Freezing is a great way to keep fresh vegetables tasty and nutritious for a longer time than keeping them in the refrigerator or on the counter top.
Freezing doesn’t sterilize the vegetables, but the cold temperatures slow down the growth of bacteria. And the processes that cause vegetables to rot and spoil slow down, too.
Start with high-quality fresh vegetables. And freeze them soon after you get them.
Handle them carefully, to keep them from getting bruised or damaged before you freeze them.
Choose the Right Container
Choose containers that are intended to be used in the freezer. They should be moisture- and vapor-resistant. They should be durable and not become brittle in the freezer. And they should be easy to seal securely.
Good containers include plastic freezer containers, flexible freezer bags, or wide-mouth glass canning jars.
Don’t use the plastic containers that yogurt, tub margarine, or cottage cheese come in. And don’t use cardboard milk cartons or ice cream containers. And regular jars, like the ones jelly or mayonnaise come in, are made of thin glass that is likely to break when it is frozen.
Choose and Wash the Vegetables
Use the freshest, highest-quality vegetables you can find.
If you are picking them from your garden, pick them early in the morning, when it is still cool. Freeze them within a few hours after picking them.
Wash the vegetables well in cold water. Let the water run over them to wash away any dirt. If you are washing them in a sink or tub full of water, lift the vegetables out of the water and let the dirt settle to the bottom.
Sort the vegetables according to size. It will be easier to pack vegetables of similar size into the same container.
Blanch the Vegetables
Blanching means that you put the vegetables into boiling water for a short time before you put them in the freezer containers. For some vegetables, steaming is a better way to blanch.
Blanching is an important step for many reasons:
- It slows or stops the enzymes that cause food to rot or spoil.
- It cleans the surface of the vegetables, to remove any dirt or bacteria.
- It brightens the color.
- It helps keep the vitamins in the food.
- It softens or wilts the vegetables to make them easier to pack.
The amount of time you leave the vegetables in the boiling water is extremely important. The time varies according to the size of the vegetables and from one kind of vegetable to another.
Blanching for too short a time stimulates the enzymes that cause spoiling and is worse than not blanching at all.
Blanching for too long a time makes the vegetables lose flavor, color, and vitamins.