Freezing broccoli is a simple skill that can make a delicious addition to your food menu. If you grow your own broccoli or buy it in bulk from a farmer's market, this is an easy way of preserving broccoli for year round use.
If you grow your own broccoli, you probably already know that it grows best during the milder temperatures of spring and fall - winter if you live in the deep south. It grows poorly in the summer heat.
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Broccoli comes on fast when it matures, and you have to do something with the crop within a couple of days or it will begin to bolt (start to bloom and go to seed). Have you ever wondered about storing broccoli for long term use? I've found that processing it by blanching, vacuum packaging and freezing is the best way of preserving broccoli. Here's how we do it at our house.
After you have harvested your crop, or brought home your purchase, you need to rinse it off to remove any dirt and insects.
Once that's done, cut the florets off one by one and discard the main stems. I prefer to leave a length of stem on each floret (or as my daughter says - leaving the trunks on the trees...), because they're perfectly edible, and it's a lot of food to just throw away.
If you're interested in learning how to grow your own broccoli click on my Growing Broccoli page.
After you have cut up the broccoli, you have to blanch it before you can freeze it. I can tell you from personal experience, frozen broccoli that was not blanched first, is not at all pleasant to eat - In fact it's AWFUL. Don't try to skip this step - you'll be disappointed.
Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Only put enough broccoli in the pan that will easily submerge in the water.
If it doesn't stay submerged, it's not getting blanched evenly.
Leave the broccoli in the boiling water for one minute. If the water doesn't stay boiling, it's OK.
Remember, you're not COOKING the broccoli, only blanching it. The purpose of blanching is to destroy the enzymes and microorganisms that cause ripening and decomposition.
Once that is accomplished, it will store better and have a much better (fresher) flavor if you stop the cooking process.
After a minute or so has passed, remove the broccoli florets from the boiling water and place it in a pan or sink full of cold water (adding ice helps...) to stop it from actually cooking.
Once the broccoli has cooled, remove it from the water and place it in a colander to drain off excess water.
Vacuum packaging blanched broccoli serves three purposes:
First, it removes most of the air from the package, which aids in preventing freezer burn.
Second it reduces the volume of the package so that it takes up less space in your freezer. Blanching makes the broccoli more limber so that you can draw down the vacuum without breaking it into pieces. When you thaw it out later to use, you'll find that it will spring right back to shape.
Finally, compressing the broccoli helps reduce damage and breakage from rough handling in the freezer. C'mon - admit it - sometimes we all get rough with packages in the freezer when we're in a hurry and digging for something that we know is on the very bottom...
Once the blanched broccoli is cooled and well drained, place it in prepared vacuum bags. We weigh out and individually package what we think is enough for a meal. For us that's about a pound.
When you apply the vacuum, the broccoli will still be a bit wet. Unless you have a "wet" setting on your vacuum sealer, it's likely that the heat sealing strip will not seal completely due to water being drawn up to the top of the bag. I use a paper towel to soak up the extra water between the sides of the bag, then re-seal every bag (without vacuum) whether it looks like it sealed or not - just to be safe. You need to work quickly at this step so that air doesn't leak back into the bag.
Once you have the broccoli packaged, it's ready for the freezer. Frozen broccoli will keep well for about a year. It will actually keep longer than that, and be perfectly edible but the flavor begins to slowly deteriorate after that.
Don't forget to label your packages with what's in the bag and when it was frozen. I have found that labeling with an "Industrial" Sharpie brand marker lasts longer than any other marker I've tried. Some others wear off over time.
Labeling allows you to practice good inventory control. Remember to use the FIFO system with preserved foods - First In, First Out (use the oldest stuff first).
Frozen broccoli, like most other frozen food is NEVER as good as when you eat it fresh from your garden or the Farmer's Market, but it is still very good. Freezing allow for preserving broccoli for year round use. It can be used in any recipe that calls for fresh broccoli - casseroles, stir fry's, and soups are some of my personal favorites. Not to mention, home made Cream of Broccoli Soup - YUM!...
Learning the skill of freezing broccoli can add another layer to your families self sufficiency, and one more item you can add to your year round menu.