Do you have too many vegetables? Blanching vegetables helps preserve the colour and texture when freeze your harvest. Learn how in a few simple steps.
You’ve had a bumper crop of vegetables. Now you are either faced with eating the same veggie everyday (trust me, that gets boring quickly) or preserving some to eat in winter when you don’t have fresh vegetables in the garden.
If you need some tips on how to harvest, check out Harvesting Vegetables 101: Time To Enjoy The Amazing Abundance
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 vegetables 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 the steps involved. 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 these steps for other vegetables. See the infographic in step 3 for the list of vegetables you can and should blanch prior to freezing.
1. Preparing 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.
2. Preparing The Boiling Water Bath/Steamer
In a large soup or stock pot, start boiling water for the beans to cook in. Alternatively you could also steam the vegetables. For that you would use less water and a steaming rack or basket. The rest of the steps are the same.
Note: for boiling it 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 infographic 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 (see the infographic below).
How long should you boil or steam? Here is a chart that will help you:
4. Preparing For Blanching
While the vegetables are boiling/steaming, prepare a container to blanch the beans in. Blanching will stop the cooking process and the enzyme action.
Usual advice is to use ice water. 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. Make sure the container is big enough to be able to hold enough water to cool the beans down quickly.
5. Blanching The Vegetables
Once the cooking time is done, immediately remove the pot from the heat. If using an ice pack, 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.
6. Keeping Them Cool
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.
7. Drain 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.
8. Using The Frozen Vegetables
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 vegetables is the best way to prepare your harvest prior to freezing them. 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 year-round!
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!
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Tranquil Garden Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC