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.
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. Freezing vegetables is a simple way to preserve them. But you may have heard the term “blanching” and wonder if blanching vegetables is necessary.
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.
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.
Preparing 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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 fresh vegetables before freezing is the best way to prepare your harvest prior to freezing them. 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 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 prior to freezing!
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