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Freezing vegetables

Medium term storage

  • Select high quality, fresh, young, tender, ideal maturation (not tough, starchy or woody)
  • Asparagus, beans, peas, spinach, whole kernel corn and mashed squash freeze well
  • Corn on cob can develop off flavours unless blanched for the correct time.  Celery, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers become limp on thawing – unless tomatoes pureed for sauce or cooked slightly for use in soups and stews. Eggplant darkens and becomes watery.
  • Carrots and parsnips can be frozen but best to store in a cool room.
  • Cooked beets and raw onions are best frozen sliced or diced as the texture will become rubbery and limp on thawing.
  • Wash, blanch and pack.
  • Vegetables may be stored for 1 year at -18°C

Almost all vegetables require blanching before freezing, with a few exceptions. Blanching is a process where food is plunged first into hot boiling water and then cooled rapidly in ice water to stop the cooking process. Blanching kills enzymes, which cause fruits and vegetables to ripen and cause undesirable changes in food flavour, colour and texture. Make sure to follow exact blanching times for each type of vegetable. Under-blanching does not destroy all the enzymes while over-blanching overcooks and reduces flavour and nutrient content.

To blanch you will need a large kettle with a cover (4 L water to about 500 g vegetables or 8 L for leafy greens).  Place vegetables in wire basket or tie loosely in cheesecloth bag leaving length of string for ease of handling.  Lower vegetables into vigorously boiling water, cover and immediately start counting blanching time. Keep heat on high so water quickly returns to a boil. Once blanching time is up, chill vegetables immediately in cold running water. If water is not cold enough then add ice. Leave vegetables in cooling water for same time used in blanching but no longer than necessary. Drain cooled vegetables thoroughly and pack in freezer containers (label and date) and place in freezer.

Make sure to follow exact blanching times for each type of vegetables as under-blanching does not destroy all enzymes while over-blanching overcooks and reduces flavour and nutrient content.

Table: Preparing and packing vegetables

Vegetable

Preparing

Blanching

Packing

Asparagus

Remove tough ends. Cut in uniform lengths

Med – 3 min

Lrg – 4 min

Chill, drain and pack

Beans (green/wax)

Trim ends. Leave whole or cut in 3 cm pieces

Cut – 3 min

Whole – 4 min

Chill, drain and pack

Beets

Leave root ends on; cut off tops leaving 3 cm stems. Cook in boiling water until tender. Cool. Peel and slice

None

Pack

Broccoli

Remove woody stems and trim. Cut through stalks so that pieces are not more than 3 cm across

Med – 3 min

Lrg – 4 min

Chill, drain and pack

Brussel Sprouts

Trim stems and outer leaves

Sm – 3 min

Med – 4 min

Lrg – 5 min

Chill, drain and pack

Cabbage

Trim outer leaves and core. Cut in wedges or shred coarsely

Wedges – 2 min

Shredded – 1 min

Chill, drain and pack

Carrots

Remove tops and scrape or peel. Leave small carrots whole. Cut larger carrots in 1 cm slices or dice or cut lengthwise in fingers

Cut – 3 min

Whole – 5 min

Chill, drain and pack

Cauliflower

Break heads into small flowerets about 3 cm in diameter

3 min

Chill, drain and pack

Corn – whole kernel

- on cob

Remove husks and silk

Remover husks, trim cobs to even lengths

4 min

Sm – 7 min

Med – 9 min

Lrg – 11 min

Chill, cut kernels from cob. Pack

Chill, drain and pack

Herbs

Chop

None

Freeze on tray before packing

Mushrooms

Slice. Sauté 500 ml in 30 ml butter 4 min

None

Drain and pack

Onions

Remove outer skin, root and stem ends. Chop

None

Pack or freeze on tray before packing

Parsnips

Remove stem and root ends. Peel. Cut in 2 cm fingers or 1 cm slices

Fingers – 1 min

Slices – 1 min

Chill, drain and pack

Peas

Shell

2 min

Chill, drain and pack

Peppers

Leave whole or remove seeds and half stems, cut in half or chop

None

Pack dry or freeze chopped pepper on tray before packing

Pumpkin

Cut or break apart, remove seeds and fibers. Cut in chunks. Steam, boil or bake until tender. Cool and scoop from rind. Mash or sieve

None

Pack

Spinach, Chard

Wash thoroughly. Cut chard in 3 cm pieces or separate leafy parts from stalks and cut stalks in 10 cm lengths

2 min

Chill, drain and pack

Summer squash

 Cut in 1 cm slices

2 min

Chill and drain. Freeze on tray before packing

Winter squash

Cut in pieces and steam, boil or bake until tender. Cool, scoop from rind and mash

Peel and dice (butternut)

 

None

2 min

Pack

Chill, drain and pack

Tomatoes

Peel by dipping in boiling water for 30 – 60 seconds, cooling in cold water and gently slipping off skin. Cut in quarters. Add 5 ml salt, dash pepper and 5 ml sugar to 1 kg tomatoes and cook gently until tender (5-6 mins)

None

Pack

Turnip

Peel, dice and boil until tender. Mash

Peel, dice and blanch

None

2 min

Pack

Chill, drain and pack

Ref: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. (1990). Freezing Foods. Food Advisory Services. Canada Department of Agriculture.

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