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Do you really need to blanch your veggies before freezing them?   I get this question a lot from friends and acquaintances who are just breaking into the gardening/preserving world.   The answer, without any hesitation is YES.    I will admit that when I first heard and read about blanching, I thought it was an old wives tale designed to keep me trapped in my hot kitchen sweating my keister off. Enzymes eating the flesh of my veggies?  Couldn’t I just put a garden gnome out there to protect them?   From experience, however, I can tell you that blanching absolutely makes a difference.  The first year I gardened and froze the fruits of my labor, I did not blanch.   When I returned to utilize my delicious frozen goodies, they were neither delicious or good.  They were mushy and had lost much of their flavor.   As a I get ready to prep and preserve my delicious take homes from the CSA, I know the only way that our family will enjoy fresh and delicious Kale in January will be to blanch the stem free greens and use our Foodsaver to suck the air out of the freezer bag and seal it up tight.

What is blanching you ask?  According to the Ball book or the “Preservation Bible” as it is called in our house,  “blanching cleanses off surface dirt and microorganisms, brightens the color, helps retain the vitamins and reduces the action of the enzymes which can destroy the fresh flavor after 4 weeks.”  The process of blanching is basically dipping your fresh, prepped veggies in boiling water for a prescribed amount of time and then immediately plunging them into ice water to immediately halt the cooking process started by the boiling water.   It sounds a bit like a hot mess, especially on a hot day, but I promise you the end result is worth it.  Time is perhaps the most important factor in the is process as either under-blanching or over-blanching  can be worse than not doing it at all. Each veggie is unique so times will vary.  When you are reading blanching times for specific veggies, note that the times given refer to the time in the boiling water and you should start the clock as soon as you put the veggies in the boiling water.  Time in the ice water should not be longer than the time in the boiling water.  Get your kettle on the stove, remove your unwanted skins and ends (remember, you want whatever you freeze to be in the state you want it to be when you are going to use it.  It will never be ideal to freeze a head of broccoli without cutting it up first, unless of course you like to just gnosh in a whole head of broccoli), get your bowl/sink of ice water and ready follow the times EXACTLY as listed below for the following commonly saved veggies:

Snap Beans Trimmed and Cut to 2-4 Inch lengths-3 Minutes

Carrots washed peeled and diced, sliced or quartered-3 Minutes

Corn on the Cob husked-8 Minutes (I like to peel the corn off after blanching to freeze)

Leafy Greens (Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, Beet Greens) stemmed and cut-2 Minutes

Peas (Sugar Snap with shells removed)-2 Minutes.

These times and more, along with more specific techniques are all listed in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.

Personally, I do not blanch the shredded zucchini I use for baking.  It’s pretty much a mushy disaster to start.  It really can’t get any worse.  I do recommend using a shredder attachment on your food processor or stand mixer just to speed up the process, especially since zucchini tends to multiply.  I had a large zucc shredded and frozen in 7 minutes today.  That was pretty sweet.

I never blanch fruit. I  don’t think you are supposed too, however, I don’t know that for sure.  I am just grossed out by boiling fruit that is not in jam.

I use the same water (both ice and boiling) for multiple veggies in a single blanch session.  I am quite certain none of the experts recommend that and I just cannot bear the thought of dumping out boiling water and refilling it and re-boiling it 5-6 times.  I have a full-time job and it is not blanching vegetables.  So far I have not suffered any adverse effects for utilizing this lazy preservers’ method, so if you are short on time I suggest you try it too.

At the end of the day if you find yourself asking the question “Do I REAALLLLY need to blanch these vegetables before freezing them?”, Turn on the Pandora and put on your sleeveless shirt and comfy shoes, because the answer is YES.  Please let us know if you have other blanching/freezing tips to make the process easier or more enjoyable.

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