Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Healthiest Produce is in the Freezer Aisle

The healthiest produce in the grocery store is not in the produce department. It's not in the canned fruit or vegetable aisle either. It's in the freezer section. Why eat broccoli and Brussels sprouts if they have no more nutrients left than refined white bread? Fruits and vegetables start to lose nutrients the moment they are picked and continue to lose nutrients as they are shipped around the world, sit in the grocery store shelves and sit on your kitchen counter.
Canned fruits and vegetables usually have sugar or salt added and some include other unnecessary chemicals to preserve freshness or enhance color. Frozen fruit and vegetables have more time on the vine since they are picked at their peak and frozen within hours instead of being picked under ripe so they don't spoil before you get them home.
An Austrian study found frozen vegetables to be more nutritious than out of season vegetables imported from around the globe. Frozen produce also reduces waste because you only cook the amount you need and the rest can go back in the freezer. If your dinner plans get pushed back a day or two you don't have to worry about your produce going bad.
6 Tips for the highest quality frozen produce.
1) Read the label and ingredients list. This will tell if there is added sugar or salt, how the produce is cut and help you avoid buying the veggies drenched in those awful butter sauces.
2) Feel the bag and make sure it isn't full of icy crystals or frozen into a giant lump, these are signs the produce has thawed and refrozen or developed freezer burn losing nutrients in the process.
3) Once the bag is opened make sure to reseal it. If it's got a resealable zipper use that, if not put it in a freezer quality plastic bag to protect your produce from freezer burn and oxidation that can ruin quality and leach nutrients.
4) Buy your frozen goods last at the grocery store. Keep them together in the cart and bag them together at checkout so they keep cold.
5) If you have a long drive home or the weather is hot consider leaving a cooler in your car to keep foods from defrosting.
6) Put your frozen foods away first then anything that has to go in the fridge. Pantry and shelf stable items like flour, bread and canned goods should be put away last.
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Friday, 28 May 2010

Cooking for the Freezer

When cooking for the freezer it is important to use only quality fresh food. Freezing will not improve food and food to be frozen must be of the best quality, hygenically prepared, and correctly packed and stored. Keep all utensils, materials, work surfaces and hands scrupulously clean and work quickly, handling the food as little as possible.

For best results, cool food as rapidly as possible before freezing, in order to preserve it in prime condition and to avoid contamination by harmful bacteria.

All materials or containers used for packaging must be moisture and vapour proof. Packaging must also protect food from damage during storage and be durable at low temperatures. All glass containers and serving dishes should be tested for toughness at low temperatures. To do this, fill them with water, leaving a 2.5 cm/1 inch headspace, place in a freezer bag and freeze. (Always pack glass in a freezer bag, in any case; should the container shatter, the pieces will be held safely in the bag.)

Correct and careful packaging of food is essential. One of the results of bad packaging is dehydration, which takes place if air is not completely excluded from the packaging before freezing. Moisture and juices are lost from the food and in extreme cases freezer burn appears on the surface of the food in the form of greyish or brown patches. These are not harmful and can be removed when the food is thawed. Oxidation is another result of bad packaging and occurs in products with a high fat content. Oyxgen penetrates animal tissues, causing fats to go rancid. Correct wrapping and the removal of air from packages prevents oxidation occuring.

Always overwrap highly spiced or strong-smelling foods in freezer bags or heavy-duty foil. Insufficently wrapped foods containing garlic and onions, for example, will transfer their flavours to foods nearby.

When liquid freezes it expands, so it is neccessary to leave room for this expansion in the package. A headspace of 2-2.5cm/or 3/4-1 inch per 600ml/1 pint/2 1/2cups of liquid is usually sufficient, but a little more is required for tall narrow containers.

Pack food in usuable quantities and label all packages clearly, giving the date of freezing. It is important to keep a record of the contenets of the freezer to ensure that food is not kept beyond its recommended storage time.

Many frozen cooked fooods can be reheated without thawing, either in the oven or microwave.
When reheating soups, stews or casseroles always make sure that the cooked food is heated throughly before serving.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Basic Rules to Home Freezing

Like every process , home freezing has it's basic rules. It certainly does not pay to disregard them, for although the food will keep, it will lose quality.

I have listed below 16 general rules which should for the most part be adhered to.

1. Freeze only the best quality products Freezing will not improve food, and freezer space is valuable. It is a waste to put in food of poor quality.

2. Freeze food when it is at the peak of its quality For example, when fruit is ripe and ready for eating in the normal way, and preferably early in the season. Over-ripe fruits and vegetables are too starchy or mushy, and unripe fruit can become bitter

3. Handle food destined for the freezer quickly All fruit and vegetables begin to deteriorate the moment they are picked, and should be frozen soon after picking. This can be achieved by handling small quantities at a time.

4. Observe the basic rules of hygiene The food you put in the freezer must be clean.

5. Follow the general and specific directions Make a note of what you have done; you may find that in the future you need to adapt the directions to suit the variety of dishes you want to freeze, and the vegetables that you grow.

6. Only use materials for packaging which are guaranteed to be moisture and vapour-proof, and resistant to cross contamination during storage at 18 degrees centigrade Any old packaging material may work , but the chances are that it will not.

7. Pack food in usable quantities Packing in quantities larger than those likely to be used at one meal, leads to waste.

8. As much air as possible must be extracted from each container, and then it must be carefully and completely sealed . The packaging material, the method of packing, and the seal, are trying to protect the food fromair, dehydration and cross contamination.

9. Label and date packets It is a nuisance not to be able to tell at a glance what the containers contain ; and only by dating can you hope to be able to arrange a sensible turnover of food in the freezer.

10. Cool food to room temperature or below, before putting it in the freezer Food containers should be frozen quickly, and for the sake of the food already stored the freezer temperature should not be raised by adding too many fresh containers at a time.

11. Limit additions of food to the freezer to the quantity advised by the manufacturer of your freezer, and use fast freeze switch.

12. Allow air spaces between containers added to to the freezer for fast freezing When new containers are fully frozen they may be tightly stacked. Follow some general system of storage, such as keeping all similar foods together. Coloured containers are useful for identification.

13. Observe suggested time limits for storage After a certain period of frozen storage, the period varies with the type of food, frozen food begins to lose flavour.

14. Keep records Only by keeping a note of what remains in the freezer can you hope to remove food while it is at its best. This also guards against eating all the favourite foods first, and against forgetting other foods frozen.

15. Plan freezing and menus Plan freezing and menus so that all frozen foods are eaten by the time they are in season again.

16. Do not let the freezer temperature rise above---18 degrees centigrade.

Freezers should normally be set to run at---21 degress centigrade