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How to Freeze Eggplant

Eggplant is fantastic in a number of salads and main dish meals from parmesan to stir-fry and it can be quite expensive when purchased from the grocery store. However, it is possible to freeze a bumper crop of eggplant from the garden or farm stand and enjoy the unique flavor of summer all winter long. Eggplant is best preserved frozen, and the following easy way to freeze eggplant will enable you to enjoy this fresh garden fare during the coldest winter months when fresh varieties are no longer affordable and harder to find.

Choosing the Ideal Eggplant to Freeze

Before preparing to freeze eggplant, it is important to choose the ideal fruit. Select fruit that is solid in color that does not show signs of spoilage or over-development. The cap should be intact for optimal freshness.

To tell if eggplant is ripe and ready to freeze, consider the variety and the recommendations regarding that particular type. My favorite type is the elongated oriental variety. It grows to about the size of an average banana, and it is the ideal size and shape whether it is diced or sliced. In any case, the fruit should be glossy and not dull or discolored when planning to freeze fresh garden eggplant. When lightly pressed a dent should not remain, but the flesh should not be hard either. If the flesh is hard the eggplant is too young to freeze and should remain on the vine. Dull fruit that remains dented when gently pressed is too mature to freeze, and it should be used as soon as possible. Keep in mind that young glossy eggplant will also have smaller seeds and will have a milder flavor. This is when the eggplant is at the ideal stage of development to freeze and preserve.

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Harvesting Eggplant to Freeze

Use caution when picking eggplant whether you plan to freeze it or to use it within a few days. The stems are exceptionally strong, fibrous, and they are covered with sticker-like protrusions that can pierce the skin. My hands have been stuck many times when not wearing gloves during harvesting. I have found that the easiest way to harvest eggplant is with a pair of garden sheers or heavy-duty utility scissors. Pulling or twisting could destroy the plant before the fruit breaks away, and like other soft-skinned fruit it bruises very easily.

How to Prepare Eggplant to Freeze

After harvesting eggplant it is important to freeze it as soon as possible. Allowing it to remain in the refrigerator or elsewhere will result in produce that is not nearly as fresh, and it will form dents and dimpled areas. It can also become bitter. If it must be stored, it can be wrapped in plastic and kept for a few days in the refrigerator.

When preparing to freeze eggplant, begin by washing it thoroughly and gently under cool running water, and cut off the cap and stem. Next, prepare a pan of boiling water that contains one-half of a cup of lemon juice per gallon of water. The water will be used to blanch the fruit in preparation to freeze it. Fresh-squeezed lemon is best, but reconstituted varieties contain enough citric acid to help the flesh retain its pale color.

The skin of the fruit can be left intact or peeled just before blanching. The peel contains some fiber and it adds color to otherwise drab dishes, but removing it or keeping it intact is a matter of personal taste. I prefer to peel this fruit before I freeze it since the skin can be chewy and somewhat tough.

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Slice the eggplant into wheels about one-third of an inch thick while the water is heating to a boil. This is the ideal thickness for most dishes. Once sliced, drop the eggplant into gently boiling water with the lid in place. It should blanch for approximately four minutes before removal.

The Ideal Way to Freeze Eggplant

Lastly, remove each batch of eggplant from the boiling water using a slotted spoon, and allow it to cool to a comfortable temperature before attempting to freeze it. Freeze the blanched eggplant slices in high-quality freezer bags after extracting the air, and be sure to date the bags. If planning to fry the slices, be sure to freeze them with waxed paper or freezer paper in between the layers. When properly prepared and protected, the eggplant slices will remain fresh for approximately six months in the freezer.