Deborah Neyens is an attorney, avid gardener, and cook who believes food should be sustainably grown, lovingly prepared, and joyfully eaten.
Gardeners, CSA members, and enthusiastic farmers' market shoppers may at times find they have more fresh produce than they can possibly eat. If this happens to you, don't let the surplus go to waste. Preserve your extra fresh vegetables by freezing them. Freezing green beans, sugar snap peas, broccoli, and other garden vegetables is a great way to preserve the vegetables' nutrients. Fill your deep freeze with bags of healthy frozen vegetables this summer and save money at the grocery store next winter.
Freezing vegetables is the simplest and quickest way of home preserving your garden surplus. The process that can be completed within an hour or two with equipment you already have on hand, and even more quickly if you have some of the special equipment we'll discuss below. This step-by-step guide on how to freeze vegetables tells you everything you need to know.
Step 1: Gather the equipment
You will need:
- Ziploc freezer bags or vacuum sealing machine and bags
- A colander and a large mixing bowl
- 5- to 6-quart pot
- Clean, dry dish towels
- Permanent marker
You can freeze green beans, sugar snap peas, and broccoli in freezer bags that are readily available at any supermarket (get a Ziploc variety). If you plan to do a lot of freezing, it may be wise to invest in a vacuum sealing machine. These machines remove the air from the freezer bag through a suction process, which helps preserve the quality of the frozen food and its flavor after it's thawed and cooked.
You also will need a large colander and mixing bowl. The colander should fit into the mixing bowl. For this purpose, the base bowl and colander insert of a salad spinner work perfectly.
Step 2: Select and Prepare the Vegetables
Choose fresh vegetables that are at the peak of their flavor and texture, without bruises and imperfections. It's best to work in manageable batches of no more than two pounds at a time. Wash the vegetables in cold water and drain, then prepare as specified in the chart below.
Remove ends and strings; leave whole or cut into 1-inch pieces.
Remove outer leaves and tough parts of stalk; cut into 1-inch pieces.
Remove peas from pod and discard pods.
Peas, sugar snap
Remove ends and strings; leave pods whole.
Step 3: Blanch the Vegetables
Blanching, or scalding the vegetables in boiling water, is an important step because it slows the spoiling process and helps to preserve the color, flavor, and texture of the vegetables.
To blanch fresh vegetables, first bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of water to a boil. As it nears a boil, fill a large mixing bowl (or base bowl of a salad spinner) with cold water and ice cubes to make an ice-water bath.
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When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the vegetables and blanch for the amount of time indicated in the chart below. Immediately begin timing; don't wait for the water to return to a boil.
Drain the vegetables into a colander (or colander insert of a salad spinner) and immediately plunge the colander into the ice-water bath. Stir the vegetables to circulate the ice water and stop the cooking process. Leave the vegetables in the ice-water bath for the same amount of time they were in the boiling water, then drain.
2 minutes for pieces; 3 minutes for whole beans
1 1/2 minutes
Peas, sugar snap
1 1/2 minutes
Step 4: Dry the Vegetables
If using the bowl and colander insert from a salad spinner, drain the water from the bowl and return the colander insert to the bowl, place the top on the salad spinner and spin to dry the vegetables. Otherwise, lay the vegetables out on a clean, dry kitchen towel and pat with a second towel to remove excess moisture. This helps to prevent ice crystals from forming on the vegetables during the freezing process.
Step 5: Package the Vegetables
Package the vegetables for freezing immediately after they are prepared. Do not season the vegetables before packaging and freezing.
Pack the vegetables in one-quart freezer bags, using 8–10 ounces of vegetables per bag. Gently push any air out of the bag before sealing. For best results, use a vacuum sealing machine according to the manufacturer's directions.
Step 6: Label and Freeze
Using a permanent marker, label each package with the contents and the date and place them in a single layer in the freezer so they freeze quickly, which helps preserve quality. After the packages are frozen solid, stack and store in a deep freeze at 0°F or colder. Use within one year of freezing.
Note: Vegetables begin to lose nutrients upon harvest. Freeze fresh vegetables within a few days of harvest to optimize their nutritional value, but remember that vitamins are lost during processing and further decline during storage.
© 2012 Deborah Neyens