It’s summer and while gardens and farmers markets across the country are full of fresh and tasty vegetables, it’s sure to come to an end soon. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying them – not if you have a vacuum packaging system from VacMaster! Freezing veggies to enjoy during the winter is a great way to preserve that summer freshness year ’round.
You don’t want to just put them into back and start sealing though. Raw vegetables contain enzymes that will, over the course of time, begin to break down the vegetables and destroy color, texture and most importantly nutrients, even while frozen. Blanching is an easy process that will stop the enzymes from doing their dirty work! It’s basically just scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a few minutes, followed by a rapid cool down in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
There are three methods to blanch vegetables: water blanching, steam blanching and microwave blanching. For our purposes here, we will not address microwave blanching as it is not as effective as the other two and studies show that some enzymes are not destroyed by microwave blanching, leaving your veggies at risk of losing nutrients, color, flavor and texture.
Water blanching involves dropping raw vegetables into a large pot of boiling water for a few minutes, followed by removal and dunking in an ice water bath for an equal amount of time. You can purchase a blancher but it really isn’t necessary as long as you have a large (2-3 gallon) pot with a lid and a basket or colander that will go down into the pot. You’ll want to use one gallon of water (or more) per pound of vegetables you’re blanching. The reason is you’ll want the water to return to a full rolling boil as quickly as possible after adding vegetables. Optimal time is one minute or less. Once the water returns to a full boil, start your timer and blanch for the appropriate amount of time. See our list below to find out how much time for many of your favorite vegetables. Once the time has elapsed, quickly remove from the boiling water and add to an ice bath. I put about two gallons of water in a large pan, along with about two pounds of ice. This will quickly cool the vegetables.
Steam blanching is recommended for some vegetables, including broccoli, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squash. In this process, the vegetables are placed into a pot approximately 2-3 inches above boiling water and a tight lid is placed on the pot. Timing begins as soon as the lid is placed on the pot. Ideally, vegetables should be placed in a single layer and halfway through the steam time, move them a bit to ensure they are not sticking together. I have also used a kitchen steam cooker to accomplish the same thing. In most cases, steam blanching takes twice the amount of time as water blanching, although some more delicate vegetables will blanch sooner. Again, a quick ice water bath stops the cooking process and readies the vegetables for vacuum packaging and freezing.
It is important to note that blanch times are important. Obviously blanching for too long ruins the texture and strips nutrients from the vegetables. If you don’t blanch for long enough, the enzymes are not deactivated and deterioration will happen while frozen. Pay close attention to the recommended times in the chart below.
After ice baths, be sure to drain and pat dry as much as possible prior to vacuum packaging so that you’ll have less ice in the bags. Load VacMaster bags with amounts that best serve the needs of your family and use your VacMaster machine to vacuum package your vegetables for the freezer. Be sure to date and label. Your fresh vegetables will be tasty and full of vitamins for your family to enjoy throughout the coming winter months!
|Vegetable||Blanche Time – Water (minutes)||Blanche Time – Steam (minutes)|
|Artichoke hearts (Globe)||7||12|
|Artichoke – Jerusalem||4||8|
|Aparagus – small stalk||2||3|
|Asparagus – medium stalk||3||5|
|Asparagus – large stalk||4||6|
|Beans (green, snap, wax)||3||6|
|Beans (lima, butter, pinto)||3||6|
|Beets||until cooked and tinted||until cooked and tinted|
|Brussels Sprouts – small heads||3||6|
|Brussels Sprouts – medium heads||4||8|
|Brussels Sprouts – large heads||5||10|
|Cabbage / Chinese Cabbage (shredded)||1 1/2||3|
|Carrots – small||5||8|
|Carrots – diced or sliced||2||4|
|Corn – on the cob, small||7||12|
|Corn – on the cob, medium||9||14|
|Corn – on the cob, large||11||18|
|Corn – whole kernel or cream style||4||7|
|Greens – all others||2||3|
|Kohlrabi – whole||3||6|
|Kohlrabi – cubes||1||2|
|Okra, small pods||3||5|
|Okra, large pods||4||7|
|Onions, sliced rings||1/4||3/4|
|Peas, edible pods||2||3|
|Peas (field), black eyed peas||2||4|
|Peas (green)||1 1/2||3|
|Peppers, sweet – halves||3||5|
|Peppers, sweet – strips or rings||2||4|
|Potatoes – new||5||8|
|Pumpkin||until cooked||until cooked|
|Squash, winter||until cooked||until cooked|
|Sweet Potatoes||until cooked||until cooked|
|Turnips and Parsnips, cubes||2||4|