How to Freeze Everything From Cucumbers to Carrots Without Destroying It

Updated November 4, 2016
by Jamie Cattanach
Staff Writer
freezing vegetables

With the official first day of fall already gone and Halloween quickly approaching, there’s no denying it: Summer’s gone, not to be seen again until next year.

And although it’s not a problem down here in Florida, all my northern friends and neighbors cite one major reason to dread the winter season: The sudden dearth and expense of produce.

Having lived in Ohio for one (and only one) winter, I can confirm: Winter sets in, and suddenly it seems like someone gray-washed the grocery store… unless you want to drop big bucks.

It’s bad enough shoveling snow and dealing with chapped lips. But no pulpy fruit smoothies or juicy berry cobblers for six months straight? Or spending an arm and a leg for a tiny package?

Not happening. And luckily, it doesn’t have to.

In this post, we’re going to show you how to freeze vegetables and fruits so you can preserve all your favorite summer and fall produce and make your winters just a little bit brighter — and tastier.

General Guidelines for Freezing Vegetables and Fruits

how to freeze fruits and vegetables
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Before we get started on individual fruits and veggies, let’s lay out some quick ground rules.

Even in the best case scenario, you’re probably not going to end up with perfectly firm fruit after a freeze and thaw. It’ll still taste great… but you most likely won’t want to bite directly into an apple that’s spent some time sub-zero.

Why? Just remember your sixth-grade science class: Water expands when it freezes.

All that juicy goodness inside a succulent peach or pear is — you guessed it — water. And when the flesh freezes, the resulting ice crystals can rupture cell walls, leaving the thawed remains a little… well, mushy.

For that reason, many of the best applications for freezer-preserved produce are cooked ones. Which is totally fine. Can you say blueberry muffins and banana bread?

You could also consider eating frozen fruits before they’re entirely thawed.

how to freeze fruit
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Smoothies are an obvious option, but if you’ve never popped a bunch of grapes into the freezer to eat on their own as snacks, do yourself a favor and give it a try! They’re like tiny, self-containing grape slushies (that is: really freaking good).

There are, however, ways to ensure you get the best possible outcome when it’s time to sneak a bit of summer into your bleak winter diet.

First things first: Only choose the very best specimens to freeze for later.

Freezing vegetables and fruits degrades their texture and nutritional value, so you want to make sure your goodies have as much wiggle room as possible as far as quality is concerned.

Bumped and bruised fruits and vegetables can be wonderful, and eating them can help save the world (not to mention your money) — but in this case, they need not apply.

The other secret? Almost anything you freeze will do better if you blanch it first.

Yes, it’s an extra step… but it’s a really simple one.

How to Blanch Vegetables and Fruit

Although blanching time and preparation methods will vary a bit depending on what fruit or veggie you’ve got on your hands, the general process is simple.

Just pop your produce into boiling water for a moment or two, then transfer it to an ice bath to stop it from cooking through.

The quick burst of heat stops the enzymes that destroy the color, flavor and nutritional value of fruits and veggies in their tracks, which means you’ll pull a tastier product out of the freezer weeks from now.

All right, ready to get chilling? Here’s our best advice for freezing some of your favorite produce.

How to Freeze Fruit

freezing fruit
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Want your Thanksgiving apple pie to be fresh? Fancy a summery peach cobbler for Valentine’s Day?

Here’s how to get your fresh fruit frozen and ready for all those applications and more.

Freezing Apples

Blanching time: one minute for thick slices

Ice-bath cooling time: one minute for thick slices

It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to blanch your apples, but you’ll definitely want to cut and core them.

This is also the time to peel them, unless you have plans that involve keeping the skins on.

And unless you’re immune to the appetite-suppressing effects of browned apples, you’ll also want to treat them with ascorbic acid — that’s good, old lemon juice! — to ensure they stay as fresh-looking as possible.

To do so, simply dip the apple slices in a bath of diluted lemon juice — about 1 tablespoon per ½ gallon of water should do the trick.

Quickly dry them thoroughly, then lay the slices on a cookie sheet and freeze without covering,  a process known as dry-freezing.

Once they’ve frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer bag and keep them for six months to a year.

You could also consider preparing the apples with a salt bath instead of lemon juice, or freezing them in sugar syrup if you want to eat them raw and sweet!

Freezing Peaches

Blanching time: 30 to 60 seconds for three or four peaches at a time

Ice-bath cooling time: about one minute

The best part about freezing peaches is that once you blanch them, their skins slough right off.

Simply cut an “X” into the bottom of whole peaches, and lower three or four of them carefully into boiling water. After blanching for about a minute, place them in the ice bath until they’re cool enough to peel by hand.

Slice and dry the peaches before giving them the acid treatment (as with apples), and then freeze the slices on a cookie sheet before transferring them to a freezer-safe container.

You can also experiment with packing peaches in syrup or water, or simply drawing out their own juices by sprinkling the slices with sugar before freezing them.

These methods also work for freezing nectarines, apricots and other stone fruits.

Freezing Pears

Instead of blanching pears, the best way to freeze them is to prepare a sugar syrup.

It’s simple: Dissolve 3 cups of sugar in 4 cups of warm water. (For a lighter preparation, you can safely get away with as little as 1 cup of sugar.)

Bring this syrup to a boil, add the cleaned, lemon-treated, peeled and sliced pears, and allow the mixture to cook for two minutes.

Cool both the syrup and the pears, and pack the fruit into freezer-safe containers, allowing an inch of headspace. Add enough of the cooled syrup to cover the pears, and then add a layer of wax paper before freezing to keep the slices from surfacing — and discoloring — in the freezer.

Freezing Cherries

how to freeze cherries
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Other than the fact that they’re the best summer fruit in the world (seriously, my favorite), cherries are awesome because they’re super simple to freeze.

They’re too small and delicate to blanch, so you have your work cut out for you.

Simply wash, pit and destem them, then arrange them on a baking sheet and freeze. (You can choose to leave them whole or slice into halves.)

Once they’re solid, transfer to a freezer bag or other freezer-safe container…

… and prepare for mid-winter cherry cabernet brownies. Trust me, this recipe is much better with fresh whole cherries than dried.

You’re welcome.

Freezing Berries

These guys are super simple: Simply wash, dry, freeze flat and then transfer to a bag.

The one exception? Strawberries — you’ll want to make sure you hull them first, and they’ll resist freezer burn a bit better if you freeze them in a sugar syrup. Just make sure you don’t add them until it’s cooled! They’re too small to take blanching.

Once they’re thawed, they’ll be a little mushy, so you might want to avoid taking handfuls raw like you would with fresh berries — I suggest folding them into cake, cookies, muffins and breads instead.

Not really a compromise, is it? Yum.

Freezing Melons

Some melons (think: cantaloupe) will freeze better than others (think: watermelon), but all melons will do better if frozen in a cold sugar syrup.

Choose a melon that’s not too ripe, and either cube it or scoop it into rounds.

Dry-freeze the prepared melon on a tray before transferring to a freezer bag and covering in the cool sugar syrup.

You can also leave the melon sugar-free — but if you do, you’ll be better off eating it while it’s still a little frosty.

You can also puree melon and freeze it in ice trays for a simple, delicious addition to smoothies and shakes.

Freezing Citrus Fruits

I was surprised to learn you can freeze citrus fruits easily and without much preparation at all!

Although lemons and oranges might retain their flavor better in a wet-pack (that is, covered with sugar syrup in a mason jar), you can also place wedges into a freezer-safe container and freeze them dry. Be warned, though: Bitter flavors might increase if you use this method.

Slice your citrus fruits ahead of time, or consider simply separating them into wedges so you won’t have to deal with the peel once they’ve thawed.

How to Freeze Vegetables

how to freeze all kinds of vegetables
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It’s not just sweet, delicious fruit we miss during the winter: The snow kills off our supply of fresh vegetables, too!

So if you want to eat your greens (and reds, and oranges) during the white winter, here’s how to keep them around.

Freezing Tomatoes

Blanching time: 60 to 90 seconds

Ice-bath cooling time: about one minute

Although technically a fruit, tomatoes are delicious additions to many savory dishes.

And although you probably won’t want to make caprese out of them once they’re frozen, their texture after thawing serves perfectly for fresh sauces and bases for stews — that is, favorite winter foods.

Blanch the whole tomatoes in boiling water for a little over a minute, transferring to the ice bath with a slotted spoon. Their skins will slip right off.

Then, you can easily slice them to pack as much tomato-y goodness as you can into the smallest possible space. Work over a dish to preserve the juices, and pour everything into freezer bags in amounts that match your planned recipes. (I like to use 2-cup portions.)

They’ll fuse into one big block in the freezer, so smoosh out as much air as possible and press the bag flat for optimum storage convenience. Frozen tomatoes will keep their fresh flavor as long as 18 months.

Freezing Cucumbers

Surprisingly, you can freeze cucumbers, despite their high water content. The secret? It’s a bit of a pickle.

No, seriously: You need to prepare a brine solution if you want your frozen cucumbers to retain their flavor and crunch.

You don’t need to peel them first if you don’t want to, but store-bought cucumbers often have a wax coating you’ll want to dispose of with a gentle detergent.

Then, cut into uniform slices, and begin to layer the slices, sprinkling with salt as you go along — about 1 tablespoon per quart of cucumbers. HGTV’s recipe calls for sliced onions, too.

Let the cucumbers and salt sit for two hours or longer before dumping and rinsing, then transferring back to a large container. Cover the veggies with a mixture of 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1 1/2  cups of sugar, and ladle into freezer-safe containers or mason jars.

Wait at least a week before eating your freezer pickles, and enjoy them for up to a year.

Freezing Radishes

Blanching time: two to three minutes

Ice-bath cooling time: about one minute

With these little red gems, you can keep it simple: Just clean and chop them, blanch for two to three minutes, freeze flat and transfer to a freezer-safe container.

Then, enjoy them braised in butter or pan-roasted as a hearty side to a winter meal.

Freezing Leafy Greens

how to freeze leafy greens
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You’re not going to get salad-ready greens out of the freezer… but you can keep on drinking those kale smoothies all winter long!

Better yet, it’s super easy.

Just wash your greens (and dry them thoroughly), making sure you’ve removed any stems. Place them into pre-measured rations in freezer bags, squeeze out the air, and voila: Freezer-ready greens to power you until spring.

Freezing Bell Peppers

Blanching time: two to three minutes

Ice-bath cooling time: about one minute

Before blanching, prepare your peppers by slicing off their tops, removing the seeds and paring them down to 1/2-inch pieces.

Since peppers are a tougher veggie, they can stand the boiling water for a little bit longer. Dry-freeze them before transferring to a freezer bag, and steam or microwave to reheat.

Freezing Carrots

Blanching time: two minutes diced; up to five minutes for small, whole carrots

Ice-bath cooling time: match blanching time

These are gonna be so much better than the bagged stuff you buy in the store.

After you cut them to your liking, blanch your carrots before dispersing into baggies. Stick ‘em in the freezer, and you’re good to go!

Freezing Zucchini

Blanching time: one to three minutes

Ice-bath cooling time: three to five minutes

Zucchini bread in January? It’s a real possibility.

Simply clean, slice and blanch your excess zucchini before dry-freezing it and transferring to freezer bags.

Freezing Corn

Blanching time: two minutes

Ice-bath cooling time: about 30 seconds

Want fresh, buttery corn long after July’s over?

Although you can’t freeze it on the cob, you can still do a lot better than the canned stuff. Husk your ears and shuck the kernels off the cob. Blanch for about two minutes and drain, placing briefly in an ice bath.

Then, either dry-freeze the corn before transferring it to a freezer bag, or allow it to freeze in pre-measured portions — your corn will fuse together, so make sure you don’t freeze it into a bigger block than you can use at once!

Your Turn: Do you freeze your fruits or vegetables? How do you use them when you take them out of your freezer?

Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her writing has also been featured at The Write Life, Word Riot, Nashville Review and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.

by Jamie Cattanach
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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