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Published July 27, 2012, 12:00 AM

Prairie Fare: How to freeze (food) in the summer heat

“Mom, have you seen Audrey lately?” my teenage daughter asked. “Who’s Audrey?” I replied. She giggled and said, “Oh, I meant Audrey II. She’s outside in the garden climbing over the fence.”

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Mom, have you seen Audrey lately?” my teenage daughter asked.

“Who’s Audrey?” I replied.

She giggled and said, “Oh, I meant Audrey II. She’s outside in the garden climbing over the fence.”

Now it made sense. I realized she was referring to the movie character Audrey, the massive carnivorous plant from the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.” My daughter has been watching videos on YouTube and singing the songs around our home.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a real-life Audrey, though. I like to sleep at night.

Our Audrey is a huge pumpkin plant that has crept over the fence surrounding our garden and appears to be on the way to our house. We are retraining Audrey to stay within the confines of our garden, but that plant has a mind of its own. If that doesn’t work, I have a clipper and I’m not afraid to use it.

With all the flowers on her vines, Audrey probably will be the mother of many pumpkins this year.

If you have been diligently watering your garden in the heat this year, you may have some prolific plants, too. You may find that you will need to preserve some of your produce so it doesn’t go to waste.

Freezing is one of the easiest ways to preserve your produce. The process involves a couple of steps designed to maintain the quality of your produce so you can enjoy it at top quality next winter.

Many people regularly freeze food, so here’s a short quiz to test your knowledge of freezing techniques to keep your food at its best.

1 - Which of the following are not suitable for long-term freezer storage?

(Choose all that apply.)

a. Plastic sandwich bags

b. Bread wrappers

c. Cottage cheese containers

d. Freezer bags

2 - If food is not frozen in proper containers, it may develop brownish-white spots from the loss of moisture. What is this called?

3 - Stopping the action of enzymes in plants is important to help prevent discoloration, toughening or off-colors. What is the name of process of scalding vegetables in water or steam to stop these enzymes?

4 - True or false: All vegetables require the same amount of steaming or scalding in hot water prior to freezing.

5 - True or false: Prior to freezing, the heated vegetables should be cooled quickly to stop the cooking by plunging in cold, running water or ice water.

How did you do? Here are the answers:

Answers: 1. a, b and c are not appropriate. 2. Freezer burn is a form of dehydration that occurs when food is not prepared and packaged properly for freezing.

3. Blanching inactivates enzymes and improves product quality. 4. False 5. True.

Be sure to freeze only top-quality produce. The quality of the end product is only as good as the quality of the starting ingredients. Use only freezer containers and label the containers with the contents and date.

For example, string beans are blanched for three minutes and then cooled before packing, sealing and freezing in the appropriate package. If you have prolific pumpkins later in the season, consider freezing some. Before freezing, rinse the pumpkin, peel, remove seeds and cut into pieces. Cook or steam until tender. Or bake in a 350 F oven until soft, remove seeds and freeze. Package the pumpkin in freezer containers or freezer bags. Leave a 1/2-inch headspace between the top of the pumpkin and the cover.

Corn on the cob can be frozen whole, but the amount of time for blanching varies based on the size of the cobs. Small ears are blanched for seven minutes, medium ears for nine minutes and large ears for 11 minutes prior to packaging, sealing and freezing.

For more information about freezing and other techniques for food preservation, including freezing, canning, pickling and food dehydration, see the NDSU Extension Service food preservation collection at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/preservation.html. To freeze vegetables, see publication FN187. To freeze fruits, see FN182. For an overall food freezing guide, see FN403.

Try some corn on the cob prepared outdoors and then consider freezing some fresh cobs to enjoy later using the information in one of the publications noted. This grilling technique adds a smoky, garlicky flavor to one of summer’s favorite vegetables.


Grilled Corn on the Cob

6 ears of corn

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

1 tablespoon chives, chopped (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your grill and spray or lightly oil the grill grating. Open the husks and remove the silk. Soak the cobs in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes.

Remove from the water and shake to remove excess water. Secure husk in place by tying with an extra piece of husk. Grill for about 15 minutes on a medium-hot grill, turning a couple of times.

Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the garlic, if desired, and saute. When the corn is cooked, remove the husks and brush with garlic butter. Sprinkle with chives if desired.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 90 calories, 2 grams (g) of fat, 3 g of protein, 19 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 15 milligrams of sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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