Longer life for your vegetables
Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor
The age-old advice that vegetables are important for good health is still true today.
Vegetables are natural foods and provide several health benefits because of the different vitamins, minerals and thousands of other plant chemicals they contain. Vegetables play a vital role in disease prevention and healing. Green vegetables are known for the phytochemicals they contain and provide health-promoting benefits.
Meal planning and food preparation should use up lavish amounts of vegetables because of the variety they bring in terms of texture, colour and nutrients. Availability is critical to regular use of vegetables in the diet and, at this time when there is a glut of vegetables, you should try to extend the life of the cheaper vegetable supplies by freezing, canning and using them in more creative ways in cooking.
Freezing your vegetables allows you to enjoy your vegetables all year round. Get the benefits of the current glut and learn to freeze what you cannot consume.
For freezing, you will need the following:
Your favourite garden vegetables
A large pot of boiling water
A large bowl of ice water
Freezer bags of various sizes
A timer or clock
1. In deciding what garden vegetables to freeze, remember that not all vegetables are suited to freezing. Vegetables like green beans, peas and corn are good for freezing as they retain their shape and texture even after being frozen and thawed. Watery vegetables such as cucumbers, potatoes and celery turn soft with freezing, and you should look at canning them instead.
2. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. In general, you should use one gallon of water for each pound of vegetables you plan to freeze. While the water is boiling, fill up a large bowl with cold water, the colder the better. Add ice to make it very cold.
3. Rinse your vegetables in clean cold water to remove surface dirt and insects that may attach themselves to the vegetables. Prepare the vegetables as you would for cooking. Shuck corn and remove as much of the silk as possible. Remove peas from their pods and remove strings from the green beans. Cut the vegetables into smaller pieces if desired. Wash, peel and cut carrots in desired shapes.
4. Blanch the vegetables. This process helps to keep the vegetables' natural flavours in while stopping enzymes from acting on them. Carefully place the vegetables you have prepared into the boiling water. Continue to boil and watch the timer. Be careful not to overcook vegetables as vegetables vary in how long they can cook. Average blanch times are: three minutes for green beans, broccoli, celery and sweet peppers; two minutes for diced carrots; seven minutes for small ears of corn; nine-11 minutes for larger ears of corn.
5. Remove the vegetables from the boiling water once the timer goes off, and immediately place them into a bowl of ice-cold water. This will 'shock' the vegetables and stop the cooking process.
6. Leave the vegetables in the water for the same amount of time that you had them boiling. For example, if you blanched carrots for seven minutes, you should leave the carrots in the ice water for seven minutes.
7. Allow the vegetables to cool, and then drain them in a colander, making sure to shake as much water off of them as possible.
8. Place vegetables into freezer bags or clean containers. If using bags, remove as much air from them as you can to keep in the moisture and flavour. If using a rigid container, leave some room at the top for expansion. Label the containers with the vegetable name and date of packaging so you will use by date - first in, first out (FIFO). You can now keep these vegetables in the freezer for up to a year or more (eHow.com).
Freeze vegetables when they are firm and fit. Vegetables that are not fully fit will not freeze well.
To use frozen vegetables, cook them without thawing, with the exception of corn, which should be partially thawed before cooking.
Use only freezer bags to freeze vegetables. Sandwich bags are not ideal as they do not properly keep the air out and vegetables could develop freezer burn.