Do I have To Blanch My Surplus Vegetables before Freezing?
Some of you may already be thinking that freezing foods for preservation is not ideal, because what happens if the power goes out for an extended period. This of course can and will happen, but this should not stop you from taking advantage of this quick and reliable way of preserving surplus produce from your garden.
Freezing vegetables is not considered a long term preservation method, because typically the recommended time in the freezer is up to 18 months when blanched, and even less for vegetables not blanched.
Canning, pickling and drying are other methods of preserving surplus produce and fruits that could extend the shelf life beyond a year, and of course refrigeration is not needed if preserved this way. However, canning, for example, requires considerably more preparation, equipment, materials, and time.
For those serious about prepping for a SHTF scenario, you may very well have an alternative power source you can use such as solar, hydro, wind or even generators that can keep your freezers and refrigerators up and running in a grid down situation.
Freezing surplus vegetables fresh from the garden to see you through until the next harvest is quick, easy and can be done by anyone with what is already in most kitchens.
What Is Blanching and Why Is It Important
Blanching is simply boiling the produce for a stated time without cooking it. Blanching stops the action of the vegetable’s enzymes, helps maintain color and nutrients and removes dirt and microorganisms/bacteria from the vegetables. The enzymes in vegetables help them grow and ripen, and this process often times continues after the vegetable is harvested, so to preserve the product the process must be stopped. Failure to do so will cause color, flavor, texture, and nutrient loss (Penn State Extension, 2012).
Can I Freeze Vegetables without Blanching
Yes, you can freeze certain ones without blanching, but keep in mind blanching can extend the freezer life of certain products. Onions, hot and sweet peppers and raw tomatoes are some of the more common ones that can go from the garden to the freezer without the hot bath, and many people have had great success freezing corn on the cob in the husk, as well, without blanching.
Those that have had the most success with freezing corn without blanching have stated they picked it fresh from their own gardens, or from local growers, and then froze the corn almost immediately while still in the husk. Fruits and vegetables that have been harvested weeks in advance, and then shipped to your local grocer are probably not ideal candidates for freezing without blanching.
Freezing alone will slow the enzymes, but often times will not stop them completely, so the product can still degrade while frozen, hence the shorted life span. Once a product has been harvested time is of the essence to preserve the color, texture flavor, and nutrients.
Herbs, cabbage, sugar peas/snap peas, summer squash, young broccoli and green beans can also be frozen without blanching, but expect the shelf life to be reduced somewhat. Keep your work station clean and make sure you thoroughly wash, dry and then slice or cut up your vegetables or leave whole if you like. Whether a vegetable is whole, sliced, or diced may have an effect on how long it needs to blanch.
Date the product after bagging or putting in approved containers for freezing. Some recommend using the product within 60 days if it has not been blanched, and others have claimed many vegetables can be frozen for up to six months without any apparent effects on flavor or texture. Much may have to do with the containers used to freeze the product in and the product itself. This is left up to you, so inspect the product, experiment with times and containers, and then make your own determinations.
How to Blanch
Blanching not only stops the enzymes it also removes oxygen and shrinks the product somewhat thus reducing space in the containers/freezer.
What you will need is one gallon of water for every pound of vegetables and a pot large enough to handle the volume. It is recommended that you use a strainer basket that fits in the pot, so when the vegetables have blanched long enough, you can remove them quickly with the strainer.
Why the gallon to a pound ratio, once the water is boiling you want it to return to a boil in one minute after adding the vegetables. If this is not the case you need to reduce the amount of vegetables for the volume of water used, and count the time for blanching from when the water has returned to a boil.
You do not want the product to cook, so tracking the boiling times and not overloading the pot is important. Once it has boiled for the recommended time the product must be chilled immediately in ice water (see recommended blanching times below). Change the ice water as it warms. Drain all vegetables thoroughly. When blanched and packaged correctly, you can expect your product to last between 12 and 18 months in the freezer.
Cool the vegetables for the same length of time they were blanched. Corn however, must cool for twice the time it was blanched (University of Minnesota Extension, 2015).