ALABAMA A&M and AUBURN UNIVERSITIES
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contact Donna Reynolds, Extension Assistant Editor
AUBURN, JULY 24---Freezing is usually the preferred method of storing vegetables from our gardens. However, much of the time and effort of gardening and packing fresh vegetables is wasted simply because people do not take the time to blanch their vegetables before putting them in the freezer, says Dr. Evelyn Crayton, Extension foods and nutrition specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Blanching is not only beneficial for freezing vegetables, it is a must, Crayton says.
Blanching stops enzyme action from destroying the fresh flavor of your vegetables. If they are not blanched, vegetables will lose their color and flavor after about four to six weeks of freezer storage.
In addition, blanching removes dirt and bacteria. It's important blanching be done correctly and that you follow the recommended blanching time for individual vegetables.
Under-blanching stimulates the enzyme action that destroys flavor; over-blanching removes color and vitamins. That is why many people don't like to blanch, Crayton adds.
To blanch, bring one gallon of water to a vigorous boil. Drop in only one pound of vegetables at a time so the water can circulate around each piece and kill the enzymes. When the water returns to a boil, start timing. A vegetable must reach a temperature of 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit inside to destroy the enzymes.
Here are recommended blanching times for the following vegetables:
|Beans (lima)||2 to 4 minutes|
|Beans (snap)||3 minutes|
|Corn on cob||7 to 11 minutes|
|Peas (garden or field)||2 minutes|
|Okra||3 to 4 minutes|
You can use the same blanching water for six to 10 batches of the same vegetable. If you are blanching leafy vegetables, use two gallons of boiling water to prevent the leaves from matting together.
Once you have blanched your vegetables, remove them from the boiling water. They need to cool as quickly as possible to stop cooking. The best method is to place the vegetables in a pan of ice water. Cool three to four minutes before packing. You are now ready to blanch the next batch.
Expect some shrinking of some vegetables when you blanch. This will make them easier to pack. Blanching ensures that fresh vegetables stay fresh in the freezer.