Ashley Adamant of Practical Self Reliance has another detailed article on How to Freeze Vegetables (A to Z Guide). Many vegetables are covered individually and, as usual, more photos through the link to the original article.
Freezing vegetables effectively preserves them at the peak of freshness, provided it’s done properly. If vegetables are not properly prepared before freezing, then you might as well skip it altogether.
I know what you’re thinking. Who needs instructions on freezing vegetables?
You just bag them up and stuff them in the freezer, end of story.
Well, not quite.
Years ago I remember thinking it’d be really convenient to have a freezer full of frozen butternut squash, already peeled and cubed for easy weeknight dinners. I bought a case of squash, peeled it, cubed it, and packed it into gallon-sized freezer bags for my chest freezer.
When I pulled the first bag out of the freezer I was sorely disappointed. The squash was rubbery, once fully defrosted had the consistency of a wet sponge. I literally wrung out a few cubes before I braved cooking them, just to play with their strange sponge-like texture.
It was a disaster, and the butternut squash was completely disgusting.
Freezing changes the texture of some raw foods and had I know that butternut must be blanched before freezing it would have saved a lot of squash that ended up in the compost pile.
Blanching preserves more than just texture, it also preserves quality in some vegetables. Freezing only slows down degeneration, and enzymatic processes are still happening (though slowly) within bags of frozen vegetables. They can actually still spoil in the freezer, if not properly prepared.
Every type of vegetable is a bit different, and some can be quickly thrown into bags with no prep at all. Fear not, I’ll walk you through how to freeze vegetables for peak quality.
For those vegetables that need blanching before freezing, there are two main methods: boiling or steaming.
Boiling is simple, but much less gentle than steaming. The agitation in the water can break apart tender vegetables, and it’s best reserved for firm-fleshed types. Being submerged in water also causes the veggies to lose more flavor, so it’s often not the best option.
Steaming, on the other hand, is gentle and helps the vegetables retain flavor. You’ll need a steamer basket of some sort to keep the vegetables suspended over an inch or two of boiling water, but the results are usually better.
Whichever method you choose, steam or boil, and then quickly transfer the veggies to an ice water bath. This stops the cooking immediately and helps ensure the vegetables don’t get overcooked or soggy.
Freezer Storage Containers
The storage container you choose is nearly as important as the way you prepare vegetables before freezing. Standard Ziplock freezer bags are one of the most common choices, but they’re not the only option.
- Ziplock Freezer Bags ~ One of the simplest and most economical options, freezer bags are made of a thicker plastic than regular storage bags. That helps prevent both leaks and freezer burn, but it’s still important to remove as much air as possible from the bags for the best quality frozen vegetables. Vacuum sealed bags are a better option for longer storage.
- Food Saver Vacuum Sealer Bags ~ A better option than Ziploc bags, vacuum sealer bags remove air from around the food and dramatically reduce the risk of freezer burn when veggies are stored for more than a month or two. It’s a bit of an investment upfront buying a vacuum sealer, but we’ve had ours for over a decade. It’s literally sealed thousands of pounds of food, and it’s been well worth it.
- Freezer Safe Gladware ~ Many types of Tupperware are not designed for freezer temperatures and will become brittle in the freezer. Even once they warm up, they won’t recover and can shatter easily. If you do use storage containers, choose varieties made from freezer-safe plastic, such as Gladware Freezer Safe Containers.
- Freezer Safe Mason Jars ~ Some glass mason jars are freezer safe, and they even have a freezing “fill line” embossed on the side. Be sure to leave around 1 1/2 inches of headspace below the top rim, as the food may expand when frozen. Only use straight-sided “wide mouth” mason jars, as jars with “shoulders” are not freezer safe and can crack as the food expands. Jars are best for pureed vegetables (such as frozen pumpkin puree) since it’ll fully fill the jar without air space.
How to Freeze Vegetables
Once blanched, most vegetables are then either placed directly into bags, or flash-frozen on baking trays to keep them from freezing together. This depends on the type of produce.
Home-canned asparagus tends to get mushy, and while pickled asparagus is delicious, it no longer has that fresh green flavor. Freezing asparagus is the best way to store this short season vegetable.
Blanch asparagus for 2-3 minutes, preferably by steaming since fresh asparagus can be tender and delicate. Remove the stems to an ice water bath, or place in a colander and rinse with cool water for a few minutes to stop the cooking.
Pat the spears dry and arrange on baking trays. Freeze the spears on trays for 2-4 hours, until firm. Transfer the spears to storage bags, press out the air, and seal tightly before storing them in the freezer.
Frozen asparagus will generally lasts 8-12 months if properly blanched and stored in a tightly sealed bag.
Artichokes can be frozen, but only after cooking. If you freeze artichokes raw, they turn brown when unthawed, and their flavor changes. Blanching isn’t enough because it won’t heat the center and cook thoroughly.
You can find several methods for cooking and freezing artichokes. Here’s one option.
Trim the tops from the artichokes and rub cut surfaces with lemon. Then, cook it in water flavored with lemon juice for preservation purposes. Let it cook for 20-25 minutes. Then, let it drain upside down and place upside down on a baking sheet, and flash freeze on trays before storing in freezer bags.
Make sure you thaw correctly, in the refrigerator rather than on the countertop. When ready to eat them, wrap each artichoke in aluminum foil and steam until hot…(continues)