From the Garden to the Freezer to the Canner!
It’s important to be ready when the big harvest comes. It usually comes fast and no matter how you feel or how busy your are, crops must be brought in and processed. Sometimes if we have more than we can handle or no time to can at the moment, we will blanch and freeze the veggies first with our vacuum sealer. Then when we have the time we can them or make jams, salsas, etc.
Blanching is a cooking process wherein the food substance, usually a vegetable or fruit, is plunged into boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water (shocked) to halt the cooking process.
This simple technique is used to keep vegetables crisp and tender. Blanching preserves texture, color and flavor! The difference between just throwing veggies in the freezer and blanching is remarkable! For years we never blanched and now that we have experienced the vast difference, we would not think of not blanching.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add enough salt so the water tastes faintly salty.
2. While the water heats, fill a bowl about half full with ice, then add enough cold water to come just to the top of the ice.
3. When the water is boiling and the ice bath is ready, cut your vegetables to the size you need (see note below). It’s best to cut them just prior to cooking so they won’t oxidize or dehydrate.
4. Add the vegetables to the boiling water in batches small enough to ensure that the water doesn’t lose its boil. This is why it’s good to use a very wide stock pot or two, if necessary! Boil the vegetables only until they’re barely cooked through but still tender. They should have a very nice color.
Most times you can go online and find out what the time is for a particular veggie. Example: go to Google and type in: how long should I blanch green beans and you will get the answer as you scroll down the list of articles.
To test, remove one piece with a slotted spoon, dip it into the ice bath to cool, and eat it. It will taste fresh, crisp and slightly cooked.
5. As soon as the vegetables are done, remove them as fast as you can and submerge them in the ice bath. At AESL we use a large stainless steel bowl for the ice bath. It’s good to store up extra ice cubes for large blanching and freezing sessions.
6. Remove them from the ice bath as soon as they are no longer warm. Then place the vegetables on a dry towel and lightly dab them.
Next is we use the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer to prepare the veggies for freezing.
7. To vacuum seal, cut plastic bags according to the size and quantity of vegetables you want at thawing time.
Important final note: You want to think out and plan how the frozen veggies will be used for the future. Some of you may want to can in a large 14 quart canner, so make your vacuum sealed bags large so you don’t waste plastic. If you want some veggies for jams or salsas, then put in smaller bags. Date and mark all of them with a permanent fine point pen. If you want some for spicing up small meals, like Anaheim or Poblanos, etc. put in smaller bags for use in just one meal.
This year we had a large fall harvest and waited until Spring to begin canning. The frozen veggies were perfect with no freezer burn whatsoever. What great benefits of blanching!
Compliments of Aquaponics and Earth founders: John & Teresa Musser.