Learn When and How to Blanch Vegetables This Harvest
Now that vegetable season is in full swing it is a good time to learn how to preserve the bounty. When it comes to storing my harvest, 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 seemed like an extra step that wasn’t needed when I was learning how to blanch vegetables
The good news for me was that soon after I learned how to blanch vegetables, I realized that the rule was not a one size fits all deal. Each vegetable has its own set of rules to follow before being placed in the freezer or dehydrator. When you start learning how to blanch vegetables, it is imperative that you know the rules before you can decide if you want to break them. Knowing the rules can be the difference between a successful storage of your harvest and an unsuccessful one.
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. Blanching is an important process when storing vegetables because it stops the enzyme activity that causes plants to lose nutrients and change texture once they are frozen.
Each vegetable has a different time requirement for blanching. Overall, the process usually takes anywhere from two to five minutes. Afterwrds, you freeze vegetables, cool them and then pack them into plastic bags, jars, or freezer safe containers. This process is the part that tends to be the most time consuming. The key is to get out as much moisture as possible. If you do not, it will all freeze into one big veggie popsicle. You will obviously want to avoid this as it would be counter-intuitive to all the hard work you put into blanching, to begin with.
Blanched vegetables can also be placed directly onto dehydrator trays and processed for the proper time as well.
Vegetables That Do Not Need to Be Blanched
There are several vegetable crops that freeze or dehydrate well and do not require blanching. 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 do not form on your harvest. Here is a list of some popular vegetables that do not need to be blanched.
- 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.
Vegetables That May Not Need to Be Blanched
With some vegetables, you can end the cooking process of blanching all together. These vegetables usually call for minimal blanch time in boiling water. However, you may find that you’ll have great success skipping the process entirely. Without blanching, once thawed or rehydrated, the texture of some vegetables remains good for soups, stews, and casseroles. The freezer storage life will roughly be around six to eight months. If you are dehydrating these crops, then they can last for up to one year. It is best to only 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 and that is what allows you to skip the blanching process altogether. Skip the cooking process of blanching and clean, chop, and towel dry the vegetables instead. Be sure to get out any excess moisture.
Once you have skipped the cooking process entirely, go straight to freezing. To do this, simply place your vegetables in a freezer safe container. You will want to make sure that your veggies have been cleaned, chopped, and dried thoroughly. Next, 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 your chopped veggies first will keep the peices from sticking together. This way, you can take out a handful at a time during your cooking process. This can be super helpful, especially if you usually make dishes like breakfast brunch that call for chopped veggies. If you are working with fruit, then be sure to check out this handy guide on freezing fruit.
Once you understand how to blanch vegetables that require it, it is worth the effort to go a step ahead and dehydrate vegetables too. It is super easy to dehydrate vegetables that do not need to be blanched. Simply, place the vegetables in a single layer on dehydrator sheets and process until crisp. You can store your veggies in canning jars, in a cool dark place such as a pantry or cellar.
To try out storing vegetables that do not need to be blanched, begin with this easy to work with selection. These vegetables are also conveniently ones that you will be using on a daily basis in your cooking process.
- Green Beans – French sliced or cut into one-inch pieces
- Carrots – diced
- Parsnips – diced
- Peas – Green, no pod
- Asparagus – half-inch pieces
Vegetables That Always Need to Be Blanched
Finally, you will find that there are some vegetables that will always require you to blanch them before you store them in your freezer. You must also blanch them before you process them in the dehydrator as well. For these vegetables, you should only use vegetables that are in excellent condition. Any bruised or less than optimal vegetables should be cooked with right away.
Here is out our list of common veggies that should always be blanched before stored.
- 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 by making an assembly line from your stovetop to your sink. Whenever it is time for me to blanch vegetables, I like to do a stockpile at a time so that I do not have to repeat the process until some time has passed. Having an assembly line ready helps the process go a lot smoother.
How to Blanch Vegetables
- 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 them from the water and place them on a kitchen towel to pat dry.
- Allow your veggies to dry completely before you move on to freezing them.
- You can also process your blanched vegetables in the freezer for additional drying
- Once you blanched vegetables have completely dried, package them in a freezer safe container, bag, or jar. To extend the shelf life, be sure to get out as much of the air as possible.
Additional Resources on How to Blanch Vegetables
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. If you prefer not to buy them, then you may be able to find them at your local library instead.
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! As you learn how to blanch vegetables, you will find it will be helpful having additional resources like these texts next to you during your blanching process.
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.
Final Thoughts on How to Blanch Vegetables
Storing vegetables properly may sound easy, but for many, there is an element of surprise when they realize there is a specific process the vegetables need to go through first. If you are learning how to blanch vegetables for the first time, then hopefully you have found this guide to be helpful. Knowing what you can and can’t blanch is a step forward in your vegetable blanching adventures.
Have you tried blanching before? How did that go? Share your process and thoughts about it below!