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Spring is here and summer is just around the corner, and with it comes lots of great fresh produce! I absolutely love to stock up on in season produce while it’s fresh and cheap and freeze it to enjoy throughout the rest of the year. One of the things that I have learned as I’ve worked more and more with freezing fresh produce is how important it is to blanch vegetables before freezing them.
First, let’s look at why you should blanch vegetables before freezing. When you freeze most vegetables, the water content of those veggies helps to prevent the process of spoiling. Unfortunately, many vegetables contain enzymes that allow the vegetable to continue spoiling, even when frozen. This results in these veggies losing flavor, color, changing texture and losing nutrient content.
Fresh herbs do not need to be blanched before being frozen. Some vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin, beets and winter squash must be fully cooked before freezing.
So what is blanching? Blanching is the art of submerging vegetables in boiling water for a specific period of time to kill of the enzymes that destroy flavor, nutrients and change the texture of the vegetable. This is followed by submerging the vegetable in ice water to stop the cooking process.
I do a great deal of vegetable blanching when I do my monthly freezer cooking. I know that a lot of people who do once a month freezer cooking skip this step, but I want to preserve as much nutrient content as possible!
So what is the best way to blanch vegetables?
Fill a large pot with water (I always use my stock pot, since I am usually doing larger batches of vegetables) and heat until boiling. Place the vegetables in a wire basket and submerge them completely. Cover the pot and set the timer for the appropriate time. The boil time varies according to type of vegetable.
Fill a separate large pot with ice water. Once the vegetables have finished blanching, remove them from the boiling water and submerge them in the ice water. This stops the cooking process. Leave them in the ice water for at least a minute.
Remove the vegetables from the ice water and allow them to drain fully. Too much residual water on the vegetables can contribute to freezer burn. You can then package them up to freeze.
I actually do this not only for the vegetables that I use for freezer meals, but also for seasonal produce. It is a great way to preserve local seasonal produce so that you can enjoy it year round!