The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License,
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License,

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Baby, It's Cold Inside! Freezer Tips for Stockpiling Your Food Bounty, continued


Why Blanch?

Fresh vegetables should be blanched before being frozen. This is a pre-treatment that will preserve their natural flavors and appearance.

Blanching vegetables before freezing helps them retain their natural color and inactivates enzymes that could make them tough or lose flavor when frozen. | Photo credit: Kerry A. Adamo


Blanching vegetables before freezing helps them retain their natural color and inactivates enzymes that could make them tough or lose flavor when frozen. | Photo credit: Kerry A. Adamo

When you blanch, you briefly heat vegetables in boiling water or steam to inactivate naturally-occurring enzymes in the plant. These enzymes cause undesirable changes during frozen storage. These changes include faster nutrient loss, vegetable toughening, flavor, and color loss. Additionally, the brief heating reduces the number of microorganisms on and in food and perks up the color of green vegetables. Blanching sufficiently wilts vegetables, like spinach and chard, so they pack better. Without blanching, the flavor in vegetables changes noticeably.

How to Blanch

Blanching is an easy process and doesn't take too much time. To blanch in water, place water in a large kettle or vegetable blancher and bring it to a rolling boil. You need a gallon of water for a pound of vegetables. Clean and cut vegetables as needed. Place them in a wire basket or the perforated blancher—insert and immerse in boiling water.

Start timing as soon as you put the veggies in the water. The time required for properly blanching varies among vegetables. Click here for list of specific blanching times for vegetables.

Keep the kettle covered during blanching. If you have a steamer, you can use it for blanching, but it will usually take longer to adequately heat-treat the food. Nutrient losses from blanching are slightly less when you steam-blanch, but are relatively small in either case.

When blanching is completed, remove the vegetables and immediately put them in ice cold water. Chill the vegetables until they are completely cold, about the same amount of time as blanching. Drain them well and then package them for freezing. The blanching liquid can be cooled and saved in the freezer as vegetable stock.

You can also use your microwave oven to blanch vegetables, but blanching times are longer than when you use a kettle of water on the stove. You also have to work with only one or two cups of vegetables at a time, so the microwave is not as efficient to use if you are preparing a large quantity of vegetables for the freezer.

Foods That Don't Freeze Well

Many foods will maintain most of their texture and flavor adequately when frozen for short periods of time.

If you're unsure of how well something will freeze, freeze a single serving when you prepare the dish for a regular family meal. This way, you will be able to check how well the item holds up to freezing and reheating.

Ideally, nothing should be kept in a freezer for longer than six months (breads can usually survive for up to a year, provided they are wrapped well to prevent freezer burn).

Foods that don't do well being frozen and defrosted include:






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