Preserving any kind of food can be a bit of a ‘wait and hope’ situation, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Words like ‘freezer burn’, ‘water content’ and the idea of spoiling all that food swim around your head.
There’s nothing worse than looking forward to some leftovers to find that somehow the food has spoiled.
With the right methodology and approach, freezing food can be a really easy, money saving, and economic approach to cooking and storing food.
Once you understand the process of freezing as well as the sell-by dates of your food, including a little bit of organisation and labelling, you will have no fear when reaching your hand into the icy depths of your freezer.
In this guide we’re going to talk about broccoli specifically but this can be transferable when freezing other vegetables – freezing for future use is about having a full proof practice for every product.
Read on to save your future self the trouble of spoiled food, and never waste food again with these easy and transferable tips.
The Two Enemies Of Frozen Food
When you are freezing any food, there is a two rule approach that will essentially prevent ‘freezer burn’ as well as preventing cell damage to your food.
When you are freezing food, without getting into the nitty and gritty science of freezing, the more time something takes to freeze, the longer the ice crystals will be.
Longer ice crystals mean that you can cause cell damage to your frozen product. This cell damage can lead to your foodstuff becoming mushy or watery and is generally the most common mistake made when freezing food.
To avoid this, try and freeze your foodstuff as quickly as possible. In the commercial food packaging industry this is known as ‘flash freezing’ and is how grocery stores can keep frozen food fresh.
At home, you can achieve this by simply making sure that your food will freeze quickly
Firstly, spread your food out into a flat layer, nothing crowding on top of eachother, this will let them freeze more quickly. Secondly, make sure your food is cold when it goes into the freezer, not still warm.
Air exposure is what will cause your food to ‘freezer burn’. Freezer burn is when the moisture of your food product has evaporated due to air exposure causing the surface of your food to ‘burn’, or essentially become really dry.
Either push the air out manually, or use water to create a vacuum.
This step simply involves placing your food inside the bag, sealing the bag leaving a finger spaced gap for air to escape through and slowly submerge it in the water until you reach the seal. This creates a vacuum without expensive equipment.
Step-By-Step: How To Freeze Broccoli
Here are some steps and tips specifically for freezing broccoli.
1. Firstly, you need to cut your broccoli into florets.
Stand the broccoli on its head and it is much easier to cut down into florets. Make sure they are a similar size so they all freeze evenly, but also not so large that they take longer to freeze.
2. You need to blanch your broccoli so when it is unfrozen it is edible rather than raw. You know your preference when it comes to how tender you want your vegetables to be – cook the broccoli about half the time you usually would to achieve this preference.
In essence, you want your broccoli to be half cooked so that when you defrost it brings it up to the tenderness you enjoy. We recommend 3-4 minutes, you can always cook it longer when defrosting
3. Place the blanched broccoli into a pre-prepared bowl of ice water.
This Ice water does three things. Firstly, it stops the cooking process so that your broccoli doesn’t continue to cook while you wait for it to cool down.
Secondly, it means when you put your broccoli into the freezer it will freeze quicker. Thirdly, shocking the broccoli in ice water can help retain its green color even after defrosting.
4. Once the blanched broccoli is cold, let it dry partly on a tray. Spread the broccoli out into a single layer on some paper towels or baking parchment.
This allows the excess moisture to escape the surface of your broccoli helping to further prevent freezer burn and cell damage. Don’t let it dry out completely, only for a minute.
5. Divide the blanched florets into bags – make sure the bag isn’t overcrowded to help them freeze quicker.
Perhaps two portions per bag, this will require your own judgement based on the size of your bag. The goal is to not overfill the bag.
6. Optimise freezing. As mentioned, you want your food to freeze as quickly as possible.
If temporarily turning your freezer up is out of the question, we would recommend giving them their own draw for the period they need to freeze fully.
After a day you can happily store them among your other frozen goods and use them freely.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Frozen Vegetables Withhold Their Nutritional Value?
Totally! If anything, science would suggest frozen food technically has more nutrients than fresh vegetables which have been allowed to deteriorate.
What’s more, you can actually optimize this yourself with home freezing rather than relying on grocery store frozen food.
If you freeze broccoli that you know is super freshly harvested, maybe because you bought it from a farmers market,
or maybe because you harvested it yourself, the freezing process will actually halt the nutritional deterioration that occurs with fresh food.
Fresh broccoli will slowly lose nutrition as it naturally deteriorates, so, for instance, broccoli that is 4 days old will have less nutrition than the broccoli you froze while it was fresh! This applies to anything you freeze.
How Long Will Frozen Broccoli Last?
Plant matter, when frozen, generally lasts quite a long time. Frozen broccoli should be kept for around 6 months. After this period, freezer burn will inevitably occur as the broccoli slowly depletes its water content.
Can I Freeze Fresh Broccoli?
Technically, but it is more susceptible to the two evils we mentioned before. Blanching essentially speeds up the freezing process to avoid cell damage.
Why Should I Freeze Vegetables?
There are many reasons to freeze your vegetables as well as any other food.
As mentioned, freezing can retain your vegetables nutritional value at the time of freezing.
When only cooking for one person, food can often spoil as you can’t use it all within the window of its freshness. Freezing helps stop wastage and makes your vegetables go further.
It saves you money. While frozen broccoli itself isn’t a huge purchase but if you think about all the food you waste because you can’t eat it while it’s fresh then you will see the savings clearly.
It saves you time, and time is money. You can cut your meal preparation times in half with freezing food like broccoli. No time is wasted washing dishes or blanching veg, you have already done all this in preparation.
This is super helpful to do for festive gatherings like christmas and thanksgiving, saving you stress and time.
It stops wastage and saves food. Some people don’t have access to food so easily as you might, making your broccoli go a long way means there is another broccoli in the grocery store for someone who might need it more than you,
rather than buying 3 broccolis in a week because you wasted the equivalent of two broccolis through spoilage.