Editorial consulting by the Culinary Institute of America - David Kamen, PCIII, MBA
The next time you get ready to place your produce order, consider how much better off your dishes and beverages will be with high-quality and versatile frozen ingredients. With flavor and nutrients locked in, no concern of spoilage, and easy portioning, purchasing frozen means you always have product on hand while enjoying 100% yield. And the next time you consider purchasing fresh berries, ask yourself where they came from and how long it took for them to get there.
Photo credit: Wild Blueberries Association of North America
Frozen berries are often better tasting, better performing, and frankly, more affordable.
With more fiber, less sugar, and twice the antioxidants of regular blueberries, frozen Wild Blueberries offer a “Real Foods” advantage to your menu, so be sure to call them out. Frozen Wild Blueberries are not just for muffins either. Puree frozen berries right into your smoothie recipes in lieu of ice. Fold them into pancake recipes. Use them for savory meat sauces. Try fermenting them for healthy probiotic recipes. They’re great in salad dressings, signature cocktails, BBQ sauces, fruit cups, and, of course, desserts!
The case for frozen is clear
Unfortunately, some chefs still assume that frozen produce is inferior to fresh. But if more chefs stopped to consider how fresh produce gets from farm to the table, they would better appreciate the value high quality frozen produce can bring to their menu.
Just how long does it take for fresh fruits and vegetables to get from field to market? Speaking in ideal terms, a product that’s in season and ripe still needs to be:
- Shipped to a warehouse
- Shipped to a distributor or market
- Delivered to the end user
- Prepared in a recipe
- And eaten
At each of these stops there’s a pause, further prolonging the process. It’s not an exaggeration to assume that it could take days or weeks from the time a fruit or vegetable is picked until it’s finally prepared and consumed by your customers.
Photo credit: Ted Axelrod | Wild Blueberries Association of North America
Does fresh produce suffer en route?
What happens to the quality of fresh produce while it’s making its way to your kitchen? And what about everything else it must endure, from bumping and bruising, to changes in temperature and humidity? There’s no simple answer because each fruit or vegetable responds differently. But they all change as a result. Some of these changes include the conversion of starch to sugar or sugars to starch. Others include loss of important nutrients, color, and flavor.
So, what about frozen?
Most frozen produce goes from field to freezer in less than 24 hours. This allows it to be picked at its peak of ripeness without having to allow for variables, such as transportation, storage, and time to market. Today’s Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) technology has solved many of the most daunting issues associated with fresh food. IQF freezing allows the nutritional value of the food to be locked in within hours of harvest; it also ensures the quality and integrity of the product.
Tips for using frozen Wild Blueberries
- When using frozen fruits or vegetables like frozen Wild Blueberries, don’t thaw them out in advance! It’s best to incorporate them in their frozen IQF Wild Blueberries preserve flavor and nutrients so there’s no reason to let all that goodness escape down the drain.
- Be sure to coat frozen Wild Blueberries with a light dusting of flour or corn starch to prevent the juices from bleeding into product. This has the added advantage of holding the berries in suspension in baked products so gravity can’t clump them on the bottom of the cake or muffin tin.
- If the berries must be defrosted, save the juice. Bring it to a boil, slowly reduce it to a syrup, and use it as an ingredient, sauce or glaze.
When the application calls for it, be sure to choose frozen over fresh.