Cooking English Gardening

Freezer time: broccoli

Learn to freeze broccoli, especially handy when you bought too much or if your harvest is too large to handle.

In this article, you will learn how to freeze broccoli. This comes in handy, especially when you have larger harvests at the same moment and you cannot eat it all at once. Scroll down for the short description.

I had to freeze all my vegetables, because I was leaving on a short trip and I would miss the right moment to eat them fresh. I live alone and there were three broccolis ready to eat. There is no shame in using vegetables that have been frozen. Actually, sometimes, even when you buy them at a supermarket, they are fresher than those you buy from the “fresh isle”. Let me explain.

Meet my “fresh isle”, the garden 😉 This is a rando video

Farmers want “to let go” of their vegetables

Vegetables that are frozen on a big scale have a very short timespan between the harvest and the moment of freezing. I remember working as a student in a freezing company, doing different shifts at day and night, and all the time, farmers came with their crops right from the field to get them frozen. With their containers loaded with green beans or courgette, or other vegetables, they cued up in front of the factory, impatient to “get rid of it”. Smaller farmers (comparing average EU size to US size) don’t have the space to stockpile their harvests, so they want it gone as quickly as possible. Once delivered to the company, it didn’t take long before the vegetable was frozen and bagged. It goes super quickly!

When you buy crispy fresh vegetables in the grocery store, the vegetables have to be: sold at a vegetable auction, then they go to a processing place (to clean and maybe, unfortunately, wrap), then they may go to a distribution centre and then they arrive at your local shop. You see, there are many more steps there and all that while they are only at “cold” temperature (in comparison to freezing temperature, which preserves much longer). There are of course a lot of advantages to really fresh store bought vegetables, they still have their crispness, texture and they still contain certain nutriments that can go lost in the freezing process.

Soak the broccoli to let the insects crawl out

Frozen or fresh?

It is always preferred to use fresh, local vegetables, but sometimes you just need to have some stock or you just had more harvest than you can handle at once. Don’t be afraid to use your freezer. The freezer is your friend.

Oh and you shouldn’t forget: when you get green beans from a tropical area (fresh, frozen or in a jar), they perfectly grow in a moderate climate… Just so you know… There’s a chance to save up some distance for you food. Grow some plants in your garden, on your balcony, in your community garden and you’ll be able to freeze or can a biiiig bunch!

How to freeze broccoli?

As with many vegetables, it is a good idea to blanch them before freezing. This way you stop the enzymes inside to change the texture and colour while being frozen. The word, originally French, sounds much more difficult than the process is in reality. It is just a fancy way of saying: “boil the stuff and cool it down quickly”.

Fill a pot with water to blanch, let it boil, and cool quickly.. that’s all

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Take the broccoli out of your garden (or wherever you get them: shop, farmer’s market, community garden,…)
  2. Choose the parts you want to keep. I only use the florets in my cooking, for example for stir frying or steaming. But you can also use the stems (or even the leaves). They are good in soups or in smaller pieces in other dishes. There is no use to freeze things that you aren’t going to eat. It takes up too much space in your freezer. If you really don’t want anything go to waste, but you don’t use certain parts in your cooking, consider donating to friends and family or maybe a local charity. If they aren’t interested: chickens and compost piles always are!
  3. Rinse the broccoli. If it comes from your garden, let it soak for at least 30 minutes in cold water, this way any insects and caterpillars crawl out of the crevices of the broccoli. Some people suggest to use salty water, because it also may kill the insects. But I don’t recommend that, because then they cannot get out of your broccoli and you’ll prepare them with the rest. I assure you, I’ve had some almost-caterpillar-bites and it made me lose my appetite. Brrr, the blank stare of that caterpillar right into my eyes, as it tried to crawl out, but was boiled at the same time.. Horrifying.
  4. Cut the broccoli in smaller parts. Try to get equally large parts.
  5. Put a large pot on the stove and boil water.
  6. While you’re waiting, prepare ice cold water in a bowl or in your sink. You use the coldest water from your tap and add icecubes, coldpacks, or icepacks. I prefer coldpacks. They are reusable and flexible, easy to stack in your freezer and they refreeze super fast!
  7. Once the water is boiling, add the broccoli pieces for 2-3 minutes. The colour should stay green and the florets shouldn’t mushy.
  8. Take out the broccoli and put them immediately in the ice cold water. Let it cool. If necessary, take out some of the water that got too warm and add some more cold water from the tap or add more icecubes.
  9. Drain the broccoli with a colander. I put the bits on a towel to suck up some of the residue water.
  10. Prepare some freezer bags (or pots) and write on the date and the content. Do this before filling the bags, it is way easier.
  11. Fill your bags with the broccoli and close them. Don’t fill them too much and also try to push out as much air as possible before closing the bags completely.
  12. Now you can put the broccoli in the freezer!

With these steps, you can be sure your broccoli will be well preserved for a while. Blanching really helps to keep the broccoli in a good state.

Cut the broccoli in smaller pieces

Please, let me know in the comments if you also froze some broccoli and if you have a different take on it. How do you prepare your broccoli? Any recipes to share?

Also, read my other blogposts on freezing vegetables!

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