I LOVE BROCCOLI SO MUCH that I make two sowings of it each year, one in early May and another in mid-July. The spring crop, which always seems to be the better of the two, is the one I store for winter use. Here are the directions for freezing this fiber-rich, nutrient-dense Brassica oleracea:
If you are growing broccoli, my advice is to keep an eye on the edible heads. When these look ready for cutting, by all means cut them. Otherwise, if you wait too long, yellow flowers (which bees love) will start to emerge. Heads which show the slightest hint of yellow are too old for good eating, let alone freezing.
You’ll need a big bowl of ice water, too. And a colander. And a roll of paper towels.
I’m asking a lot of you, I know.
Honk if you like broccoli on pizza.
3. If, and only if, you think insects might be lurking in your florets, then soak those florets in salted water (4 teaspoons salt per gallon of water) for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw out any creepy-crawlies. After soaking, rinse the florets in cold water.
I can happily report that my spring-planted broccoli harbored no insects whatsoever. Broccoli planted in mid-summer is usually more prone to pests.
4. Drop the florets into the boiling water, cover the pot, and let cook for exactly 3 minutes. Timing begins the moment the broccoli hits the water. This brief heating, or “blanching,” is necessary to kill the enzymes which would otherwise ruin the taste and texture of the broccoli during freezing. (As an alternative to boiling the florets, you can steam them for 5 minutes.)
If you look carefully at the above photo, you’ll notice one of my broccoli stems is too long. I’ve given myself 40 demerits for that oversight.
I have no idea why the above photograph looks so strange. Maybe there is a ghost in this old house.
6. Transfer the chilled florets to a colander.
I’m really thinking about that ghost now. Have you ever encountered one?
7. After they’ve drained for a minute or so in a colander, I lay the florets out on paper towels. I blot their tops with paper towels, too. Ice crystals are less likely to form on dry broccoli than wet. But if you have a vacuum-sealer, ice-crystals may not be an issue at all.
I know the Bible says “thou shalt not covet a vacuum-sealer.” But I do, in fact, covet one.
The ghost made me type that last sentence.
The pale inside of each stem is tender and delicious. Chop, blanch, chill and drain these morsels just as you did the florets. I bag the stems separately from the florets, and use them in soups and stews.
9. Label as many freezer bags as you think you’ll need. The nine heads of broccoli I processed this morning used 14 quart-size bags. That’s because I packed my broccoli as double servings. I’m a two-people household.
Unless you count Lily the Beagle. And cats Tiger and Camille.
The ghost doesn’t eat broccoli.
10. Pack each freezer bag loosely, seal partially, and then insert a drinking straw in one corner of the bag. Suck out all the air you can, and then seal the last little opening. As you can see, the vacuum-seal-by-straw-method makes a respectable vacuum-seal.
Broccoli — if blanched, chilled, drained, bagged and then frozen — will keep perfectly well for up to one year.
Want to see all of my preserving-the-harvest tips? You’ll find them here.
Meanwhile, let me know if you grew broccoli this summer. How’d your crop do?
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