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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Freezing your home grown vegetables

It's best to enjoy your produce straight from the garden but you will always have a surplus and its nice to be able to enjoy your produce out of season which freezing allows you to do. Some crops are unsuitable for freezing such as salads, celery, cucumbers, kale, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. Although, other than salads and cucumbers, the rest can be frozen after cooking. Tomatoes are best frozen as juice or made into a sauce for use with pasta dishes.

Produce needs to be frozen as quickly as possible, to retain its flavour and nutritional value and this can be achieved by setting your freezer to a low setting for a few hours. Putting your produce in the freezer will cause the freezer temperature to rise but the lower setting will ensure it  freezes quickly.

To store your produce safely it needs to be blanched. Blanching ensures bacteria is destroyed, preserves texture, colour, flavour and helps retain nutritional values. Blanching is simply submerging your produce into boiling water to raise its temperature as quickly as possible which stops enzyme action. If not blanched, or for not long enough, the enzymes continue to be active causing toughening. 

Blanching is easier if you use a wire basket and a large pan. The produce should be completely immersed in the boiling water, for the times specified below, and then cooled as quickly as possible by plunging the wire basket into a bowl of very cold water. When completely cooled, allow the produce to drain and dry thoroughly before placing into portion sized freezer bags. 

Blanching times and preparation after thoroughly washing all produce:

Aubergines - Peel and cut into 2.5cm slices, blanch for 4 minutes
Globe artichokes - Trim to leave the hearts and blanch for 8 minutes
Beans - Select tender beans and blanch for 3 minutes
Beetroot - Cook until tender and freeze
Broad beans - Shell and blanch for 3 minutes
Broccoli - Trim off any tough stems and blanch for 4 minutes
Brussels -  Remove outer leaves and blanch for 4 minutes
Cabbage - Shred and blanch for 90 seconds
Carrots - Slice or cut and blanch for 4 minutes
Cauliflower - Break into sprigs and blanch for 3 minutes
Courgettes - Slice or cut and blanch for 1 minute
Marrow - Peel and then slice or cut and blanch for 3 minutes
Onion - Chop and freeze 
Parsnips - Peel, trim, cut and blanch for 2 minutes
Peas - Shell and blanch for 90 seconds
Spinach - Blanch for 2 minutes
Sweetcorn - Remove husks and blanch for between 4 and 8 minutes depending on size
Turnip - Trim, peel, cube and blanch for 2 minutes

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