Sunday, 8 March 2009

Freezing Fresh Produce

by Gavin, at The Greening of Gavin

Hopefully this topic hasn't been covered before on the co-op. I did a search and couldn't find a post on the subject, so here goes. This post is a bit of a rehash of one I posted on my own blog last season with additional information. I have tried to convert it roughly into both metric and imperial measurements where I could.

This is my method on how to blanch broad (fava) beans in order to freeze them so that they are nearly as fresh as the day you picked them. I know it is not a very manly thing to write about, but it hasn't stopped me yet.

First of all, wash your beans so that they are clean and free from dirt, bits etc.

Then, bring to the boil at least 6 litres (1 and a half gallons) of water per 500gm (1lb) of beans, preferably in a large pot with a steamer/basket type arrangement. The water must be at least half way up the basket, so that all the beans are submerged when placed in the water. You can add some salt to the water if you like. I have been told that it adds to the flavour of the beans.

Before the water has come to the boil, make sure you have another bowl of cold water to place the beans in after blanching. The beans have to be cooled rapidly to stop the cooking process. That way, you can preserve the freshness without cooking them all the way through.

Once the water is at a rapid boil, place the beans into the pot

Boil the beans for three minutes only. Keep an eye on the time, because any longer and the beans start to cook. You are aiming to kill the enzymes that make the beans rot, not to cook them outright.

When three minutes are complete, then remove the beans from the pot as quick as you can, and immerse them into the cold water you had placed aside earlier.

The beans will cool down. If you are making another batch, make sure you change the not so cold water bowl for fresh cold water, because you are still attempting to cool the beans down as quickly as possible. Once cool to touch (about a minute) then strain and place in a freezer bag.

Once in the freezer bag, tie it off and place in the freezer as quickly as possible.

If you are freezing other types of vegetables, the blanching time will vary with the size or weight of the produce. Below is a blanching table that should have most vegetables. I haven't tried them all, but the times look reasonably accurate from experience.

Vegetable Boiling time (minutes)
Artichoke, medium 8 to 10
Asparagus, medium spears 3
Bamboo shoots 7 to 13
Broad beans 3
Bean sprouts 4 to 6
Beet greens 2-1/2
Beets, small until tender
Black-eyed peas 2
Broccoli, split 3 to 4-1/2
Brussels sprouts 3 to 4-1/2
Cabbage, leaf or shredded 1-1/2
Carrots, sliced 3
Cauliflower, florets 3
Celery, diced 3
Chard or Silverbeet 2-1/2
Chinese cabbage, shredded 1-1/2
Corn, frozen on cob 6 to 10
Eggplant, 1-1/2-inch slices 4
Green beans 2-1/2
Kale 2-1/2
Kohlrabi, diced 1
Okra 3 to 4
Parsnips 2
Peas 1-1/2 to 2-1/2
Peppers or Capsicum 2
Pumpkin until tender
Spinach 2-1/2
Sweet potatoes until tender
Turnips, diced 2
Wax beans 2-1/2

I managed to get four meals out of my 1.9 kg of broad beans. It was a great way to keep the harvest for winter, which is when we use broad beans the most. I shall be planting this seasons crop in the next few days. I hope that this post helps keep your frozen vegetables nearly as fresh as the day you picked them.


Sadge said...

I'll add my little produce-freezing tip: after cooling and draining the blanched veggies (I don't blanch fruit, but use the same freezing process), I spread the pieces out on a cookie sheet and put that into the freezer. Greens, I'll shape into fat little 6 oz. discs. Once frozen solid, I then put the frozen bits into a freezer bag. That way, I can later pull out just what I need without chipping away at a frozen-together clump.

Tara said...

Okay, this might be a dumb question, but are fava beans the same as lima beans? Do you plant them like other bush beans?

Rose said...

Gavin, thanks for this. I've always procrastinated about freezing fresh produce -- maybe this is more of an Aussie thing than American or European? --so I really appreciate having it so simply spelled out.

We have a small garden so tend to eat what we grow but, at this time of year, the greengrocer has heaps of good produce.

Cheers, Rose

Anna said...

It's very manly to provide fresh, wholesome food for your family! Thanks for the info. It's always a great help. =)

Gavin said...

Sadge, great idea. Next time, I will make smaller portions. Great for adding to soups.

Tara, they are different types of beans. In Australia, lima beans are better known as butter beans. Here is a link to compare the difference. Lima beans have a bush and a vine variety.

Rose, I like writing the simple "how to" type posts. A few years ago I didn't have many simple home skills. I have learned a lot from books and blogs, and by just doing it myself.

Anna, when you put it that way, it sounds very manly. Thanks!

Compostwoman said...

Compoatman does most of our blanching and freezing, and HE is manly!

Great post Gavin!

Mindy said...

I've blanched green beans in the past, but never much more than that. I'm so glad you included the chart ~ which I've already copied and pasted and will hang inside a cabinet door for frequent reference.

Our garden is small, but we usually have more than we can eat and I hate to waste anything. This blog has been a godsend ~ so much good information. And it's FREE! :-)

livinginalocalzone said...

Good post :-)
Interesting about the blanching.... for some reason, I've never frozen with blanching first, just prepped the veg (clean, cut, etc) and then straight into the freezer bag. I spread them out right in the bag and go at it with the vacuum sealer, so it is pretty flat, and stack them up in the freezer. Its come out fine so far, but I think this spring I will try some blanched and see what happens - likely even better of a result?

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Thanks! I just signed up for a CSA and I know I will have more food to freeze this year. This helps so much.

Sharon said...

Hi Gavin-thanks for the post. If one has too many tomatoes and does not want to make a sauce or paste, can they be blanched and frozen also (to use in soups and stews)?

Gavin said...

Compostwoman, Thanks, I feel more manly now!

Mindy, well done on the chart, I put a copy on the inside cover of my preserving book.

Livinginalocalzone, from what I have read the main reason for blanching vegetables before freezing is that it stops the action of enzymes. Up until the time vegetables are ready to pick, enzymes help them grow and mature. After that they cause over ripening, loss of flavour and colour changes. If vegetables are not sufficiently blanched, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage. The vegetables may develop off-flavours, discolour, or toughen so that they may be unappetising after a few weeks of freezer storage.

Kristi, no problems. Glad I could help out.

Sharon, I have put tomatoes straight in the freezer before. They loose their firmness but are fine for cooking with. They don't have the same enzyme problem that other vegetables have.

Kristy said...

Are there any other options than plastic bags for freezing? Do you reuse yours at all?

Also, does anyone have any new-to-gardening book recommendations? My family & I are moving into a house with a big yard in April & our hope is to eventually have big raised beds that we can grow & preserve lots of produce from. This year will be a bit experimental as we won't get the beds up & running until May (but we live in Western Canada, so this may not be an issue) & we have no idea what we're doing. I'm planning on using this wonderful blog for lots of tips & advice on gardening, preserving & composting.

Tips for a new gardener?

Kendra @ A Sonoma Garden said...

Last year was my first year freezing veggies and I knew nothing about blanching them first, so I'm sure I have a freezer full of mushy greens. This year I'm definately going to do more freezing, but I'll blanch first!