March is National Frozen Food Month
Now that vegetable season is in full swing it is a good time to learn how to freeze the bounty. Each kind of vegetable has its own freezing rules and you should know the rules before you can decide if you want to break them! The hardest part for me is taking the time to blanch vegetables. I don’t mind doing the cutting, chopping or packing, but I have a hard time justifying the blanching time. It just seems like an extra step that isn’t needed.
To Blanch or Not to Blanch, That is the Question
When you blanch vegetables you boil or steam them for a few minutes, then quickly cool them in ice water. Each vegetable has a different time requirement for blanching, usually from two to five minutes. This process stops the enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture once they are frozen.
The cooled veggies are then packed into plastic bags, jars or freezer safe containers. The key is to get out as much moisture as possible or it will all freeze into one big veggie Popsicle, which is a shame after all your hard work.
There Are Several No Blanch Vegetables
There are several vegetable crops that freeze well and do not require blanching at all. These are my favorites because they are so easy! These can be washed and halved, quartered or chopped then towel dried and placed directly in your chosen freezer container. To extend your freezer time, make sure you get out as much air as possible so ice crystals cannot form.
- // Onion – chopped or small whole
- // Pepper – all kinds, sweet or spicy – whole or half, diced or sliced
- // Tomato – freeze whole tomatoes individually and then package. Once they are thawed, the skins will easily slip off.
- // Parsley – cut leaves with stems several inches long. Tie in bunches and swish in cold water to wash, then towel dry. Place in freezer bags where they will not be crushed by other packages.
(Maybe) You Should Blanch These Vegetables
There are some crops that MAY require blanching. These usually call for minimal blanch time in boiling water and I have had great success skipping it all together. The texture once thawed remains good for soups, stews and casseroles. These will only have a six to eight-month freezer storage life, so only prepare what you will use in one year.
The key to these no blanch vegetables is the way they are cut before freezing. These should be thoroughly cleaned, chopped and towel dried, getting out any excess moisture. Place them in a single layer on cookie sheets until frozen, then pack. Follow these directions for freezing fruit.
- // Green Beans – French sliced or cut into one-inch pieces
- // Carrots – diced
- // Parsnips – diced
- // Peas – green, no pod
- // Asparagus – half inch pieces
Always Blanch Vegetables
And finally, these vegetables will always require blanching before you store them in your freezer. Use only vegetables in excellent condition and make sure they are thoroughly cleaned.
- // Asparagus- In boiling water 2 to 4 minutes for pieces bigger than half an inch
- // Broccoli – blanch in boiling water 3 minutes
- // Carrots – Small whole for 5 minutes, sliced for 3
- // Cauliflower – 3 minutes in boiling water, add salt or lemon juice
- // Celery – 3 minutes in boiling water
- // Corn – blanch 4 minutes, then cut off kernels or on the cob for 7 to 11 minutes
- // Eggplant – cut into slices half an inch thick, blanch 4 minutes with boiling water and lemon juice to cut down on discoloration
- // Green beans – blanch 3 minutes, cool, drain and pack
- // Mushroom – for fresh use, blanch whole pieces in boiling water for 5 minutes
- // Summer Squash – blanch 3 minutes, cool, drain and pack
I have several books that I always go to when I need information on how to dry, freeze, blanch or can vegetables. You may be able to find them at your local library and it important to know the rules before you can decide if you want to break them! These are ones I own and use highly recommend.
What are your favorite vegetables to freeze?