Farmers markets are one of my all-time weaknesses when it comes to buying fresh and delicious vegetables in bulk. Why, I hear you ask? Because not only am I supporting farmers directly, getting the freshest possible produce directly from the grower, receiving produce that tastes much better, but I also save a truck-load of money in the process. What does that have to do with blanching vegetables for freezing?
Buying in bulk poses one nuisance, a conundrum that needs taking care of within a couple of days of bringing your vegetables home. And that is how best to store them, so I get use out of them before they spoil.
The answer is of course freezing. But you can’t simply take your trusty baby carrots and toss them into the freezer.
Blanching and Freezing Combination
Freezing vegetables without proper preparation will result in a drastic loss of color, flavor and texture. Believe me, the end result is not even worth keeping for soups. It’s far better to do the hard work now and reap the rewards in a few months when thawing the vegetables for your next meal.
The answer is to blanch the vegetables first. What is blanching? In simple words, it’s when you par-boil the vegetables for a specific period of time. How to blanch them is described further down, but take care to understand the specific times involved as they vary between foods.
How to blanch vegetables for freezing specifically requires timing and patience, especially if you need to prepare many different varieties of foods.
The reason for blanching vegetables for freezing is to inactivate the enzymes contained in the vegetables. Failing to do so will cause the foods to lose flavor, color and texture. Research has also shown that blanching too short a time will simply activate the enzymes and not turn them off, whole over blanching destroys the flavors, colors and nutrients.
4 Tips to Blanching Vegetables
Tip #1: Use proper blanching ingredient
I guess the most obvious tip I can give you is just how to blanch vegetables for freezing. The answer is a little more complicated, but comes down to just one thing. What you will use to blanch vegetables. There are 3 main methods used for this process, one of which I’m sure you’ll already be familiar with. They include-
- Water Blanching- use a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and a wire basket to hold the vegetables. The amount of water is generally a gallon per pound of vegetables, but make sure not to overload the amount of food. Once the water is boiling, add the vegetables via the basket. The water should return to the boil within a minute. If it doesn’t, you have too many vegetables.
- Steam Blanching- same as water, but instead of submerging the vegetables in a wire basket, you’ll want to keep them suspended above the waterline. Use only an inch or two of water.
- Microwave Blanching- the least recommended method as the enzymes may not inactivate during the cooking process. This process also takes far longer and takes more energy.
Depending on which you choose, the times may vary significantly, especially when comparing steam and microwave methods.
Tip #2: Set your blanching vegetables
Prepare and blanch vegetables of the same type in batches. This is probably an obvious tip, but one I’d still like to point out. The reason being there are many people who like to take short cuts in the kitchen. This is not one of those times.
It’s far better to take your time and give yourself the space to clean and chop your vegetables into batches, then prepare them for blanching in lots. Keep your eye on the times and cool them once done.
Tip #3: Cooling
Cooling the vegetables will also take a specific process. This is to ensure the cooking process stops as soon as possible. Never leave the vegetables suspended in the heated water as they will continue to cook.
Either use a second saucepan with cold or ice water, or if possible, use running water. If you need to know how long to keep the vegetables in the cold water, a great rule of thumb is the same amount of time they spent blanching.
Tip #4: Specific blanching time for a specific vegetable
Here are some blanching times for vegetables when using the water blanching method. When blanching vegetables for freezing, steam and microwave times will be different.
- Asparagus- depending on stalk size, 3/4/5 minutes for small medium large
- Beans (Snap, Green or Wax)- 3 minutes
- Beans (Lima, Butter or Pinto)- small 2, medium 3 and large 4 minutes
- Broccoli- 5 minutes per head or 3 minutes when in flowerets
- Brussel Sprouts- 3 minutes small, 4 medium and 5 large
- Cabbage- 1 and a half minutes
- Carrots- 5 minutes for small or 2 minutes when sliced
- Cauliflower- 3 minutes for flowerets
- Celery- 3 minutes
- Corn- kernels are 4 minutes, small ears 7 minutes, medium 9 and large 11
- Eggplant- 4 minutes
- Mushrooms- 5 minutes whole/ 3 and a half for buttons
- Okra- 3 to 4 minutes
- Onions- 3 to 7 minutes. Test centres
- Peas (Pods)- 1 and a half to 3 minutes
- Peas- 2 minutes
- Peppers- 3 minutes for halves
- Potato (Irish)- 3 to 5 minutes
- Pumpkin- cook through
- Soybeans- 5 minutes
- Sweet Potato- cook through
- Turnips/Parsnips- 2 minutes