Blanching Fresh Food for Freezer Storage
Are you taking advantage of harvest season to bulk up on fresh vegetables? If you and your family just can't eat them all, don't sweat it. When it comes to eating produce that still essential vitamins and minerals in foods, frozen comes in second place after fresh. Freeze plenty of healthy vegetables for the coming winter months by following this blanching process.
Blanching is a must if you're planning to freeze vegetables. This simple process consists of either placing the veggies in boiling water or steaming them. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, blanching prevents the loss of color, texture, and flavor that may occur while freezing. It also cleans the surface of foods, brightens their colors, and prevents unnecessary loss of vitamins.
For water blanching...
For one pound of vegetables, use one gallon of water. Place the vegetables in a blanching basket or cheesecloth bag and lower into the water for the precise time specified on the Colorado State University Extension Program Fact Sheet.
For steam blanching...
This method requires more time than water blanching but helps to retain water-soluble vitamins. Fill a pot or kettle with a tight lid with one of two inches of water. Bring the water to a boil. The kettle should have a rack or basket that clears the bottom by approximately three inches. Place the veggies in a basket or cheesecloth bag and stem for the specified time depending on what vegetable you are working with. After the steaming process is completed, plunge the veggies in ice cold or running water - using about a pound of ice per pound of veggies - until they are cool.
In order to achieve optimal flavor and texture, blanch vegetables that are at peak. It's best to harvest vegetables when it's cool in the morning and try to have them frozen within two hours. Thoroughly wash and prepare the vegetables for the blanching method you prefer. Keep in mind that blanching times are very important; under-blanching can stimulate enzyme activity and over-blanching can result in loss of flavor, texture and nutrients.
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