You may love to stock your freezer with the garden harvest, but hate to blanch vegetables ahead of time. Is it an extra step you can skip? Maybe, if you follow the rules.
Now that vegetable season is in full swing it is a good time to learn how to preserve the bounty. 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.
Each vegetable has its own rules to follow before being placed in the freezer or dehydrator, and you should know the rules before you can decide if you want to break them.
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 plants to lose nutrients and change texture once they are frozen.
To freeze vegetables, cool them and then pack 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.
Blanched vegetables can also be placed directly onto dehydrator trays and processed for the proper time.
There Are Several No Blanch Vegetables
Several vegetable crops freeze or dry well and do not require blanching at all. These are my favorites because they are so easy to get into the pantry! They 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 thaw, 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 other packages will not crush them.
- Mushroom – wipe them clean with a towel. Washing will cause them to discolor.
(Maybe) You Should Blanch These Vegetables
Some crops MAY require blanching. These usually call for minimal blanch time in boiling water, and you may find that you’ll have great success skipping it all together. The texture once thawed or rehydrated remains good for soups, stews, and casseroles. These have a six to eight-month freezer storage life, and a year for dehydrated vegetables. It is best only to prepare what you will use in one year and continually rotate your supplies.
The key to these no blanch vegetables is the way you cut them before processing. The pieces are small enough that you can usually skip blanching. These vegetables should be thoroughly cleaned, chopped and towel dried, getting out any excess moisture.
For freezing: place the pieces in the freezer, in a single layer on cookie sheets until thoroughly frozen. Once frozen, pack them into freezer ready bags. Freezing first will keep them from sticking together, and you’ll be able to remove a handful at a time. You can also follow these directions for freezing fruit.
For dehydrating: place vegetables in a single layer on dehydrator sheets and process until crisp. Store in canning jars, in a cool dark place.
- 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 or process them in the dehydrator. You should only use vegetables that are in excellent condition.
- Asparagus- In boiling water 2-3 minutes for pieces bigger than half an inch
- Broccoli – Cut into blanch small heads and process in boiling water 2-4 minutes
- Carrots – Small whole for 5 minutes, sliced for 3 minutes
- Cauliflower – Cut into small heads and stems, blanch 3 minutes in boiling water, add salt or lemon juice
- Celery – 1 minute in boiling water
- Corn – blanch 4 minutes, then cut off kernels. 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
- Summer Squash – blanch 2-3 minutes, cool, drain and pack
Set up a Blanching Station
If you find blanching vegetables as distasteful as I do, consider creating a blanching station to make the process go a bit faster. Begin my making an assembly line from your stovetop to your sink.
- Bring a stockpot filled with water to a rolling boil.
- Fill your kitchen sink or a tub insert with cold water and ice.
- Place a small batch of vegetables in the boiling water for the recommended time and promptly remove it to the cold water bath.
- Once the blanched vegetables are cooled, remove from the water and place on a kitchen towel to pat dry.
- Process for freezing for drying.
I have several books that I always go to when I need information on how to dry, freeze, blanch, or can vegetables. These are ones I own, use, and highly recommend. You may be able to these at your local library. Drying and freezing vegetables is an important part of your food storage plan and knowing the rules of blanching is important, especially if you decide you want to break them!
Check also for online publications. I recommend these from Colorado State University and Oregon State University, they both have excellent online information that you can download with the exact instructions on the process of blanching vegetables.