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How to Blanch and Freeze Cauliflower


Freezing is a great way to preserve excess cauliflower you may have on hand, but it is important that you blanch it before popping this healthy Brassica vegetable in the freezer. For step-by-step instructions on how to blanch and freeze fresh cauliflower, read on.

Blanching Cauliflower

If you want your frozen cauliflower to be packed with color, flavor and nutrition, blanching it before freezing is definitely something you'll want to do. Blanching—boiling or steaming fresh produce for a set amount of time—stops the action of enzymes that cause frozen vegetables to develop off-flavors and lose color, texture and vitamins. To prevent over-cooking, blanching step is usually followed by immersion in very cold water.

How to boil blanch cauliflower: Get a large pot of water boiling. Toss in trimmed and rinsed 1-inch cauliflower florets, and allow them to boil for 3 minutes. When the blanching time is up, quickly drain the cauliflower. A flat strainer that you can place over the top of the pot is great for this purpose, but a regular colander works as well. After blanching and draining, toss the cauliflower florets into a large bowl that contains cold water and ice cubes—this will stop the cooking process and prevent over-blanching. Remove the florets from the ice water bath after 3 minutes, and drain thoroughly.

How to steam blanch cauliflower: If you have a steamer basket, you may want to steam blanch cauliflower instead of blanching it in boiling water. Steam blanching is a great way to prepare fresh cauliflower for the freezer because it provides more protection against nutrient loss than boil blanching. To steam blanch cauliflower, pour a couple of inches of water in the bottom of your steamer pot, insert the steamer basket, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Bring the water to a boil, then place an even layer of trimmed and rinsed 1-inch cauliflower florets in the steamer basket. Cover, and steam blanch the cauliflower for 4½ minutes. When the time is up, transfer the cauliflower florets to a large bowl filled with water and ice, and let chill for 4½ minutes. Then, drain thoroughly.

Note: When blanching and cooling cauliflower before freezing, you should use plenty of water relative to the amount of cauliflower, and if necessary, cook and cool the cauliflower florets in small batches. Using a lot of water relative to the amount of cauliflower means that the water will quickly return to a boil after you plop the cauliflower florets into the boiling water, and the ice water will stay cold when you toss in the blanched cauliflower.

Freezing Cauliflower Using the Tray Method

After the cauliflower florets have been blanched and chilled, you could just drain them quickly and then pack into freezer-safe bags or containers which you can directly pop into the freezer. However, this method comes with a drawback: the cauliflower florets will fuse together in the freezer, and you will have trouble removing small quantities of frozen cauliflower at a time. This issue can, however, be easily solved by tray-freezing them first, and then packing in freezer bags or containers for longer storage. If you use this method, your cauliflower florets won't stick together, and you can grab just a few florets from the freezer when a recipe requires just a small amount of cauliflower. Here's how to freeze blanched cauliflower using this method:

  1. Line a baking sheet or another similar tray with parchment paper or a baking mat that's freezer-safe. Lay blanched cauliflower florets in a single layer on the tray.
  2. Pat the cauliflower florets dry with a clean tea towel—this helps prevent ice crystals from forming.
  3. Slide the tray into the freezer, and allow the cauliflower florets to pre-freeze for a couple of hours.
  4. Remove the tray from the freezer, and divide the cauliflower florets into airtight zip-close freezer bags or freezer-safe containers.
  5. Label and date the bags or containers, and place them in the freezer. Frozen cauliflower will generally keep for up to 6 months.

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