Purchasing prepared, cut vegetables from the wide variety of options that line the freezer shelves in grocery stores may be a convenient option. However, freezing fresh broccoli and cauliflower is an easy way to save money and customize the veggie medley to your liking. Broccoli and cauliflower both store well for long periods of time when stored properly in the freezer, making a bulk purchase easy to save without compromising quality. Take a tip or two and start freezing fresh broccoli and cauliflower at home.
Freezing Fresh Broccoli
Fresh broccoli and cauliflower can simply be chopped up, stored in a self-sealing container and placed in the freezer. This is not, however, the best way to store them. Though it will work for freezing broccoli for shorter periods of time (up to a month), broccoli and cauliflower will lose its fresh-looking color, and the nutritional value will degrade quicker. Blanching is the best way to store fresh broccoli and cauliflower.
Prepared dishes that contain broccoli or cauliflower, such as broccoli and cheese casserole, can be frozen and stored for a substantial period of time as well. When freezing a cooked dish containing broccoli or cauliflower, such as when freezing cauliflower cheese, allow it to completely cool before preparing it for storage.
This will ensure the texture is not affected by the heat or condensation that may gather if wrapped up too soon. Once cool, cover it with either freezer-safe plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in a self-sealing plastic bag if possible. This will help prevent freezer burn and allow the dish to keep for up to three months.
Why Blanch Broccoli or Cauliflower
Blanching is the act of quickly cooking vegetables and then stopping the cooking process very quickly. This shock ends the enzyme processes that would otherwise cause loss of taste, color and flavor. The loss of nutritional value is also slowed, which allows you to get more healthy vitamins from eating broccoli or cauliflower.
How to Blanch
To blanch broccoli or cauliflower, first cut or trim the stalks and soak it in a salted, cold-water bath for 30 minutes. This will help flush out any insects that might be in the vegetables. After rinsing thoroughly, chop the broccoli into uniform cuts to ensure it will cook evenly. Next, prepare a large bowl of ice water, which will be used to stop the cooking process.
With regard to blanching broccoli or cauliflower, there are two options for cooking methods: steaming or boiling. If cooking in boiling water, the water should be deep enough to submerge roughly 1 pound of broccoli cuts at a full, rolling boil. Cook the broccoli or cauliflower for three minutes and then transfer to the ice bath to quickly end the cooking.
If blanching with steam, then bring 2 to 3 inches of water to a boil in a deep pot with a basket that fits securely above the boiling water with a lid. Once boiling, place about 1 pound of the broccoli or cauliflower in the basket and steam for five minutes in the covered pot. Again, once cooked, transfer it to the ice bath to end the cooking.
Best Storage Practices
Once broccoli or cauliflower has been blanched, the vegetables should be patted dry and stored in a self-sealing container inside the freezer. While placing it in a sealing plastic bag is the easiest option, vacuum sealing requires more effort but yields the best results for long-term freezer storage. Vacuum sealing keeps the vegetables fresh for much longer – up to eight months – without the vegetables getting freezer burned or losing much of their original taste, texture or color.