You know something, dear reader? It’s funny how some techniques, however simple can be so hard to become familiar with. Take blanching, the preparation of vegetables for freezing via boiling or steaming and rapidly cooling, I only discovered this recently, but it has been a major boon in my battle to eat more vegetables, but once you know about it you feel rather silly telling anyone about it because it’s so simple. I could copy and paste an impersonal article here and let you decide if you want to try it, but instead I’ll give my own version, missing a lot of details as to the science behind blanching, but instead featuring, well, er, me? Yes! That’s a valuable thing. My own meandering experiences in the style of a maundering narrative.
Hey…What? I’m just digressing a bit. Come on! Okay, just quick: Blanching can also refer to the covering of forming cauliflower heads with their own leaves. They sometimes do this themselves, but no always. This prevent the head turning green due to the production of chlorophyll. Same reason you cover the shoulder, that’s what they call the top of the carrot near the stem apparently. What has this got to do with gardening? Heh, heh, heh. Why, everything! Or rather it’s extremely useful when you have a small family, but a lot of produce.
Why not mash? Why not just cook them? Why don’t you go soak your head you uppity rhetorical device! Hold me back dearest reader! Why? Because you use mash one way. Cooked vegetables can be mushy after defrosting. Blanched vegetables are much more versatile. Stir-fries, roasting, pan frying, the list isn’t endless, but it is evident that there are far more uses for blanched vegetables than other single preparations. I love having broccoli, cauliflower and carrots at hand whenever I need them. My Mother blanches her cabbage and freezes it in bags for single servings. Not everything is suited to blanching, but a lot are. I’ll be honest, you’ll have to try everything yourself and see what suits, but it’s worth figuring out and knowing first hand. I’ve blanched leafy greens like spinach and berries like squash. I can’t help but think of it as a berry. They can differ after defrosting, but for a quick addition of vegetables to curries, casseroles or stews you can’t go too wrong. Try out different vegetables, better if they’re on sale, that way you can see what you’ll be able to do with them.
I haven’t told you how yet have I? Well, I steam because I find boiling leeches too much out of the vegetable’s goodness for me. I use a colander inside a pot to steam. From what I gather all you’re doing is killing the bacteria on the vegetables, and if you’re using home grown sometimes other things like bugs and slugs, not cooking. That’s the mistake I made when first trying this. I cooked it and ended up with soggy vegetables. The best advice I can offer is to look for a colour change. Broccoli becomes a bright green, carrots a vibrant orange, cauliflower becomes more shiny. Beans and peas can be blanched too. Handy if you’re growing a lot. So, to summarise: Steam them for a few minutes, don’t cook and keep an eye on the vegetables. I always have a bowl of cold water, if you can ice water, but if not just toss out the water and refill, when they’re done plunge them in and make sure they’ve cooled completely. You keep any heat in them and they’ll just carry on cooking. Then you drain them and get ready to pack them away.
Simple? Yup. And no, there’s no but here, it’s just that simple. Practice and reading up on this will be the best teacher, I’m just here to point it out. Now, when you have your blanched vegetables, all cooled and waiting, you can bag individual portions, works best with big things like cauliflower and broccoli florets, or with something like carrots what I d is cut them into chunks, blanch them, then freeze them on a greaseproof paper lined tray and break them up and pour into a bag. That way you can use as much or as little as you like. It’s a matter of choice: You might have everything measured and ready, but you might need to just take a bit of something here and there. Again this is what makes blanching so great: You have so much control over everything. It means a stocked freezer and less excuses to not eat your vegetables.
So, that’s that. A basic post, one that might just serve to push you towards looking into this extremely helpful technique. I know when I finally get my vegetables ready to harvest, haven’t even started the seeds yet but I’m an idiot, I mean optimist, let’s split the difference, I’ll be ready to blanch everything I can, cook whatever works best cooked and I’ll be happy with my fresh produce for the months after. Remember freezing can mean that fruit that would be wasted can be kept. Also other ingredients can be prepared in advance. Onions, ginger, garlic etc can be blended and frozen into cubes. There’s nothing stopping you from making the components of many meals all at once, freezing them and then assembling them whenever they’re needed. Sustainability is important when it comes to healthy eating habits. The more ways you have to keep it up the more likely you are to keep at it. This has been written from my high horse. Heh. See you again soon, dear reader.