Blanching is a food preparation technique that involves boiling or steaming vegetables for a short period of time and ending the process with an ice bath to stop the cooking process. This technique is usually done as an extra step for freezing a variety of vegetables. Freezing tends to alter the texture and color of veggies. Through blanching, the nutrients and enzymes of vegetables are retained with minimal loss of flavor, color, and texture.
Image used under Creative Commons from Aaron Headly
How to Blanch Vegetables?
Blanching vegetables is easy. Start with preparing the following:
- Prepped vegetables to blanch
- A large bowl filled with ice and water
- A slotted spoon
- A plate lined with paper towels or a clean cloth
- A pot of water
- A colander
Here’s how to do it:
- Assuming that you have cleaned and cut the vegetables that you will blanch, place all the vegetable in a colander. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat then drop the cut vegetables gently into the pot. Consider adding a pinch of salt into the boiling water. This will help the vegetables retain their color and improve the flavor during blanching.
- Blanch the vegetables. The time that veggies should be in the pot depends on their size and density. For example, leafy greens will be done in under a minute, while cauliflower florets need 3 to 4 minutes. The bigger and denser the vegetable, the longer you should blanch it. You should aim for the vegetables to be barely done, not fully cooked. When the vegetables are blanched, their color will become brighter. Please note that it’s possible to under-blanch or over-blanch the vegetables, so watch the veggies closely when blanching.
- Once the veggies are ready, take the colander, collect the vegetables, and submerge them in the ice bath as fast as you can. The cold water will stop the cooking process while sealing in all the nutrients of the blanched vegetables. The ice bath should take the same amount of time as blanching. Generally, the water temperature of the ice bath must be 60º Fahrenheit or below. You can add more ice as the water temperature increases to keep the temperature down. Use one pound of ice for every pound of blanched vegetables.
- After the ice bath, pat the blanched vegetables dry with paper towels or air-dry the vegetables before packing them for storage.
One thing to remember is to cut the cooking time in half when cooking already blanched veggies. Since they were already half-cooked, they don’t need as much time as they usually do to be ready for eating. When it comes to cooking methods for blanched veggies, feel free to go with your favorite one. That includes boiling, sautéing, grilling, baking, and others.
Image used under Creative Commons from H. Alexander Talbot
Why Blanching Vegetables Before Freezing is Important?
Freezing is the most popular method of preserving vegetables. The freezing temperature, however, has a way of affecting the quality, taste, and texture of vegetables. Usually, un-blanched and frozen vegetables will become mushy or slimy once they’ve been defrosted. The defrosted vegetables could lose their original color, and some of their nutrients are destroyed.
Blanching can minimize these changes. With the help of blanching, the nutrients and enzymes of vegetables are retained with minimal loss of flavor and texture. Blanching before freezing helps seal in the color and nutrients of the vegetables. Also, blanching helps rid vegetables of surface dirt and organisms. It brightens the natural color of the vegetable while also softening them slightly for easy packing.