It’s been a couple of weeks of restocking our freezers.
We’ve been overloaded with a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, the summer months are short and sweet.
Pea and bean season only last about 3 weeks around here, and unless you plant multiple harvests, that’s not a long time to enjoy them.
The good news is that a lot of vegetables freeze really well. If you have the room for a freezer, it can be a great way to put away your summer harvest for the winter months.
Freezing fresh vegetables from the garden is one of my favorite ways of home food preservation. This summer has brought a bounty of raspberries, strawberries, green beans, and peas.
Most fruits don’t need to be blanched before freezing, but most vegetables do.
And if you don’t have a garden, fresh summer produce can be found at your local farmers market as well.
The quality of a frozen product depends on the quality of the vegetables being frozen, to prevent loss of flavor.
If fresh produce from your garden are top quality fresh, and you freeze it immediately, the frozen products will be of great quality as well.
When I harvest beans or peas, I try to freeze them the same day. It’s important to get quality produce into the freezer as quickly as possible.
Not all vegetables need to be blanched before freezing. There are specific vegetables that don’t freeze well at all, such as lettuce.
Kale, spinach, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, and peas can all be frozen successfully. These vegetables all need blanching before freezing.
What is Blanching
Blanching is the process of dunking vegetables into boiling water or steaming for a short amount of time, and then quickly plunging them into an ice bath to halt the cooking process.
This short cooking process works to reduce enzyme action in foods, which helps vegetables keep their color and flavor. It also kills some bacteria and helps get rid of dirt.
Blanching also softens and wilts some vegetables such as kale and spinach, making them easier to pack.
There are some vegetables that you don’t necessarily have to blanch, but these need to be used more quickly, often within a month or two.
Blanched vegetables can be kept for 12-18 months in freezer bags effectively. Grow enough food in your garden during the summer months and feed your family throughout the whole year.
There are two types of blanching, boiling water blanch, and steam blanching.
Blanching in Boiling Water
Blanching in boiling water is when you dump your cut and washed veggies into a blanching basket, and cook for several minutes. These are then plunged into ice-cold water to quickly stop the cooking process.
Steam blanching takes somewhat longer than boiling water blanching, but it does the same thing.
It helps prevent the loss of water-soluble vitamins in vegetables.
With steam blanching, you use a steaming basket or a cheesecloth that hangs a couple of inches above the boiling water.
The blancher that I use can be used for both boiling water blanching as well as steam blanching.
Why Do You Need To Blanch Vegetables
It can be tempted to freeze vegetables without blanching, especially on busy summer days. However, there are several reasons you need to blanch vegetables before freezing.
-Helps to preserve the flavor, color, and texture of frozen vegetables.
-Helps to preserve for longer periods of time.
Which Vegetables Do You Have To Blanch Before Freezing
Brussel Sprouts. Asparagus, Green or Yellow Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Corn, Eggplant, Kohlrabi, mushrooms, OKra, Peas, Turnips, Soybeans, Potatoes, and Turnips.
Which Vegetables Don’t Have To Be Blanched Before Freezing
Peppers, and onions don’t need blanching before freezing. There are some vegetables such as celery, lettuce, cucumbers, and radishes that don’t freeze well at all. They have high water content and become soggy when thawed.
Raw fruit freezes well and does not need to be blanched.
How To Blanch Vegetables For Freezing
The two main steps in the blanching process are adding raw vegetables into rapidly boiling water for several minutes, and then cooling them rapidly in ice water. These steps are done before freezing.
It’s important to remember that under-blanching is worse than no blanching, and over-blanching causes loss of flavor, color, minerals, and vitamins.
Step 1: Prepare and Wash Vegetables.
Once you have harvested the vegetables from your garden, you want to prepare and wash them before blanching. For green beans, snap or cut the ends.
Wash them in cool water. Cut them down to the size of the pieces you want them to be. For broccoli and cauliflower, discard extra stems and bad pieces.
It’s best to sort and cut vegetables before blanching, minimize handling afterward, and get them into the freezer as soon as possible.
Step 2: Bring a pot to a rolling boil.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Bring a gallon of water to a boil for every pound of vegetables. Leafy vegetables require twice as much water.
Step 3: Prepare Ice Water.
In a separate bowl, place ice cubes and cold water. The aim is to chill the vegetables as quickly as possible, to reduce enzyme activity.
Step 4: Dunk Vegetables Into Boiling Water.
When the water is boiling, place the vegetables into a blancher (wire basket, coarse mesh bag, or perforated metal strainer) and cover them tightly.
The water should return to boiling within a minute of adding the vegetables. As soon as the water returns to a boil, the blanching countdown begins.
See below for blanching times.
Step 5: Remove Vegetables and Dump them into Ice Water
Drain vegetables or remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of ice water.
Drain and refill with fresh cold water to speed up the cooling process. I usually only need to do this twice.
Step 6: Drain, and Pat Dry
Drain the vegetables and pat dry. Dump them onto a paper towel or a dry towel to dry them.
They don’t need to be 100% dry before freezing, but high water content causes frost crystals when freezing.
Step 7: Freeze in A Single Layer
Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet with parchment paper and freeze until solid. You can miss this step if you want.
Freezing them this way before placing them into freezer-safe containers keep them loose.
Step 8: Once Frozen, Pack Into Freezer Safe Containers or Bags
After 12-24 hours of freezing, place vegetables into rigid containers or bags. If using bags, remove as much air as possible.
Step 9: Enjoy Your Favorite Vegetables For Months To Come
Frozen vegetables can be cooked at any time for a healthy and tasty dish.
Recommended Blanching Times
|Vegetable||Boiling Water||Steam Blanching|
|Asparagus||4 minutes||5 minutes|
|Beans, green||4 minutes||5 minutes|
|Beans, lima||3 minutes||4 minutes|
|Broccoli||4 minutes||6 minutes|
|Brussels sprouts||4 minutes||6 minutes|
|Carrots||Whole, 6 minutes, cut and diced 3 minutes||Whole 8 minutes|
|Cauliflower||4 minutes||6 minutes|
|Corn-on the-cob||8 minutes||10 minutes|
|Peas, green||2 minutes||3 minutes|
|Peas, sugar, or snow pod||3 minutes||4 minutes|
|Potatoes||4-6 minutes||6-8 minutes|
|Turnips; parsnips||3 minutes||4 minutes|
Blanching is not difficult. It takes some time, but not early as much time as caning foods. It is a simple process that anyone can do.