Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Putting Food By for Winter: Blanching

There's nothing like taking a package of vegetables out of the freezer during the middle of winter and revisiting the tastes and textures of summer. I've talked on this blog about freezing fruits and vegetables for winter use.  However, some produce must first be blanched before freezing to keep the vibrant color and to insure that the texture does not suffer from the freezing process.

Blanching involves submerging fruits or vegetables for a short time in boiling water and then immediately thrusting them into freezing water to stop the cooking action.

According to the national center for home preservation,  "blanching  is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack."

Step 1:  Wash, cut, and prepare vegetables


Be sure that your vegetables to be frozen are washed thoroughly and cut into sizes appropriate for freezing. 

While you are preparing your fruit or vegetables, fill a big pot about half full of water.  Place it on the stove, cover,  and heat to boiling.   

Step 2:  Blanch for a short time


 When the water has come to a rolling boil, add the prepared produce.  Bring back to a boil and cook for the appropriate amount of time.

 How do you know how long to boil a vegetable?

The boiling time varies for each fruit or vegetable.  This chart is a great tool for timing this step of the process.  

Step 3:  Drain in a colander and place in ice water


Once the correct blanching time has passed, as quickly as possible, drain the produce in a colander and then thrust the contents into an ice bath.  This stops the cooking process, resulting in an attractive, usable end product with a pleasant texture after thawing. 

 Step 4:  Cool, package, and label


It's now time for the final step. When your vegetable is completely cooled, simply place it into a ziplock bag or other appropriate container, label it with the date, amount, and contents of the package.  If freezing in a plastic freezer bag, it is best to place it on a hard surface and then putting it into the freezer.  This allows it to freeze flat, facilitating more efficient space usage for long-term freezer storage.

That's it!  

By the way, if you have children, this is a terrific time to institute the Happy Helper Club!  Many hands make light work!  Plus, it's really fun for kids to stem green beans and snap them into smaller pieces.  My kids love it!

What do you freeze for winter?

I'd love to know what sorts of things you freeze for later use and if you have any great tips on making the process efficient and successful.  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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