Preserving your Harvest: Part 1

Freezing is one of the easiest ways to preserve your excess vegetables so you can enjoy them later in the year. Some vegetables will first need to be blanched or steamed and others will not. Below are some instructions on blanching, steaming and freezing. I hope you find this helpful.

 

What is Blanching?

Blanching is a process where food is submerged in boiling water or steamed for a brief period and then quickly placed in ice water to prevent it from cooking all the way through.

The amount of time needed to blanch or steam vegetables varies. As a result, it’s important to follow the recommended times for each specific vegetable because over-blanching leads to a loss of flavor, color, nutrients and possibly limp vegetables. However, under-blanching can increase enzyme activity. Check the chart below for the appropriate blanching and steaming times.

 

When and Why to Blanch or Steam

Here are a few reasons to blanch vegetables prior to freezing:

  • Blanching or steaming helps to preserve the flavor, color and texture of the fresh produce that’s being frozen.
  • Blanching or steaming helps slow the loss of vitamins.
  • Blanching or steaming helps cleanse the surface of dirt and some bacteria.

 

How To Blanch or Steam

There are two major steps involved in blanching or steaming foods for preservation. First, the vegetables must be submerged in boiling water or steamed. Second, they must be cooled quickly.

For every one pound of vegetables, use at least one gallon of boiling water to blanch them in, except for greens which will need twice as much water. I find that steaming leafy green vegetables works better than blanching and uses much less water. Before blanching or steaming, scrub or rinse the vegetables and remove the peels or skins if desired. If you plan on freezing your vegetables in slices, chopped or diced, do this before blanching and cut them into uniform sizes.

To blanch your vegetables, bring the water to a rapid boil, add a teaspoon of salt plus the vegetables to the water and cover tightly. Keep the heat on high so the water continues to boil. To help remove the vegetables quickly and easily when they’re ready (especially if you’re blanching another batch and need to reuse the water) place the vegetables in a wire basket or use a slotted spoon or strainer to facilitate removing them.

To steam your vegetables, place a steamer basket, set into a large pot with sufficient water in the bottom to boil for the designated amount of time. Boil the water in the pot; add the vegetables, cover and steam. When finished, remove the vegetables and cool them in ice water as noted below.

 

Whether blanching or steaming, the vegetables need to be cooled quickly and thoroughly to stop the cooking process immediately. To do this, plunge them into a large bowl of ice water. After they’re thoroughly cooled, drain the vegetables in a colander and lay flat on a clean towel or paper towels to let them fully dry. Extra moisture can reduce the quality when vegetables are frozen.

Pack your blanched vegetables in food safe, plastic freezer bags, silicone bags or rigid containers before storing in the freezer. Allow some extra space in the container before sealing, as some vegetables may expand when frozen.

 

Blanching/Steaming Times for Freezing Vegetables

Blanching

Steaming

Beans, Whole
Broccoli Florets
Brussels Sprouts
Carrots, sliced
Cauliflower, florets
Kale, Collards
Kohlrabi, sliced or diced
Spinach

2 minutes
2 minutes
3 minutes
3 minutes
3 minutes
2 minutes
2 minutes
1 minute

3 minutes
3 minutes
4 minutes
4 minutes
4 minutes
3 minutes
3 minutes
2 minutes

Vegetables That Don’t Need Blanching or Steaming

Tomatoes
Onions, Shallots and Scallions
Peppers
Winter Squash

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