Vegetables: The question is to blanch or not blanch

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2001

We've received numerous questions this past week regarding blanching vegetables. Blanching is a critical step necessary in preparing vegetables for freezing. To prevent a loss of quality and to preserve the vitamin content of vegetables for freezing, blanch them in boiling water.

Nutritive values are best retained when:

Garden products are harvested, processed and frozen with as little delay as possible

Water is brought to a boil quickly

The blanching period is as short as possible

The blanched vegetable is chilled quickly and removed from cold water promptly

Enzymes in plant tissue do not stop functioning when the plant is harvested. The blanching process is necessary to inactivate enzymes. If these enzymes are left in their active state, they continue to act slowly in the freezer causing loss in garden-fresh color, vitamin content and texture within about a month or two. When enzymes are inactivated by heat, the storage life is nine to 12 months.

To blanch in boiling water: Use 1 gallon of water for each pound of vegetables,except for leafy greens which need 2 gallons per pound.

Bring the water to a rolling boil.

Immerse the wire basket, blanching basket or mesh bag containing the vegetables.

Cover the kettle and boil at top heat the required length of time. Begin counting the time as soon as the water returns to a boil. You may use the same blanching water two or three times. Keep it at the required level. Change the water if it becomes cloudy.

Cool immediately in pans of ice water for the same time used for blanching. Keep the chilling water ice cold.

Drain the vegetables thoroughly. Extra water will form too many ice crystals.

Pack, using the dry-pack or tray-pack methods. Dry-pack method is blanched and drained vegetables packed into containers or freezer bags. Tray-pack method is freezing individual pieces of blanched, and drained vegetables on a tray or shallow pan, frozen, then packed into a container or freezer bag.

Exact blanching times for different vegetables can be obtained by calling the Cooperative Extension Office in Soldotna at 262-5824 or (800) 478-5824.

Herbs, hot peppers and green onions do not need to be blanched.

In the case of rhubarb, there is the option to blanch or to not blanch. To blanch rhubarb wash, trim and cut into lengths to fit the package. Blanch rhubarb for one minute and cool promptly for one minute. Package and freeze.

Options for freezing raw rhubarb include a dry pack, sugar pack or syrup pack.

For the dry pack place raw, 1-inch lengths into plastic freezer bags, removing as much air as possible or vacuum seal and freeze.

The sugar pack involves mixing 1 part sugar to 4 parts raw rhubarb (alter for personal preference.) Allow the sugar to dissolve. Place in plastic freezer bags and freeze.

To prepare the syrup pack, pack raw rhubarb tightly into containers, cover with a cold syrup made by combining 2 3/4 sugar and 4 cups of water.

Leave head space and freeze.

Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.

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