Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Freezing Food... in Glass!
This post was long on my mind - after spending days searching the internet for ways to store food in any other containers besides plastic. It seems nuts to go through the effort of growing or buying locally grown fabulous produce and then package it in such unhealthy containers as plastic - be it bags or trays or jugs. I never though about it before, but now it dawned on me that time is ripe for change. An abundant harvest of apples in our little home orchard prompted a long-wished-for purchase of an apple press. That is one fine pricey toy!
Several years ago we determined that we prefer to convert money into things one can eat or ones that produce energy, value-added product, or decrease our dependence on industrial agriculture. Thus the press arrived and is sitting on our porch in its elegant glory. The apples were harvested, books consulted, friends invited for a juicing party when the question of how to contain all that liquid gold has arrived. We don't heat process our juice - i.e. it is "raw" with all its vitamins and enzymes and nutrients. Thus have to freeze it to keep it. My research and conversations with those in the know yielded one answer - square plastic bottles are the best. They stack well, they don't burst, they are reusable. Plastic???? We have been systematically converting everything in our house and lives into "non-plastic" - I still remember the high school organic chemistry lessons about plastic, the wonderful material with its fantastic qualities - one of them was that it did not react with its contents. That was not that long ago, when even my chemistry teacher believed in this fairy tale! Plastics leach all sorts of substances and even BPA-free containers (widely available now) are still made out of all sorts of unsavory substances! Why would I mix my organic, homegrown, raw apple juice with plastic?
Online searches for freezing food in glass yielded nothing, except for some fleeting mention that Ball/Kerr canning jars are actually made for both extreme hot and extreme cold temperatures and may be suitable for freezing liquids in. The official Ball website was mum on the subject - but the seed was planted. I consulted other sources, my common sense and arrived to the following template for using glass for freezing:
1. Quarts (1/4 gallon) wide mouth jars are the best - the volume is not too large so it allows for fast freezing and more even expansion which could possibly damage the container. Wide mouth leaves more space for expansion. I left 2" head space in my jars.
2. The item to be frozen must be chilled to the lowest temperature possible before going into the freezer. I put my juice in large (1/2 gallon) glass jugs and placed them in ice water bath for several hours. Then I poured cold juice into quarts which allowed me to keep the jars dry, and placed them into the freezer, one layer high. I added layers later once I was sure all jars froze without any problems - i.e. they were frozen in batches.
3. I did not use lid bands on my jars, lids only - to allow for more space is somehow juice expanded more than the head space I left. You can put bands on the jars later, once they are frozen.
4. I stacked jars in the original cardboard boxes, which keeps them together and avoids any banging or movement when I rummage in the freezer.
I am proud to report 100% success rate with this method and am glad to be free of plastic in my freezer. Now I need to figure out how to store grated zucchini & apple and all other smaller staff that fits nicely in zipper bags but really does not belong there!