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Preserving vegetables is the best way to honor the abundance of produce from your vegetable garden. If you are not lucky enough to have your own vegetable patch, a trip to the farmers market will ensure you have enough vegetables to preserve.
So how you do get started? Well, preserving vegetables follows a lot of the same principles as preserving fruit, with some differences, of course. The main techniques you will use for preserving vegetables are canning, pickling and freezing.
Today we will focus on how to freeze vegetables. For this you will need to have ample freezer space and be sure to wash and clean all vegetables before processing.
How To Freeze Vegetables
Most green vegetables freeze well. But don't bother freezing cabbage, cucumbers, celery, radishes or any type of lettuce. The high water content of these vegetables will turn them to mush once they thaw.
Freezing green vegetables will require that you blanch them in boiling water first. Then let cool and freeze. Vegetables like squash and pumpkin will need to be fully cooked and cool before going in the freezer. Remember to shell fresh peas before blanching.
Step One: Blanching Vegetables
Blanching vegetables will prevent them from losing their color, flavor and nutrients. That's because blanching vegetables for just a few minutes deactives the enzyme responsible for these changes.
To do this, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Drop batches of vegetables in without crowding the pot. Using thongs or a large slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the water. Immediatey sumerge in an ice water bath. Then drain in a large colander and cool. In the case of dark leafy greens like spinach. Squeeze out all of the water.
The time of blanching will depend on the vegetable. As a rule of thumb, remove green vegetables from the water once they turn bright green. Remember, that they will continue cooking as they cool. If cooked too long, vegetables will lose their color and nutrients.
Step Two: Freezing
Once the vegetables are cool and dry you are ready to begin freezing. The best way to freeze vegetables is to do in in batches.
To prevent vegetables from forming large clumps once they freeze, try this technique: place the vegetables on a sheet pan and put in the freezer. Once the vegetables are all frozen, pack into bags. Frozen vegetables will keep for at least three months.
In the case of spinach and other dark leafy greens, squeeze out any residual water then pack them in a plastic bag and freeze.
Stay tuned for more tips on how to preserve vegetables...