Monday, August 6, 2012

How to Freeze Vegetables to Enjoy Them Year-Round



Image: Gibby's Garden
I don’t know about you, but I love cracking open the freezer and pulling out a bag of organic vegetables from my garden as Maine dips into freezing temperatures and our beautiful state gets blanketed in snow. Freezing vegetables, whether from your own garden or those bought at the local farmers market, allows you to enjoy their fresh taste year-round. The good news, even for those without a green thumb; vegetables are easy to freeze in a matter of minutes.

3 Rules for Choosing the Best Vegetables to Freeze


When choosing which vegetables to freeze, always abide by these 3 rules:


  • Fully Ripened
  • Unblemished
  • Undamaged

Blanch those Vegetables


Blanching vegetables is fast and easy. Frankly, it takes longer for the water to boil than it does to blanch a batch of veggies. What is blanching? It’s placing vegetables into boiling water for a set amount of time, removing them and immediately dunking them into a sink or bowlful of iced water. The heat only begins to cook the vegetables so they remain crisp and retain their fresh taste. The iced-water stops the cooking process so vegetables don’t become mushy.

Before blanching, remove any dirt and debris from your vegetables. Trim and peel as needed and cut, slice and dice into desired pieces. Think about how you use the vegetables the most. Are they for soups and stews, casseroles or side dishes? Think and prep ahead.

Vegetable Blanching Times


Vegetable
Blanch Time
Asparagus *
2–4 mins
Beans
2-3 mins
Broccoli *
3-5 mins
Cabbage
1 ½ mins
Carrots
3-5 mins
Cauliflower
3 mins
Corn *
4-8 mins
Onions *
2-4 mins
Parsnips
2 mins
Peas *
1 ½ -3 mins
Potatoes
Fully Cook
Squash
1 ½ mins
Tomatoes
15 seconds
Turnips
2 ½ mins

Asparagus: Thin Stems: 2 Mins - Thick Stems: 4 Mins
Broccoli: Thin Stems: 3 Mins - Med. Stems: 4 Mins - Thick Stems: 5 Mins
Corn: Small: 4 Mins - Med: 6 Mins - Large: 8 Mins (Ears) Kernels: 3-4 Mins
Onions: Chopped: 2 Mins - Whole: 4 Mins (small)
Peas: Edible Pods: 1 ½-3 Mins - Shelled: 1 1/2 Mins


Choose a Freezing Method


Tray Pack Method: Spread vegetables on a cookie sheet so they aren’t touching. Pop the sheet into the freezer. When vegetables are frozen solid, remove from the cookie sheet and place in freezer-safe storage bags or containers. The tray pack method freezes vegetables individually, so a precise amount can be removed from the containers and used at any time.

Dry Pack Method: Pack vegetables into containers or freezer bags. Amounts can be measured ahead of time, i.e. 1 cup or 2. Seal and freeze.

Additional Freezing Tips


  • Some vegetables will change color when blanched, in most cases, it’s a slight change. Sometimes, a more dramatic color change happens; for instance, when burgundy beans are blanched, they change from purple to dark green in color.
  • Before popping vegetables into the freezer, pat them dry to remove excess moisture. This helps to prevent freezer burn.
  • When using containers to freeze vegetables, leave a ½ inch of head space between the veggies and the lid.
  • When using freezer bags, remove as much air as possible before sealing to help prevent freezer burn.

Freezing vegetables, the same can be applied to fruit, is a sure way to enjoy them year-round. When it comes to certain vegetables like carrots and beans, I freeze them in different sizes to eat as a healthy side dish or add to a stew simmering away in the crock pot all day. Either way, using either freezing method, vegetables hold on to that fresh from the garden taste. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself and you’ll see.


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