Blanching involves briefing boiling your vegetables until they are slightly cooked. There are two ways to blanch your vegetables. You may use the direct blanch method wherein you boil the vegetables in water or you may use the steam blanching method where you steam the vegetables. Direct blanching involves placing vegetables into boiling water for a few minutes, then placing them in ice water to cool. While steam-blanching involves the use of a wire mesh basket or a steaming basket. To steam blanch your vegetables you’ll put your vegetables in a steaming basket or wire mesh basket and place over boiling water for a few minutes. Typically you should not blanch your vegetables for a long time. Blanching time depends on the vegetable you are blanching and the method you are using. Blanching time normally ranges between 2 to 5 minutes. So why blanch vegetables before freezing? There are a few reasons why you should, so let’s take a look at the reasons.
Retains Vegetable Color
Before consuming anything we mentally assess it by the way it looks. If it doesn’t look appealing, sure to say many will not want to consume it. Discolored vegetables are no exception and can be unappetizing. Frozen vegetables are regularly prone to discoloration. So it’s a good idea to blanch your vegetables before freezing them. Blanching will stop enzyme action which causes loss of color. The blanching process not only retains the color of vegetables but may even make your vegetables look brighter. The bright appealing look is sure to get you eating your vegetables no matter the way it’s prepared. Whether it’s in a salad, steamed or sautéed.
Retains Vegetable Flavor
When non-blanched vegetables are frozen it may cause vegetables to have an off flavor. This off flavor is mainly caused by oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction process which causes the nutrients in vegetables to be broken down. This process also caused vegetable discoloration and loss of color and flavor. Oxidation can then lead to your frozen vegetables getting freezer burn. So by blanching your vegetables it will deactivate the enzymes and compounds responsible for this process. Once your vegetables are not under or over blanched then they should taste the way they should. They should be no strange or off flavor.
Retains More Nutrients in Vegetables
It’s true that blanching causes loss of some of the nutrients in vegetables. But the amount of nutrients loss during blanching may not be as much as if vegetables were not blanched before freezing. As previously stated, blanching stops the production of enzymes which can deplete the nutritional value of vegetables. Cooking does cause vegetables to lose nutrients so that’s why blanching is done within a few minutes, then vegetables are placed in ice cold water to quickly stop the cooking process and stop the loss of nutrients. Instead of direct blanching your vegetables by placing them in boiling water you may steam blanch vegetables to reduce the amount of nutrients lost.
Reduce Cooking Time
When you blanch your vegetables they are slightly cooked. So the texture of your vegetables will be soft, tender and nearly ready for consumption. After properly storing your vegetables, once you’re ready to use blanched vegetables in your meals you’ll notice that your cooking time will be less. You’re vegetables are partially cooked and soft, so if it normally takes you 15 minutes to cook a particular vegetable then it may take you about 6 to 8 minutes to do so. When the blanched vegetables are used in smoothies it will aid in the blending process.
Steps to Direct Blanch Vegetables
- Start off by removing all tough stems from vegetables, remove skin (where necessary) and remove discolored or spoiled vegetables. Once you’ve gotten rid of all the unwanted parts of the vegetables, thoroughly clean vegetables to remove all dirt and soil. Singly clean your vegetables as dirt or soil can easily be hidden.
- Fill a pot with sufficient water. Enough water to cover the amount of vegetables you’ve prepared. Once pot is filled with water place a cover on the pot and set your stove to provide enough heat so that the water boils quickly. Once water is boiled reduce heat and put vegetables in the pot of boiling water to boil for anywhere between 2 to 5 minutes (depending on the type of vegetable) then cover pot. Over boiling your vegetables will cause loss of nutrients.
- Once your vegetables have been boiled for a few minutes, immediately turn off heat. Fill a container with ice cold water. Remove vegetables from pot and place in the container with ice water. If water isn’t cold enough you may add ice cubes. Keep your vegetables in ice water for about 3 to 5 minutes. By placing your boiled vegetables in ice water, the cooking process will be stopped, preventing further loss of nutrients.
- Once vegetables are cooled, drain water and let vegetables dry. Moisture will cause vegetables to spoil at a faster rate so ensure that vegetables are completely dry before storing them in your freezer. You may let your vegetables air dry or you may use paper towels or kitchen towels to absorb the moisture.
- Once your vegetables are completely dry, it’s time to store them. Properly store vegetables by using airtight freezer package. You may use airtight freezer bags or airtight freezer containers. Immediately place packaged vegetables in freezer. As with moisture, air is an important factor that will determine the shelf life of your vegetables so do use airtight storage.
Steps to Steam Blanch Vegetables
- After choosing the vegetables you want to blanch, go through and ensure that you clean and wash them. Start off by selecting fresh vegetables and throw away all vegetables that are discoloured or spoiled. Remove thick stems from vegetables with stems and remove skin (where necessary). Ensure that you singly and thoroughly wash vegetables so that you can easily spot any hidden dirt or soil and remove it.
- Fill a pot with limited water. Water should be about ¼ the size of the pot. Cover the pot and set your stove to provide enough heat so that the water boils quickly. Once water is boiled, place the vegetables you’ve prepared in a wire mesh basket or steaming basket then place it over the boiling water and cover with a lid for a few minutes. Ensure that lid is tightly sealed. Do not place vegetables on top of each other, place them singly on the mesh basket/steaming basket.
- Once vegetables are steamed, it’s time to let the vegetables dry. You may either let vegetables air dry or you may use paper towels or kitchen towels to absorb the moisture from the vegetables. You should ensure that vegetables are fully dry before storing them as moisture causes vegetables to spoil faster.
- As soon as your vegetables are fully dry, store them. You’ll tightly pack your vegetables in airtight freezer bags or airtight containers. When you tightly pack your vegetables this helps to expel air. If vegetables are exposed to air, it helps to break down nutrients and causes freezer burn. Once properly packaged, immediately place in freezer.
To preserve your vegetables nutrients, color and flavor you may blanch your vegetables before freezing. It doesn’t matter which method you use, you’ll still be able to reap the benefits stated. Most vegetables can achieve maximum freshness and have a longer shelf life if they are blanched at first before freezing in airtight container/s. Remember that blanching partially cooks your vegetables so not all vegetables are good for blanching as they may become mushy, for example cucumber, tomato (although officially considered a fruit) or any other soft tender vegetables.
Have you ever blanched your vegetables? Please share your experience in the comment field below. You may also share any thoughts or questions you might have.