Bananas

Saturday, May 23, 2020

I have a couple of friends who frequently end up with large quantities of slightly past-its-prime food — food that is still usable for certain purposes but can’t be distributed because it fell outside the window of acceptable food safety (e.g., it was held at the wrong temperature for too long) or for some other reason. Sometimes the problem is just too much of one thing all at the same time that they don’t have the capacity to distribute while it will still be edible.

Knowing that I both (a) hate food waste and (b) love a food bargain, these friends will contact me when they have some excess food item they need to get off their hands. Which is how I recently ended up with a case of ripe bananas in my kitchen. (I actually took two cases, but was able to give half of them away to friends and neighbors.)

I said I would take them because I know that you can peel bananas and freeze them and they will keep indefinitely. You can use them straight out of the freezer for smoothies or you can take them out and thaw them to use in pancakes or muffins, or to make banana bread.

I have a friend who would freeze bananas in the peel and then take them out and thaw them in a bowl and take the peel off when they were thawed and mash them and make banana bread. This is fine if the only thing you are going to do with the bananas is make banana bread, and if you are willing to wait for the bananas to thaw before you use them. It won’t work if you want to use them frozen in a smoothie. This I learned when I tried to peel a frozen banana and I thought my fingers were going to fall off, they were so cold. You cannot imagine how cold your fingers can get until you try to peel a frozen banana. OMG so cold.

So now my strategy is to peel the bananas and wrap each banana individually in little piece of plastic wrap. I put the wrapped bananas in a plastic bag, and then I put the plastic bag in a zip-top freezer bag. (I usually insist on putting a label with anything I put in the freezer so that later I can figure out what it is, but I’ve found bananas to be sufficiently visually identifiable that I can skip that step.)

I know that seems like a lot of plastic but you can reuse it for the next round of bananas, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Then you can just pull out of the freezer however many bananas as you need.

If you have just a few bananas, not a case of them, you can skip the freezing step and just wait until they get ripe enough to made banana bread. For banana bread, you want your bananas to be really ripe — almost uniformly brown.

I had a good whole-wheat banana bread recipe that I liked a lot that I hadn’t made in a while so I was going to make that but then when I looked at it I was reminded that it calls for maple syrup, which I don’t have at the moment. So I went in search of a new recipe, and because I had so many bananas to use up, I was looking for the one that called for the most banana. Some of them said one or two bananas, some said two or three, some of them said a half cup or one cup of mashed banana.

Then I found one that I thought said one and three-quarters cups, so I made that one, but then later when I looked at it more carefully, I realized it actually said one and a quarter cups. Oops. But it worked with one and three quarters, so I just stuck with three medium-to-large bananas as the baseline banana amount. (The original recipe says two large bananas or three small. Some of the bananas I had were GIANT, they were like mutant bananas. I think I used three pretty big bananas and it worked okay.)

I made the recipe three times:  the first time for me, and to test the recipe; the second to give to the friend who gave me the bananas; and the third to give to a friend who told me that he loved banana bread so much that sometimes he would drive to the Bob Evans restaurant just to buy their banana bread. I gave him the recipe along with the bread, maybe it will inspire him to learn how to make it. It’s never too late to learn how to make your own banana bread.

As I made it, I made some adjustments to the recipe. Here is the final version I came up with.

[NOTE: I was not able to put nuts in this because I didn’t have any, and was not motivated to go get any, but if you like nuts in your banana bread, feel free to add 1/2 cup nuts — walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts — to the final mix-in.]

HELP I NEED TO GET RID OF A CASE OF BANANAS BANANA BREAD

1/3 cup softened butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cup flour [NOTE: The original recipe calls for 1 cup wheat flour and 1/2 cup white flour, but I used white flour only because that’s what I had in my pantry and there was no flour to be had in my local grocery store the last three times I shopped. Once I can get my hands on some wheat flour, I’ll try it with that.]
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon [optional]
1/4 tsp nutmeg [optional]
1-1/4 to 1-3/4 cup mashed banana (from 3 ripe bananas)
1/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract [optional]

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices, if using.

In another bowl, combine the banana, buttermilk or yogurt, and vanilla.

Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and stir until combined.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350F degrees until the top is brown and the loaf is springy to the touch. (You can use a toothpick to test, but with so much banana in this, the toothpick may still come out looking wet even when the batter is cooked all the way.)

Do your best to not to eat all of it as soon as you take it out of the oven.

6 Responses to “Bananas”

  1. worldstouch Says:

    The only problem with this is the last sentence. Why NOT eat all of it as soon as it comes out of the oven? Because then you just need to make it again, and this time, it will last a while because you’re full of banana bread. This is the equivalent of always going to the grocery store on a somewhat full stomach. Hahaha…

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Haha, yes! It was especially hard to not eat all of it when you have like 50 bananas in your kitchen. If I wasn’t worried about running out of flour — and if I had more than 3 pair of pants that fit me right now — I definitely would have eaten as much as I wanted. Which might well have been all of it.

  3. Miser Mom Says:

    Yes to this post! As someone who once brought home two cases of bananas purchased for $4 . . . . although my freezer experience is different. Once, I thawed a sausage to cook for dinner only to discover it was a brown banana. (So now I label them).

    Oh, and I have a slightly different freezing method: I spread them out an a baking sheet until they freeze, and then chuck them together in a bag. It avoids the lots-of-plastic issue, and (mostly) keeps them from freezing into a banana-ice-berg.

    It sounds like you have awesome friends to share with you like this. It shows they trust you not to be judge-y about them, and they respect you, too. That’s a treasure.

  4. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the comment!

    A friend emailed me after the post went up and told me that she freezes bananas by cutting them in quarters, once crosswise and once lengthwise, which takes up less space. I like the freezing on a tray strategy, my problem is that when it was time for a new refrigerator a few years back I chose to purchase a funky European-style small refrigerator, which is very narrow and has three drawers (one of which is really a half drawer, to accommodate the compressor) in the freezer part. There are some things I really love about that refrigerator but having a small freezer compartment that is split up into three even smaller drawers is not one of them. Though there is a big shelf at the top with a tray for the ice cube trays, and I bet I could use that for the initial freezing. Using the plastic does bother me. But makes it so much easier to get out what I want quickly that I’ve stuck with it anyway.

  5. mm1970 Says:

    I need to find a good gluten free banana bread recipe. I have a banana berry muffin recipe. Our bananas rarely get too far gone (we are shopping infrequently, and we eat a lot of bananas!) When they do, I freeze for smoothies. But also: if you freeze in the peel and squeeze out after defrosting, they are also good for homemade granola. Heat up the banana with oil/butter and a little sugar or maple syrup, and use that as the wet ingredients. Tasty.

  6. lessisenough Says:

    Yeah, gluten-free baking is a challenge!

    There was a great little bakery/restaurant down the street from me for a few years called Daisy Cakes, and the pastry chef there had developed a gluten-free baking mix that could be substituted for flour and was used in the gluten-free breads and pastries she sold. I thought I read that she was going to keep working on that, so I thought it might be available online, but I just took a quick look and didn’t see it. Her stuff was all great.

    I love the squeezable banana idea. Like go-gurt!


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