Celery is crisp, refreshing and a staple for crowd-pleasing crudités; tuna, chicken, potato or egg salads; green salads; and many other dishes. But what to do with all those leftover stalks of this water-rich veggie when the dish is done? For those wondering if it’s possible to freeze celery and carrots, the answer is yes.
Hydrate the Natural way With Celery
Celery is mostly water, making it super hydrating and crisp when it’s eaten fresh. Freezing the root vegetable, however, will leave it less crunchy, as the process of freezing can rupture cell walls, leaving celery potentially limp and mushy. So, frozen celery is a better fit with dishes such as casseroles, sauces, stocks, soups, smoothies and juices, rather than as the crisp vegetable it is when eaten fresh in salads, platters or as a companion to chicken wings.
For best results when freezing, go with young, crisp, unblemished vegetables. As vegetables like celery or carrots mature, enzymes convert sugars to starches, leading to the deterioration of flavor.
To Blanch or Not To Blanch?
Blanching helps keep root vegetables like celery and starchy carrots from becoming tasteless or mushy. To freeze celery, blanching isn’t necessary, although vegetables that have been blanched may have more flavor and last up to a year or longer if the temperature of the freezer is consistent. Unblanched frozen celery or carrots should be eaten within a few months.
Chop celery stalks into 1-inch chunks before blanching, which is a brief exposure to boiling water. Blanch them by immersing in boiling water for three minutes, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. This stops the enzyme and bacterial activity that can lead to deterioration after freezing.
Steam-blanching involves placing celery or carrots in a colander or basket above boiling water; followed by an ice bath. Adding citric acid or lemon juice to the blanching liquid or water can halt the darkening that celery is prone to. Steam-blanching takes a bit longer than the regular blanching process, but may preserve water-soluble vitamins better. Either method of blanching can improve the quality of frozen celery or carrots. Finish by cooling and packing into freezer-friendly containers.
Steps to Freezer Success
- Wash celery to remove any dirt. If the stalks are still connected, separate them and remove any loose celery strings.
- Cutting or chopping celery into the form it will be used later on does wonders. A little prep work now makes it easier than attempting to cut defrosted celery later on.
- Blanch the celery if not using it within the next few months. After blanching and cooling, pat celery dry and place on a baking sheet before placing it into the freezer for flash-freezing a few hours.
- Finally, once celery is frozen, package it for freezer storage. Use a freezer bag or vacuum-seal the celery in freezer pouches. Label with the date the celery was frozen on.
Freezing vegetables like celery or carrots makes it easy to enjoy healthy, delicious and seasonal produce throughout the year. Plus, the DIY blanching and freezing process eliminates the need for additional preservatives, chemicals or other unhealthy additions. Be sure to wash, prep and freeze the proper way and get ready to enjoy fresh-frozen vegetables in an array of meals.