Posted by: Georgi 

Vegetables that are frozen properly will retain the flavor and nutrition, better than any other means of preservation, provided it is treated correctly. Learn all about how to blanch, chill, package and cook correctly by reading this article. It is important to remember that vegetables should be cooked before freezing. While they are still tender and fresh, blanch them first so that the color is sealed along with the nutrition and flavor. If this is not done, vegetable will deteriorate in quality.

1. Blanching
This is not a difficult procedure. To blanch roughly 1 lb. of fresh vegetables, place them in a blanching basket, which is immersed in a large quantity of boiling hot water. Make sure no salt is added. Cover the vessel with a lid that fits tight and allow the water to boil rapidly again. The blanching time begins, when this happens and varies according to the size of the vegetable to be blanched. Approximately peas, carrot, or sliced beans, require about 11/2 minute and this applies to spinach, silver beet and shredded cabbage. If one requires blanching larger vegetables, it is necessary to increase the blanching time. This means that whole beans would take roughly about 3 minutes, as against vegetables cut in small 1” pieces, which take only about 2 minutes. Corncobs would need roughly 5-8 minutes of blanching time according to their size.

One can make a rough guess, depending on size and cut of the vegetable to be blanched. Cauliflower cut into flowerets required 2-3 minutes, whereas a whole cauliflower will take about 6-9 minutes, to blanch. When blanching vegetables, such as pumpkin, kumara and potatoes, one must ensure that they are half cooked before freezing, as blanching alone will not help in preserving them. The best method is to quickly chill them, then place them on freezing trays for 2 hours, pack them well and return to freezer. Half-cook beetroots and freeze them without removing the peel. Peel, when cold then slice/dice, package in small meal size quantities before freezing. The process of deep freezing has a tenderizing effect, so there is no further need of cooking this vegetable. Just thaw it out and serve when required.

One can freeze mushrooms successfully. First, fry mushrooms in little butter and cool by spreading them out on cold plates. Use the flat pack method to deep-freeze these cold mushrooms. Alternatively, simmer mushrooms in milk till tender. Use rice flour to thicken the broth, cool well, before packing into meal-size quantities. Reheat and use in recipes while it is still frozen. Mushrooms can be frozen and kept for up to 4 months safely.

2. Chilling
As soon as the vegetables are blanched, the vegetables should be transferred from boiling water to a colander that is immersed in water topped with ice. Use an ice block for quick cooling. It takes roughly the same time that it takes to blanch the vegetables in ice-cold water. This can be done by freezing 2 bowls of cold water roughly 2 points each to convert to ice.

3. Packaging
Vegetables should be drained once they are thoroughly chilled. Use clean paper kitchen towels to pat them dry quickly. The flat pack or free flow method can be successfully used for packing the vegetables.

4. Cooking
When frozen vegetables are overcooked, the effect is lost. One has to remember the fact that the vegetables have already gone through two methods of tenderizing during blanching and chilling. They can be now quickly cooked as there is no need to thaw the vegetables. They can be dropped in their frozen form, directly into boiling water that is salted. As soon as the water begins to boil rapidly again, simmer by lowering the heat for about one third the time required or perhaps less to cook the vegetables. Thaw out corn on the cob for at least 2 hours, as they tend to remain frozen in the centre. This vegetable should be dropped in salted boiling water for about 5 to 6 minutes to cook thoroughly. You can directly place frozen potatoes, pumpkin or kumara into hot fat or in a hot oven for roasting. They can be dropped into a deep-frying and cooked till they turn gold brown.

Keep in mind the following points before you begin to freeze vegetables:
- Select fresh vegetables that have the right texture and burst with flavor. Do not buy vegetables that have matured or look damaged.

- Wash the vegetables well with plenty of running cold water. Use a bio-wash that removes dirt, pesticide or bacterial residue that may have settled on the vegetables to be doubly sure. Dry thoroughly.

- Peel skins, de-seek and slice to the size required

- Use a large pot for blanching the vegetables. The time required depends on the size of the vegetables to be frozen.

Approximate Blanching Time:
Vegetables such as green peas, beans, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash and sweet peppers take about 2 minutes to blanch. Asparagus, carrots and cabbage may take about 2 to 3 minutes. Vegetables, such as eggplant and corn take roughly 4 minutes.

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