Simple steps to freeze broccoli to use year round in dishes. Learn how to store your broccoli for long-term use to save money when it’s out of season.
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop and just like any other produce, home garden grown broccoli (here’s how to grow your own broccoli from seeds) has so much more flavor than its supermarket cousins. Now you can enjoy fresh broccoli year-round by effectively freezing it to use in dishes during the warmer months and deep winter when it is out of season (or more expensive at the grocery store). Here is the best process to follow to freeze broccoli for long-term use without affecting the delicious flavor.
Picking the Perfect Bunch
You want to freeze broccoli when it is at it’s prime. It needs to be firm, tightly packed, and all the bud remaining firmly closed. If any buds show any sign of opening it is best to use that head of broccoli fresh and soon. These heads are starting to get overripe and will not remain as tasty when frozen.
Brine If You Want To
There are teeny tiny little caterpillars called Loopers that absolutely love fresh, ripe broccoli. The blanching process will kill them off, but if you cannot stand the idea of possibly consuming one with your broccoli you can get rid of them by brining the broccoli first. Prepare 4 teaspoons of salt for 1 gallon of water. Separate the heads of broccoli into smaller manageable sections and soak them for 30 minutes in the brine solution. Rinse them off with cool running water after they are done soaking.
Preparing to Blanch
Broccoli does not remain crisp after freezing, but it will remain firm. Generally, the florets are also used in different ways than the stems also. So, it’s best to separate the stems from the florets. Florets and stems should be chopped into 1.5-inch pieces and stems should have the outer tough layers trimmed away. Once the pieces are in small bite-sized pieces they are ready for blanching.
Blanch Your Broccoli
Not all vegetables need to be blanched before freezing, but broccoli is one of those that benefits greatly from being blanched first. This breaks down the enzymes that discolor the broccoli and make it bitter. People find that freezing raw broccoli often leads to it becoming unpalatably bitter once it is used. Blanching is quick and simple. It’s best to have a colander that can fit inside a pot. The pot should be filled with water and boiled (make sure it’s not TOO full and spills over when you place your colander of broccoli in!) Blanch broccoli florets and stems separately, but for 3 minutes each.
Broccoli can also be steamed for 5-minutes in place of blanching. Immediately remove the broccoli from the boiling water and cool it off in a prepared ice water bath. This quickly cools it and seals in the inner moisture and flavors. The broccoli must stay int he ice-water bath for the same amount of time they cooked for in the water or steam.
Decide How You Want to Freeze it
It’s important to plan ahead and decide how you are going to use your broccoli in the future. Stems are more often used in soups and stews, while florets can be used just about anywhere. It’s also important to figure out how much you need in each portion. It is possible to quick-freeze broccoli by laying out a single layer on a parchment-lined tray and putting it in your freezer. Then pack it away into air-tight freezer bags once frozen. Dry off any and all broccoli as much as possible before freezing. Salad Spinners work great for getting more moisture out of the tightly-packed florets.
If you choose to place your broccoli in bags and just freeze them that way, this is where portioning is important. Because it is near impossible to get rid of all the moisture and once they freeze together, they are stuck that way. You cannot break them apart. So, it’s best to prepare some individual-sized servings as well as larger meal-sized portions. Generally, stems can be frozen in larger batches since they are best used in soups and stews that typically consist of more family-sized portions.
Freezing Broccoli is Simple
As mentioned above, you can individually quick-freeze broccoli on a parchment-lined tray then moved to bags or containers once frozen. Otherwise, once you have the broccoli portioned out, simply place it in the bags or containers and place in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. If you are using bags, it’s best to situate the bag and shift the broccoli to be as flat as possible for getting it to freeze the quickest and save freezer space. Frozen broccoli will stay good and tasty for around a year in the freezer. Longer than that and you’ll lose some of the flavors.
Using Frozen Broccoli
To use frozen florets, simply boil or steam them for 60-90 seconds. This ensures they are thawed, warmed, and remain firm. Much more than that and they will get pretty soft. You can also toss the frozen florets directly into stir-frys, soup, pasta, or any other dish that requires being cooked fully. Stems can be tossed right into soups and stews in the same manner. If it is used within a year of being frozen, you should find the broccoli just as tasty as when you first froze it. It’s a great way to preserve this nutrient and fiber dense veggie and reap its benefits year-round.
I hope these tips help you freeze broccoli so you can use it later on! Stock up at the grocery store when it’s on sale and freeze it to save money!
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