How can you enjoy Jersey Fresh in the dead of winter? It’s easy: Just use your freezer to store summer’s bounty.
Most vegetables need “blanching” before freezing. Blanching means to briefly boil them and then plunge into ice water. The result is bright tender-crisp vegetables that will keep better in the freezer. They are also great on crudité platters, in salads and stir-fries, and for snacking.
Common wisdom calls for a bowl of ice water to which you plunge the vegetables to stop cooking (see recipe). Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like to “ice-shock” anything, including vegetables. I believe it gives them a somewhat stiff texture. So instead I prepare a large sheet pan and chill it in the freezer. When the veggies are cooked, I drain them well and immediately spread in one layer on the sheet pan. It is not as effective as ice water, but to me the texture feels better than that of ice-shocked veggies..
But I think I am the only cook who feels this way, so here’s how it’s done by the rest of the world.
-A tray or a cookie sheet lined with a cloth or paper towel
-Cutting board and knife
1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water, a colander set over the sink, and a plate lined with a cloth or paper towel.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.
3. Meanwhile, cut the vegetables into uniform pieces to ensure even cooking. Do it just before blanching –you’ll preserve most nutrients and flavor.
4. When the water come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt. Salt helps to keep color and flavor.
5. Add veggies to the pot in small batches. This way the water continues to boil. .
6. Boil about 30 seconds, and then test for doneness. Remove one piece, dip it into ice water, and taste. Repeat every 45 seconds until the vegetables are done the way you like them. (usually between 2-5 minutes)
7. Quickly drain veggies into the colander. Then plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. (aka “ice shocking.”)
8. When the vegetables have cooled completely, remove them from the ice bath. Drain on the towel-lined sheet.
9. Vacuum-Pack the vegetables and freeze. <– Click for instructions and a video on how to vacuum-seal your produce.