Today I was able to get some great blackberries, raspberries and strawberries all on sale, and with very few "duds" in each package. In response to some awesome mamas asking me recently how to flash freeze, I decided to make a little photo tutorial of my afternoon in the kitchen with B's beloved berries.
1. Clean and inspect all of the produce you are planning on using. Cut out bad spots and remove all moldy produce.
2. Once produce has been inspected and cleaned, cut pieces as you would like to freeze them (broccoli into small florets, strawberries into fourths, etc)
3. Spread pieces onto large cutting board covered with paper towels to dry. Set aside and assemble needed equipment for freezing.
4. Assemble cookie sheets and your choice of cookie sheet liner (aluminum foil, plastic wrap, press and seal, wax paper, parchment paper, etc.); be sure that there is a clear spot in the freezer to lay your cookie trays flat. Freezer tetris time!
5. Line cookie sheets with preferred liner(s). Today, I used foil (shiny side up) on one, plastic wrap on another, and press and seal on the third (adhesive side facing down on the cookie sheet).
6. Gently pat produce dry with paper towels (or clean kitchen towels-- just remember that some produce may stain your towels!) and begin assembling produce pieces on cookie sheets.
The raspberries are on generic plastic wrap-lined cookie sheets
7. Produce pieces should not touch one another if at all possible and try your best to keep the smallest area of the produce piece on the surface as possible (in case it sticks, you have less surface area to try and detach it once frozen.)
The blackberries are on aluminum foil-lined cookie sheets
8. Once all pieces are distributed onto the cookie sheets, slide into the freezer so that they remain flat. Check on the pieces after the first hour or so, but I generally set my timer for four hours and that tends to be enough for small pieces of produce (berry size). They will feel like little rocks but not be "frostbitten," so to speak. Once frozen, you really shouldn't get much, if any, juice on your hands from briefly touching the produce.
9. Label freezer bags with the type of produce and the date you are freezing them (permanent markers are great for this!)
10. Fill appropriate bags with corresponding produce. Back to the freezer they go! Try not to eat the produce until you can no longer get it in the store (or at least until it is no longer at a decent price in the store!)
More pictures to come tonight once they are frozen and bagged up!
Of course, fruits like apples, pears or bananas may not fare as well sliced and flash frozen color-wise. You can sprinkle lemon juice on them to better maintain the fruit's color, if lemons are safe for your LO. I personally prefer to make pear sauce (since apples are not safe) and freeze it in the ice cube trays like how you would prepare homemade baby food (also see here). I do the same with beet sauce (boiled and pureed beets-- same consistency as apple sauce. B loves it!)
Enjoy the harvest time and stock up for winter! Your sanity will thank you later!