To prepare broccoli, select firm, young, tender stalks with compact heads. Remove leaves and woody portions.
Separate heads into convenient-sized sections and immerse in brine (4 teaspoons salt to 1 gallon water) for 30 minutes to remove insects. Split lengthwise so florets are no more than 1 1/2 inches across.
Next, water blanch 3 minutes in boiling water or steam blanch 5 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package with some heads at each end of the container. This allows you to get more broccoli into the container. Do not leave headspace. Seal and freeze.
To prepare cauliflower, choose compact white heads. Trim off leaves and cut head into pieces about 1 inch across. If necessary to remove insects, soak for 30 minutes in solution of salt and water (4 teaspoons salt per gallon water). Drain.
Water blanch for 3 minutes in water containing 4 teaspoons salt per gallon water. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving no headspace. Seal and freeze.
To prepare Brussels sprouts, select green, firm and compact heads. 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. Examine heads carefully to make sure they are free from insects. Trim, removing coarse outer leaves. Wash thoroughly. Sort into small, medium and large sizes.
Water blanch the smaller heads 3 minutes, medium heads 4 minutes and large heads 5 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving no headspace. Seal and freeze.
Use firm, compact heads for freezing. Trim, removing coarse outer leaves. Wash thoroughly and sort according to size.
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 of freshness. Freeze them immediately after they are harvested or purchased.
HOME CANNER’S QUESTIONS
Q. Why must I blanch vegetables? Will they keep without it?
A. Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) is necessary for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.
Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.
Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size. Underblanching stimulates the activity of enzymes and is worse than no blanching. Overblanching causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals.
Q. What is tray freezing?
A. individual fruits or vegetables or cut pieces are scattered on a tray and frozen so each will be separate. As soon as they have frozen, transfer them to moisture-proof, vapor-proof containers. Freezing on a tray makes it easy to remove the amount of fruit or vegetables you need since they are not frozen in blocks.
Q. Why is it important to cool vegetables quickly when they are blanched?
A. As soon as blanching is complete, vegetables should be cooled quickly and thoroughly to stop the cooking process. This preserves the texture of the food. To cool, plunge the basket of vegetables immediately into a large quantity of cold water, 60º F or below. Change water frequently or use cold running water or ice water. If ice is used, about 1 pound of ice for each pound of vegetable is needed. Cooling vegetables should take the same amount of time as blanching.
Drain vegetables thoroughly after cooling. Extra moisture can cause a loss of quality when vegetables are frozen.
If you have any questions or other subjects you would like addressed in the “Home Canner’s Column,” call the local University of Tennessee Extension office at 728-7001. We look forward to your questions.