This year I added a new skill to my food preservation repertoire, and I can't believe how simple it is!
Blanching and then freezing veggies is a great way to preserve excess food from the garden or summer markets. The reason for the blanching (and not just simply freezing) is that it kills the enzymes in vegetables, which prevents them from continuing to be active once frozen, and would result in off-colors and flavors, toughness, etc. The technique basically involves putting the vegetables into boiling water for a couple of minutes, just enough to stop the enzyme process, but not long enough to fully cook them, which helps to maintain crisp texture and good flavor when you want to use them later on.
Especially for those who don't have the ability to create a root cellar or who would prefer not to do canning, this is an excellent way to store most garden veggies such as: turnips, green beans, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, corn, peas, spinach and summer squash. There are just a few exceptions, which don't require blanching: onions, peppers, and herbs.
Personally, I did freeze my zucchini last summer, grated and in little bags, without blanching. It kept just fine and was perfect for use in muffins and breads, and even pasta sauce. I also froze my spinach washed and chopped, but not blanched, earlier this summer and recently used (and enjoyed) it in a pasta dish. However, I might have lucked out in both of those instances, and am freezing the rest of my garden bounty with blanching.
That said, here we go!
A large pot of water
A slotted spoon
A bowl of cold water
A tray of ice cubes
A clean dish towel
Vegetables of choice
Here are the last of my turnips. It's a bit of a motley looking bunch, since it's the end of my harvest (I processed a bunch of really nice ones a week or two ago). Nonetheless, they needed to be done.
One important thing to note is that any preserving should be done with as fresh of vegetables as possible. If it's coming from your own garden, don't pick it until you're ready to process it within an hour or two, or even better, within minutes. If it's coming from a market or farm, plan to do your preserving just as soon as you get it home. Produce that is preserved at it's peak of freshness yields a much better, tastier product.
First things first, I cut off the greens and rinsed them well in the sink. Next I chopped off their bottoms/roots, as you can see above.
If your veggie needs peeling, now is the time to do it. Obviously some will only need to be washed, like peas or broccoli. Cut your veggie of choice into whatever size pieces you think that you will want to have. With something like turnips, I like them diced in small chunks. Broccoli or cauliflower in nice size florets to add to a stir-fry or the like. Corn could be left on the ear, or else cut off into kernels.
While I'm peeling/cutting, I get my pot of water boiling on the stove. You want it at a full rolling boil.
Each vegetable has a different boiling time. For turnips, around 2 minutes is sufficient. Others will need less or more time. Here is a link to a great chart of the different vegetables and how long they need to boil in order to be blanched.
Once my timer has been set and my veggies are boiling away, I take this opportunity to add my tray of ice to a bowl of cold water, so that it's ready as soon as my timer goes off.
Use a slotted spoon and try to remove the veggies from the boiling water and get them into the ice cold water as quickly as possible.
My turnips, cooling off under the ice. Sounds nice on a roasting hot day like today! :)
In general, vegetables need to be cooled off in the water for the same amount of time that they are blanched in the boiling water. So, my turnips now get another 2 minutes in the cold water. The purpose is simply to cool them off completely to stop the cooking process.
Once the ice water bath is finished, I use the slotted spoon to scoop them onto a dry and clean dish towel. I like to cover them up for a while and let them dry off as much as possible before putting them in bags or containers to be frozen.
If you're creating packages of a size that will be used up in one meal, this isn't so important. With my turnips, I might use 1 cup for one casserole, and 1 cup for a stew, for example, so I'd like mine to not be completely frozen to eat other, but still be accessible if I only want some of them.
All finished, in a ziploc bag, ready for the freezer!
My total time in doing this small batch of turnips was under 30 minutes. When I did a larger batch the other week, it took me a little over 30 minutes (more peeling and chopping). I love that this isn't too time intensive, and in fact, it will pay off in the winter time when my washing, peeling and chopping has already been done!
Part of Kitchen Tip Tuesdays!
Have you tried blanching vegetables? What methods do you usually use for putting up summer's bounty?