Freezing food: questions and answers
According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia, freezing fresh fruits and vegetables is the most popular food preservation method. Freezing is a quick and easy way to enjoy the fresh flavor of seasonal foods all year. Here are answers to commonly asked questions about freezing food for later use.
Q: What are the benefits and risks of vacuum packing foods for storage?
A: Vacuum packaging machines or vacuum sealers removes air and can extend the storage time of refrigerated, dried and frozen foods. Remember, vacuum packaging is not a substitute for the heat processing of home canned foods or for refrigerator or freezer storage. According to the National Center for Food Preservation, producing a vacuum means removing air from the contents of a package. In this oxygen free environment, the spoilage bacteria do not multiply very fast which helps maintain the quality of the food product. However, some dangerous bacteria like, Clostridium botulinum that causes the deadly botulism poisoning, only grow in oxygen free environments and without the competition of the spoilage bacteria can grow even faster. Unlike spoilage bacteria, disease-causing bacteria do not change the color or appearance of the food. Keep vacuum packaged perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer. Care must be taken not to contaminate food during the vacuum packaging process-extremely clean hands, and clean and sanitized equipment and work surfaces are essential. Thawing food in the refrigerator is also critical.
Q: How can I avoid freezer burn?
A: Drying occurs on the surface of a frozen product that wasn't wrapped properly. The food is safe to eat but the quality is poor. To prevent freezer burn, remove all air and seal airtight.
Q: How much food can be frozen at one time?
A: Freeze only the amount that will freeze within 24 hours, which is usually 2-3 pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer space. For best quality set the freezer temperature at minus 10 degrees F. at least 24 hours ahead of freezing quantities of fresh food. Once frozen, maintain a temperature at 0 degrees F. or less. Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature of your freezer.
Q: Will food spoil if it stays frozen longer than the recommended storage time?
A: No. This is a quality versus a food safety issue. Recommended storage times insure maximum quality. Food stored longer will be safe to eat but you may notice changes in flavor, color and texture. For best quality, use frozen fruits and vegetables within 8 to 12 months.