I am going to preface this entire entry with the caveat: when I cook vegetables, I cook them until they are basically just hot, with lots of crunch still left (except potatoes).
I have a canner. I love my canner. It’s a huge, shiny thing of beauty, but I do not like canned vegetables. Canned fruit is fine, canned meat is fine, but I find canned vegetables mushy and as a last resort only.
A few years ago, I was in the “vegetable store” and they had these gorgeous red carrots, so I bought two bags. They tasted amazing. The colour was glorious. I canned some. Big mistake. I used the first jar in a pot of soup, I believe, and I spent the night convinced I had poisoned us. I made my son promise to tell me if he broke a sweat, felt even remotely queasy, got dizzy….anything. I had not poisoned us, but those carrots were far more cooked than I will ever be comfortable with.
When I do can vegetables, it is solely to put them into a soup that is going to be blended smooth (tomato, generally).
So, I freeze vegetables. A minute in hot water, drain & into the freezer. When they are cooked later, they are still a bit crunchety, just like I prefer them.
Today was clean out any vegetables that are heading into the danger zone. I had some carrots that were pretty dodgy, some spinach that was thinking about getting old, some celery that was half gone and some onions that were mocking me.
I peeled and chopped the carrots. Washed the spinach. Cleaned and chopped the celery. Peeled and chopped the onions.
The carrots, spinach and celery all got blanched. The onions got triple bagged.
This is the easiest way to preserve some vegetables that are going to go bad – this will not make bad vegetables good again – if they are moldy or mushy and there’s no good parts, just bin them, freezing will not make them edible.
No special equipment is needed. A pot, a slotted spoon, a bowl, some freezer bags (although, I have used bread bags before), a felt pen and you are good to go. A colander is a nice addition to the equipment, but isn’t necessary.
Get a pot of water on the stove and bring it up to a boil on high. Once boiling, drop some of the vegetables into it. You can time a minute and then use a slotted spoon to take them out to a bowl of cold water or do like I do and leave them until the water gets back to a boil. Put in the next batch of vegetables and so on.
The spinach takes a little less time than the carrots because as soon as it hits the hot water it wilts and it’s basically done.
The celery was from the fridge, so I did leave it in the water until it came back up to a boil.
Once your vegetables are done, drain them & bag them. This is when the colander will come in handy. If you don’t have one, just drain the water from the bowl and use the slotted spoon to scoop and drain as much as possible before putting into the bags. Write the contents and date on each bag….you know what’s in them right now and when you did it, but if you do this with any regularity, you will lose track and, while old frozen vegetables are still okay to eat, they don’t taste great and their nutritional value decreases over time. You want to eat oldest first. There’s no point in doing the work to preserve your food and then not use it in time.
On the carrots & spinach bags, I put how many cups were in each bag. The celery & onions I did not, but I made sure to spread them out in the bags so I could break off what I want each time I use them.
This is really all there is to blanching your vegetables….chop, boil, drain, freeze. And then you have them for another day instead of throwing them into a compost bin. They cost money….I live in Canada….they cost a LOT of money. I preserve what I can, when I can, so I can help control what I spend on food.