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.