Sunday, January 22, 2012
A Reader's Question: How do I Blanch Vegetables?
This basic guide should help you when preserving your fresh vegetables. I used this method quite a bit this past summer, and I'm sure I'll get some pictures taken this coming summer to update this post.
First things first, what do you need to blanch vegetables. Well, you'll need a cutting board & knife, alarge pot of boiling water, a colander or spider tool (basically a handheld strainer...works better than a slotted spoon, especially if you're working with a bigger batch of vegetables), a large bowl filled with cold water and ice, and a sheet pan. Once your vegetables are frozen you will also need a bag or container to store them in.
First things first, wash and cut your broccoli into florets, or spears or whatever size you know you will want to use it in later.
Second, put broccoli into your pot of boiling water. Now here comes the tricky part. Depending on the size of your broccoli will depend on how long you boil it for (usually at least 2 minutes). Watch for the color change. The color of the broccoli will turn a brighter green. Once you see that color change, immediately pull it out of the boiling water using your spider tool, or drain into your colander. Shake off the excess hot water & immediately put it into your large bowl. The reason you have water in the bowl with your ice is to transfer the cold faster. The idea is to stop the cooking process as quickly as possible. Go ahead & move the broccoli in the cold water to speed the process. Another thing that will help speed the process is to add additional ice once you see how fast your other ice is melting, or to even add a little salt to the water.
You will see the ice melt slow as your product cools, and you can leave it in the cold water for a minute or two. The reason I prefer the spider tool to the colander method is because you can do more than one batch of vegetables in your boiling water. First corn, then cauliflower, then broccoli or beans or peppers. It's easiest to learn what to look for with the green vegetables first. Then you can get a better feel for the timing of the piece size with your equipment. If you boil for too long, your vegetables cook too long and will get mushy.
So, once your broccoli is cooled pull it out of the cold water with the spider tool or drain into a colander. Pick out any extra ice by hand. Spread into an even layer on your sheet pan and then place in the freezer for about an hour. You can leave it in there overnight as well & then pack off your broccoli in the morning. Just depends on how many pans you're putting into your freezer.
Finally, package your broccoli into freezer storage bags, vac seal, or use containers. Don't forget to label & date your product so you know what to eat first. First in, First out is a saying we learned in school and it makes sense to use up your oldest product first.
Hope this helps simplify the blanching process. Let me know if something isn't clear!