Freezing food can be confusing. With a seemingly endless list of rules that differs from ingredient to ingredient (read up on how to freeze breads, cookies and fruit), the process can be quite intimidating for amateur and veteran cooks alike.
Thankfully, when it comes to freezing vegetables—our favorite things to freeze based on their naturally short lifespan—the rules generally hold true among the different varieties. If you’re planning to pack your produce away for a longer time and expect it to be in peak condition upon thawing, you must blanch it.
Why It’s Important to Blanch
Blanching helps preserve produce by reducing active enzymes. These are the microscopic molecules that destroy those fresh flavors we love so much. Blanching also helps heighten the color and flavor of vegetables that will be frozen for more than four weeks.
How to Blanch Vegetables
Fortunately, the process of blanching is quite easy. It’s little more than boiling an ingredient for a designated amount of time (see our chart below). The trick is to begin timing as soon as you place vegetables in boiling water. Set a timer for accuracy because under-blanching can stimulate enzymes, making it worse than not blanching at all—and over-blanching can cause veggies to lose flavor and color.
*If you’re looking to blanch a vegetable that’s not on this list, it likely needs to be fully cooked before freezing, such as lettuce, cucumbers, white cabbage and watercress.
- Fill a large saucepan or Dutch oven with enough water to cover vegetables and allow to boil.
- Add produce, cover and boil for the veggie’s respective blanching time listed in the chart above.
- Once finished, drain and immediately place your veggies in ice water for the same length of time to stop the cooking process.
- Drain and pat vegetables dry with a paper towel.
- Place vegetables in a single layer on a waxed paper- or foil-lined baking sheet and freeze. Be sure not to overcrowd the vegetables.
- Transfer frozen veggies to a heavy-duty freezer bag. Label and date the bag and freeze for up to three months.
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Cooking Frozen Vegetables
When you’re ready to use your veggies, simply allow for them to thaw and carry on cooking them as if they were fresh. The only difference? You’ll need to cook them for a slightly shorter amount of time.