When wanting to preserve freshness and the quality of food, freezing vegetables keeps the flavors for an extended period of time. Remember, the fresher the vegetables when frozen, the better the product.
Wash the vegetables thoroughly with cold water. Take the grit out of bottom of the pan and sort the vegetables by size. To prep the vegetables before freezing, heat or blanch them; most vegetables, with some exceptions, keep better if heated before packing. When heated, the enzymes stop or slow down. Therefore, these enzymes can make the vegetables loose flavor and color. Additionally, the heat will wilt the vegetables, making them easier to pack. To heat the vegetables, use a blancher with a basket and cover. If not, fit a wire basket into a large kettle, and add a cover. Use at least one gallon of boiling water in the blancher or kettle for each pound of prepared vegetables. Place the vegetables in the blanching basket or wire basket, and lower them into boiling water. Then, put a lid on the blancher or kettle and begin to count time. Keep the heat high for time given in the directions for the vegetables freezing.
For vegetables such as, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash, steam heat works better than boiling in water. Use a kettle with a tight lid and a rack that holds a steaming basket at least three inches above the base of the kettle. Put one to two inches of water in the kettle, and bring the water to a boil. Next, put vegetables in the basket in single layer so that steam reaches all parts quickly and cover the kettle, keeping the heat high. Once the lid is on, start counting down time.
Alternative ways to heat pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash include pressure cooking or time in the oven before freezing.
Cooling and Packaging
After heating vegetables, cool them quickly by placing them in a basket of cold water 60F or below. The water should be changed frequently; another option is to use ice. About one pound of ice for each pound of vegetable is needed. The cooling process takes as looking as the heating process because they must be even. When the vegetables are cool enough, take them out of the water and drain them thoroughly. For vegetables that have been heated in the oven, put in a pressure cooker, or placed in a fry pan, set the pan of food in water and change water to speed the cooling process. Next, pack the food into bags and other containers. Funnels and stands make filling cleaner and easier. When filling, leave the amount of head space recommended for the vegetables. Then, seal by twisting or folding back the top of the bag or tying with a string. Once sealed, freeze at once and store at 0F or below. Put the bag in carton for protection against low temperatures.
Head Space between Pack Food and Closure
|Type of Pack||Container with wide top opening (1)||Container with narrow top opening (2)|
|Liquid Pack||½ inch||1 inch||¾ inch (3)||1 ½ inches|
|Dry Pack (4)||½ inch||½ inch||½ inch||½ inch|