Blanching is the bread and butter of freezing vegetables. It’s a must for many veggies unless you want them to their flavor, texture, and taste after being frozen and thawed (NCFHFP, UME).
If you didn’t blanch anything before, you probably have a bunch of questions. Questions like why is this so important and how to get it right. If that’s the case, you’re in the right place. In this article, we go through the reasons why blanching is a crucial step in freezing veggies, and how to do it efficiently.
What Is Blanching and Why Is It Important?
Blanching is a food preparation technique that involves boiling or steaming vegetables for a short period and ending the process with an ice bath to stop the cooking process (NCFHFP, CUE). It’s usually done as one of the initial steps for freezing a variety of vegetables.
Freezing tends to alter the texture, color, and even taste of veggies. Blanching stops the enzymes that cause that, and it also helps with retaining vitamins (NCFHFP). As a bonus, it also cleanses the surface of the veggies of dirt and kills any microorganisms.
In short, it’s the perfect preparation before freezing, as it takes care of making the vegetables both safe to eat and tasty.
Why Blanching Time Is Important?
To get all of the benefits of blanching, you need to boil the veggie for the right amount of time. Essentially, you want to warm it all up to a high temperature, but not cook through. Keeping it in boiling water for too short (underblanching) only stimulates the enzymes that blanching should neutralize. Overblanching is also no good, as it results in loss of flavor, color, and microelement content (NCFHFP, UME).
Before blanching any veggie, make sure to look up its blanching time.
How to Blanch Vegetables
The whole process is quite simple. Let’s start with prepping everything we need:
- Vegetables to blanch
- Large bowl for the cold water bath
- Plate lined with paper towels or a clean cloth to dry the veggies
- Large pot of water you’re going to use to boil the vegetables
- Colander, slotted spoon, or a blanching basket
- Check the blanching time
Here’s how to blanch veggies:
- Prepare the produce. Wash, trim, and cut into pieces if necessary. It’s the same thing you do when prepping them for cooking.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. NCFHFP suggests one gallon of water per pound of prepared vegetables (NCFHFP), but you can use a smaller amount of water and work in batches.
- Drop the veggies into the boiling water. If you have a colander or a blanching basket, use it. If not, put the produce directly into the water.
- Start counting time when the water starts boiling again. Generally, the water should return to boiling within a minute of adding the veggies (NCFHFP). If that’s not the case, you’ve added too much. When it returns to boiling, you start the timer.
- Prepare the ice bath. While the veggies are being boiled, you usually have a minute or two to prep the ice bath. Fill that large bowl with cold water, and add some ice cubes if you have any on hand. Please note that some veggies like leafy greens are being blanched for only a minute, so you should prepare the ice bath before dropping them in the pot.
- When the set time passes, transfer the veggies into the ice bath. If you’re using a colander or a blanching basket, it’s as simple as lifting it from the pot and plunging into the bowl. If you’re using a slotted spoon, it takes a bit longer, but it’s still pretty straightforward.
- Let the veggies cool in the ice bath. Leave them there for about the same time they were blanched for (NCFHFP).
- Drain the vegetables and let them dry thoroughly. Strain the water and lay the veggies on a clean cloth or paper towels. Make sure you dry them well before proceeding with freezing. Some paper towels will help you dry any remaining water drops.
If preparing the veggies won’t take that long, start off by putting the pot of water on the stove. This way, the water will start to boil around the time you’re ready with the produce.
If you’re blanching in batches, remember the following:
- Each time before you drop in the veggies into the pot, make sure the water is boiling
- Replace cold water every batch or two, or at least add new ice cubes. Keeping the water cold is crucial for the process to work (NCFHFP).
- Remove cooled veggies from the ice bath before adding new ones.
- Don’t crowd the pot with boiling water. You can always do one more batch if need be.