Too many vegetables? Want to freeze them and keep their colour and flavour? Learn how blanching vegetables for the freezer to help preserve them better.
Why You Need To Blanch Vegetables Before Freezing
Simply freezing most vegetables usually doesn’t work. Enzymes in the cells continue to work even when frozen and will degrade your vegetables over time.
To solve this problem, blanching veggies before freezing will halt this enzyme action and keep the produce vibrant in colour and texture and preserve the vitamins inside. So that when you pull them out of the freezer they will almost be like freshly harvested vegetables.
So let’s look at how it works to blanch vegetables for freezing. It is not as difficult as some instructions will lead you to believe.
In my example below we had a large harvest of bush beans when we came back from being away on a week vacation in the middle of July. This is a tri-coloured blend of yellow, green and purple beans. Great fresh but they also freeze well.
You can though use this blanching vegetables “recipe” for other vegetables. See the blanching vegetables chart in step 3 for the list of vegetables you can and should blanch prior to freezing.
Prepare The Harvest
Snap off the ends of the beans and soak in a sink or bowl of cold water, cleaning them as needed. No need to drain them as they are going straight into water again.
Prepare The Boiling Water Bath/Steamer
You don’t need a vegetable blanching machine or special blanching pot for this method of blanching vegetables.
In a large soup or stock pot, start boiling water for the beans to cook in. Alternatively you could also blanch your vegetables in a steamer. For that you would use less water and a steaming rack or basket. The rest of the steps are the same.
Boil or Steam the veggies
Note: boiling is technically called scalding. However boiling is a more common word, so I’ll use that here.
Throw in the beans and set your timer (see the blanching vegetables time chart below). Don’t overload the pot. I did get a bit carried away and maybe should have done two batches. Make sure that the water is boiling before you set your timer. Steaming will be the same, just a slightly longer time (again check the table on vegetable blanching times below).
How long should you boil or steam? Here is a chart on how long to blanch vegetables:
For any veggies not listed, check out http://tipnut.com/freeze-vegetables
Prepare To Blanch
While the vegetables are boiling/steaming, prepare a container to blanch the beans in. Blanching will stop the cooking process and the enzyme action.
Ice water is best to lower the temperature of the veggies quickly. Not having any ice cubes on hand, I used a picnic cooling pack I had handy in my freezer. Make sure it is clean. Or use ice cubes. The container needs to be big enough to be able to hold enough water to cool the beans down quickly.
Blanch The Veggies
Once the cooking time is done, immediately remove the pot from the heat.
If using an ice pack to cool down the water in your bowl, remove it for more room.
Using tongs or a screened ladle, move the beans from the cooking pot to the ice water. Do this as quickly as you can as you want the veggies to cool down quickly to stop the enzyme action.
Cool Down the Veggies Quickly
You might have to add more ice cubes or more cold water (as in my case). Touch the beans and make sure they are cool to the touch.
Drain the Veggies And Pack
Drain the beans well in a sieve or colander. Pack them up into freezer bags in portions enough for one meal. Press out as much of the air as possible in the bags, label and freeze.
Using The Frozen Veggies
When you are ready to use them, take them out of the freezer and rather than thawing (which may affect texture), cook in their frozen state. Steaming is a good way to keep the colour and texture. Or add them to a stew or other dish.
Blanching fresh vegetables before freezing is a quick way to preserve your harvest. The advantages of blanching outweigh the small investment in time. It is not that difficult and takes less time than canning or other preserving methods. You and your family can then enjoy the harvest bounty even in winter!
Let me know in the comments if you try blanching for the first time or if you have any additional tips for easier blanching.
Wishing you a bountiful harvest and have fun blanching vegetables!
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC
This Post Has 4 Comments
Wow. I did not realize blanching my vegetables for future use was as easy as this or I would have done it sooner. Thanks for the great guide and again what a lovely infographic. By the way how long do you recommend keeping vegetables in the freezer?
Thanks Donna for your comment. Glad that the post introduced you to a new way to preserve your harvest. The key to keeping veggies in the freezer is to make sure you use proper freezer bags and try to remove most of the air. Your major enemy is freezer burn when the veggies are exposed to the cold air.
I have had fruit in my freezer for almost a year and it is still fine. Veggies should be fine for at least a few months or more. Usually you end up using them up much before you need to worry about damage from freezing.
I’d love to buy or grow in season and store but is there any way to do this without plastic bags?
I read your section regarding the cold air is what causes the freezer burn.
I guess I could always reuse the bags but if you know of any plastic-free suggestions that would be so appreciated- thank you!!
For the freezer you can use non-plastic containers. I found an article on-line that has a few ideas: https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/how-freeze-food-without-plastic.html
Or instead of freezing you can preserve in glass jars by water-bath or pressure canning or dehydrate and then store in glass jars.
We also do reuse our plastic bags. We find that buying better quality ones makes them last longer even if used in the freezer.