You knew that was coming, didn’t you? The suspense is staggering, as is the garden, under the weight of the greenies. Harvesting spinach and peas has occupied much of my outdoor time this past week. What to do with the bounty? Many frozen veggies are as fresh tasting and as good nutritionally as fresh market produce. To obtain an excellent product:
• Use proper varieties
• Harvest at the right time, when vegetables are young and tender.
• Adequately blanch and cool
• Package correctly
The fresher the vegetables are when frozen, the more satisfactory the product will be.
Before you pop those veggies in the freezer, they must go through the blanching process.
• Slows or stops the action of enzymes that can cause loss of flavor, color, texture, and nutrients.
• Cleans the surface of dirt and organisms.
• Wilts or softens veggies to make them easier to pack.
• With the exception of green peppers and onions, vegetables maintain better quality during freezer storage if they are blanched
Blanching time varies by vegetable and by size of food pieces. For one pound of veggies, use at least one gallon of boiling water. Put the veggies in a blanching basket, colander, sieve, or deep fryer basket and lower into the actively boiling water. Put the lid on the blancher or kettle, wait for the water to return to a boil, then start counting the blanching time. Times for specific vegetables are listed in Freezing Fruits and Vegetables PNF 214, available from your Extension Service Office.
Many veggies can be blanched in steam. This is slower, requiring 50% more time than water blanching. Put a small quantity of vegetable in a steamer basket and suspend over one inch of boiling water. A clam steamer makes an acceptable steamer basket. Cover the pan and steam the required time. Broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are best blanched in steam.
Immediately after blanching, plunge your veggies into ice-cold water to stop the cooking process quickly. A dishpan or one side of a sanitized double kitchen sink works just fine. Then package in meal-size, airtight, moisture-proof containers, label, and store in the freezer. Happy Freezing!