Welcome to Hillsdale County MSU Extension News, your one-stop-shop for all things Extension.
Check back often or subscribe to our free email update service to get the latest research-based updates from MSU Extension on a variety of topics including: 4-H, Agriculture, Lawn & Garden, Home Economics, and more! Find us on Facebook, too!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Storing Vegetables-- Best Frozen, Not Canned

Local gardens are beginning to supply broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.  All three are among the “strong flavored” vegetables and maintain much better eating quality when frozen rather than canned.  Flavors tend to be even stronger when canned and there is usually some discoloration.

For broccoli, the large terminal bud cluster should be harvested before any flowers open, then small side bud clusters can be harvested for many weeks.  To freeze broccoli, trim off large leaves and tough parts of stems.  Wash thoroughly and soak for about 30 minutes in cold  saltwater (4 teaspoons of salt per gallon water).  This will remove any insects which are in the vegetable.  Cauliflower and brussel sprouts should also be soaked in salt water prior to freezing.

Cut broccoli lengthwise into uniform pieces, leaving heads about an inch and a half across to insure uniform heating and to make the broccoli pieces an attractive serving size.
Broccoli should be blanched prior to freezing.  To blanche using steam, cover kettle, keep heat high and steam for 5 minutes.  To blanche using boiling water, heat broccoli and water to boiling - boil for 3 minutes - remove from heat and plunge immediately into ice water. 

As soon as the broccoli is cool, lift the basket from the water and drain thoroughly.  Pack broccoli so that some heads are at each end of the container.  This allows you to get more broccoli into the packages.  No head space is needed.  Seal firmly, label and freeze immediately.
For cauliflower, choose firm, tender snow white heads.  Break or cut into pieces about one inch across.

Wash well and soak in salt water the same as for broccoli.  Blanch cauliflower in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, cool in cold water and drain.  Pack into freezer containers leaving no head space.  Seal, label and freeze.

Sometimes cauliflower turns pink or purple after blanching; however it is still safe to eat.  Early in the flowering stage, cauliflower “flowers”, sometimes have a decidedly lavender hue.  On ripening, if the heads have been wrapped in the leaves and tied, the cauliflower is bleached white, but the potential for the lavender color remains.  Metal ions, such as iron and aluminum from the water and cooking utensils, are the likely culprits in the return of the lavender color.

To harvest Brussel sprouts, twist or snap off sprouts when they are firm and still deep green in color- usually about the time the lowest leaves start to turn yellow.  Use firm, compact heads for freezing.  Trim, removing coarse outer leaves.  Wash thoroughly and sort according to size.

Blanch in boiling water, small heads for 3 minutes, medium for 4 minutes and large for 5 minutes.  Cool immediately in cold water.  Drain and pack leaving no head space.  Seal, label and freeze immediately.

Remember that, as with any food preservation process, freezing does not improve quality.  It can only maintain quality so be sure the vegetables you freeze are at their peak- usually the point at which you would choose them for eating.