With a little know-how you can enjoy summer fruits and vegetables any time. Find out what to blanch, what not to and how to cook your frozen faves later in the year.
High-quality fresh berries, bell and jalapeno peppers, and herbs can be frozen right away and taste terrific year-round. (You'll want to blanch all other veggies—see below for blanching tips.)
Just wash and place fresh berries or whole or cut-up peppers on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Freeze until frozen. Then transfer to heavy-duty freezer bags that have been labeled and dated for longer freezing.
To prepare herbs for freezing, wash and pat dry. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in plastic wrap and place in labeled and dated freezer bags.
Some produce requires an extra step, known as blanching, before freezing. But don't worry, it's quite simple. In technical terms, blanching reduces the action of enzymes, which can destroy fresh flavors. Basically, it helps heighten and set color and flavor, so it's a must for veggies you'll freeze for more than four weeks.
How to Blanch
Fill a large saucepan or Dutch oven with enough water to cover vegetables. Boil the water. Add veggies; cover; and boil for the time listed in this chart:
|Corn on the Cob
|Whole Baby Carrots
|Sugar Snap Peas
* Note: If you live 5,000 feet or more above sea level, you should add 1 minute to the times specified above.
Begin counting as soon as you place vegetables in boiling water. You'll want to set a timer for accuracy because underblanching stimulates enzymes, so it's actually worse than not blanching at all. Overblanching can cause veggies to lose flavor and color.
After boiling, drain and immediately place veggies in ice water (for the same length of time used in blanching) to stop the cooking process.
Drain and pat them dry with a paper towel, then place vegetables in a single layer, without overcrowding, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze.
Place frozen veggies in a heavy-duty freezer bag. Label and date the bag and freeze for up to three months.
Cooking Frozen Vegetables
Cook frozen blanched vegetables the same way you would cook fresh. Because they were blanched, you'll need to cook them for slightly less time, using the smallest amount of water possible.
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