Thursday, June 4, 2009

Freezing the Harvest - take one

Eating locally and seasonally as much as possible are two of my major food tenets. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. So, to extend the season of locally-grown veggies, we've decided to try freezing some this spring/summer. We probably won't have enough of a harvest of our own, so our plan is to buy an excess of vegetables at local farmer's markets when they are available instead. This year we'll start off relatively small and see how it goes. Hopefully we'll be eating local produce in January.

Since we are currently in asparagus season and since all four of us thoroughly enjoy good asparagus, asparagus seems like a good place to start this little endeavor. Our personal asparagus patch is only in its second year and, even though we really wanted to, we did not harvest any this year. However, there is plenty of local asparagus available. So, with freezing in mind, we bought 6 pounds of asparagus from Four Town Farm (yes, only 6 lbs - I said we were starting small). After doing a bit of research online (this pdf from Iowa State is particularly useful), our freezing process went like this:

1) Sort the spears into three rough size classes - small, medium, and large. Cut or snap off the bottom inch or two.

2) Blanch small portions in boiling water - 2 minutes for small spears, 3 minutes for medium spears, and 4 minutes for the large spears.

3) Shock the asparagus in ice water - 2 minutes for small spears, 3 minutes for medium spears, and 4 minutes for the large spears.

4) Dry the asparagus

5) Bag the asparagus in appropriate-sized portions and freeze.

Simple as that.

I had never done this before, so I was sort of flying blind. I'm a bit worried that I blanched the asparagus for too long, even though I followed the 2,3,4 minutes guide. They seemed pretty well cooked to my taste, so I think I'll have to be careful not to overcook them come January.


Tamar said...

Can you please open a bag and try it so I'll know whether this is a good idea? We're planning a big freeze when we're overrun with vegetables later in the season, and I know the process will work better for some than others. Last year, we did collards and they were fine -- but collards probably benefit from the textural changes that home freezing (as opposed to flash freezing) invevitably begets. So, if you could blaze the trail for us ...

Kevin Zelnio said...

Why do you need to blanch them before freezing? Can't you just freeze the stalks right away? Then blanch them in simmering water from the frozen state when you want to use them? Just curious, i've never done this myself.

Jim Lemire said...

Tamar - I probably should try them out. I'll let you know the results when I do.

Kevin - Good question. According to some info I found online -

"Blanching and prompt cooling are necessary steps in preparing practically every vegetable, except herbs and green peppers, for freezing. The reason is that heating slows or stops the enzyme action. Enzymes help vegetables grow and mature. After maturation, however, they cause loss of quality, flavor, color, texture and nutrients. If vegetables are not heated enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage and may cause the vegetables to toughen or develop off-flavors and colors. Blanching also wilts or softens vegetables, making them easier to pack. It destroys some bacteria and helps remove any surface dirt."