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23 November 2011

Blanching vegetables

Many of the skills we need when living simply don't exist in isolation, if you want to get the full measure of these things we do, you have to learn a number of skills to make it happen successfully. For instance, growing vegetables isn't only about gardening, when you learn how to sow seeds, tend and harvest vegetables, you also have to learn about how to enrich the soil, fertilise and provide water as well as food storage and cooking to make it work. Most skills are part of a process, often with several distinct skills supporting and making up the whole. 


When I did my post on freezing silverbeet (chard) and beans recently, I received a couple of emails asking if I would do a post on blanching. Blanching is one skill that is part of the process of vegetable production and food storage. It's another kitchen skill that used to be commonly taught but with the rise of purchased frozen and convenience foods, has been forgotten by many.  If you're growing your own vegetables or buying in bulk when you see a great special, you should take the time to learn about blanching, and then do it. Blanching takes only a small amount of time but it will help retain the quality of the vegetables you freeze. All vegetables have enzymes in them that help them grow. Blanching in boiling water or steam stops or slows down the action of these enzymes helping to keep optimum flavour, texture and vitamins. You can freeze food without blanching but you may not be retaining vitamins and you increase the risk of the vegetables spoiling in the freezer.

PREPARATION
Start by cleaning your sink. You want a clean work area and your sink will give you a good place to clean the vegetables and if you have a double sink, you'll also have a place to cool the vegetables after blanching them. If you don't have a double sink, use a large bowl or pot filled with cold water. The only other requirements are a colander, a large stockpot with a lid (depending on how much and what you're blanching), a slotted spoon to lift the vegetables out, or basket that fits inside the pot.


The general rule is to use about 4 litres (1 gallon) water per half kilo (pound). For the amount of silverbeet I blanched in these photos, I filled my pot with water to about three-quarters capacity.

Set the pot on the stove to boil with the lid on. Keeping the lid on will help bring the water to the boil faster.

While that is happening, trim or peel your vegetables if they need it, and cut vegetables like beans or carrots into serving size. Whatever you would normally do to prepare your vegetables for cooking, do before blanching. For vegetables like silverbeet, leeks or spinach, make sure you wash them thoroughly to remove all the grit or sand. Make sure you do all your prep properly because when you cook the vegetables after you freeze them there will not be another opportunity to clean, prepare or trim the vegetables.

Green vegetables will turn bright green when they've been blanched.

Make sure you drain the vegetables well. Excess water will turn to ice in the freezer.


BLANCHING TIMES
Make sure you know your blanching times because if you under-blanch it can stimulate the activity of the enzymes and can be worse than not blanching at all, and over-blanching will cause your vegetables to lose vitamins, minerals, colour and flavour.

Click here for blanching times.

Click here for blanching times.

HOW TO BLANCH

  1. Divide the vegetables up into portions that will easily fit into your pot.
  2. When the water is at a rolling boil, put in the first portion and put the lid on the pot.
  3. Check the blanching guides below to find out how long to leave the vegetables in the boiling water. When the time it up, quickly get the vegetables out of the water using your spoon, or lift the basket out, and plunge them into very cold water - add ice if necessary. You want to cool them down fast to stop the cooking process.
  4. If you have several portions to blanche, carry on doing the above in the same water, making sure it's on a rolling boil before you add the vegetables.
  5. When you've finished blanching and cooling the vegetables, place them all into colanders to drain thoroughly. Let them stand for an hour or so to drain off as much water as possible.
  6. When you're happy that has happened, bag your vegetables into portions sizes suitable for your family.
  7. Mark with a permanent marker with the vegetable name and date.
  8. Place in the freezer. If you have a lot of home frozen bags, try to keep all the same types together or use ice cream containers or plastic baskets (depending on the size of your freezer) to organise the vegetables. Remember, you can't rely on coloured packets with photos on them like commercial frozen food so whatever you can do to organise your food will help you recognise what you have and assist your food storage program.



  • A rolling boil is water boiling strongly with large bubbles - and when you stir it, the boiling continues.
  • When you finish blanching you'll have some coloured water in the pot. Let it cool down and use it on the vegetable garden, there will be some nutrients in the water.

17 comments:

  1. I must get more organised with storing vegies. We tend to just eat what is currently in the garden and we do have some lean times. The one thing I do freeze is basil because I can't live without it's wonderful flavour. I have tried to grow a perennial basil twice, but managed to kill both of them.

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  2. Thanks for the post Rhonda...i must admit i am a bit slack with blanching but i will follow your guide and try to give it a go again...your silverbeet looks lovely, the heat is knocking mine about at moment (and me)!
    Jode x

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  3. This seems like a lot of extra effort. So far I have frozen cherry tomatoes, chilies, mini capsicums, and chopped green beans from my garden without blanching and haven't noticed any problem with flavour or texture. I also freeze chopped banana, mango and strawberries when they are cheap, for smoothies later on. My mother used to blanch everything and I always wondered why she bothered. I like the idea of freezing basil, I can't seem to keep it growing through winter either :)

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  4. A great post Rhonda and you make it all sound so easy for those that haven't done it before. I'm hoping to have enough excess to freeze some this year.
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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  5. Thanks for this, have just blanched and frozen a lot of carrots from the garden. Broad beans next.

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  6. Thanks for this Rhonda, I have far too much silverbeet and I'm not familiar with freezing veg.

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  7. I love the thought of blanching, especially when you can harvest and store all your extra veg. It's also great way to enjoy those veg when they aren't in season any more. Another idea for the leftover water is: Save the water at the end, and that is the start of a stock or soup.

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  8. Thank you for this easy-to-follow and very informative tutorial. I love the idea of using the spent water in the garden--that's brilliant.
    -Jaime

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  9. oh fantastic I have a surplus of chard growing so this is perfect timing. Thank you.

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  10. Thank you for a great post. I find a salad spinner is very useful to remove water after blanching veggies.

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  11. Thanks. I will have to keep this in mind for when we next grow silverbeet, although if it were up to me, we would just eat it ever day - I love it!:) What do you do with a glut of lettuce? Ours is bolting in this heat, we've given what we can away, but have too much to eat.

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  12. Thank you for this, Rhonda. We are just having a range of different veg in our little plot start to ripen, and I've been considering the blanching process but wasn't sure as to the best way to go about it. This has been very informative for me!
    ~S.

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  13. I've always known what blanching was (probably one of the few for my age!), but I never knew the reason for it.

    Thanks, Rhonda, for your (as always!) informative posts.

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  14. Thanks Rhonda for this tutorial :) I have lots of silverbeet in the garden and I know we won't get to eat all of it now. Just looked at the links and I couldn't see how long to blanch the silverbeet though. How long did you do it for ? Many thanks :)

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  15. Thanks for this info Rhonda. I have only frozen carrots after blanching but plan to do some more so your post is very welcome.

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  16. Excellent post Rhonda, your explanations are very precise and clear.
    thanks
    Dayla

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  17. Good ρost. I'm going through a few of these issues as well..
    Stop by my web blog ; Windows bsod with fastfat.sys and truecrypt container

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