Wednesday, July 6, 2011

To Blanch or Not to Blanch Our Veggies, that is the Question

  Last year I made sauce and froze tomatoes whole as well. The skin seemed to take on a bitter taste if not removed, so I took that extra step. After some research I learned that blanching has a true purpose.  It seems that enzymes help vegetables grow and mature. After maturation, however, they cause loss of quality, flavor, color, texture and nutrients because they keep working even in the freezer! Blanching stops that process, leaving you with better quality food.

Blanching tomatoes. Notice Roma's, beefsteaks and cherry tomatoes. If it's extra, it all goes in. I ladled these out with a slotted spoon. Not an optimal choice as cooking times varies too much. This year I'll look for a stainless steel colander that I can submerse and remove all at once.

This is a great article on blanching and freezing and why it's a good idea.
I found another great source here.

   The tomatoes are loaded with blooms. I’ve already got cases of jars ready. We’ve gotten a dozen tomatoes so far. The harvest coming later will keep me VERY busy. At $1 a can, (on sale) for tomatoes, we'll be saving a good deal of money. I'll tally that later. We eat lots of tomatoes in many kinds of dishes. They taste better because they are picked at the peak of flavor and they're organic.

   I froze all our tomatoes last summer. This year I'll be canning most of them for a couple reasons. Our freezer is too small to hold all these tomatoes, and we like the idea of food that is ready to eat and don’t have to thaw. Another reason is that it's good to have a supply of food that is there if the electricity goes out. If everything is in the freezer and we have some sort of disaster, it'll only last a few days, instead of a year like we intended.

  I also froze green beans, corn, squash, eggplant and summer fruits. Some veggies don't freeze well, like eggplant so I made several small Eggplant Parmesan dishes and froze them in casserole dishes lined with foil so we could pop them out when frozen and still have the dishes free. When it's time to eat it we just find the correct size dish, pop it in (put in a cold oven, so the dish doesn't break, I had this happen once). and cook it. I'm feeding two of us, so several small casserole dishes work well for us. 

  The corn that we got was free! A friend of a friend plants too much every year and just gives it away, acres of it, amazing. Not sure what the deal is there. To our benefit, we got a years supply of corn! We labeled every bag FREE CORN. All through the winter we pulled out those bags and had to smile at that label. Bob helped with the process. It took most of one day. We make a great team! He grew up in the city and didn't learn how to preserve food so this has been a learning process for him. He's anxious to help in any way. What a trooper! We always double bag all the veggies, (in freezer bags). It keeps them from getting freezer burned. We have plenty of corn to last till harvest this summer. Yes we did blanch all of it. I have to admit it still tastes good. It was worth it.

Here's a helpful tip for freezing fruit or veggies in zip-lock type bags. Fill the bag so that when laid flat, the produce is in one layer (for strawberries it would be one berry high) or about 3/4 of an inch tall. I fill it about half way, standing up. Then to test it, I grab the unsealed end and lay it flat, holding the end so it doesn't spill. If it's filled the bag in one layer I suck the air out and seal it, then double bag it. If not I add more. You'll need to freeze them flat, I stack them up.
   You end up with lots of bags that you can stack or even stand on end. With no air in there, they are stiff. I stand mine on end, when frozen, with the zipped end up. It’s easy to see what you have and they slide out easily, (provided you froze them flat and none slipped before they froze. Now I can pull out a bag and break off what I need. This works great for me when making smoothies every morning. I break off enough strawberries, or the choice for the day, to make a smoothie. It also works great for corn or any veggie. You can use the gallon bags that way. I used to freeze vege's in 1 or 2 meal size portions. Now I'm using the gallon size. Saves time and keeps the freezer a little more orderly.

  I freeze peaches, pineapple, apples, strawberries, plums, and apricots, grapes and cherries.  Any kind of fruit that is in season will work. I'll be doing about half canning and half freezing this year with fruit. All these fruits eventually make it into pop-cycles at our house. When my kids were young they loved the strawberry pop-cycles I made. It’s a great way to use up the end of that big watermelon or a fruit salad, throw it in the blender and freeze in molds. One of my favorites is strawberry with lemonade. It’s very refreshing on a hot day!

  It seems we need to blanch our veggies to get the most from them. After all it's a lot of work to weed and water and fuss over our plants. As for me, I'll be doing what it takes to make sure our food tastes good, even after months in the freezer.

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