from moisture, meaning bags made specifically for freezing must be used. Fuller says small plastic containers with a snowflake on them are also safe to use in the freezer.
“Don’t use leftover margarine or whipped topping containers,” she says. “You can use them, but the result might not be pleasant.”
Fuller says even items such as yogurt and jugs of milk can be frozen.
Fruits and vegetables need to be blanched before freezing, she says.
“Remember the freezer is very arid. That’s why food dries out,” Fuller says. “In general, freezers are very forgiving. As long as you prepare the food and package it correctly, everything should work out well.”
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