Freezing broccoli and other vegetables is an easy way to preserve your summer harvest, especially when you’re short on time. Many vegetables do better when they’re steamed/blanched and frozen rather than being canned. I personally only can tomatoes, pickles, jams, jellies, and fruit purees.
When we had our big garden, I would do several small freezing sessions during the week to preserve the harvest for the winter. Sometimes I did individual vegetables, and sometimes I mixed up the small harvest to make mixed vegetable packages. A quart freezer bag was the perfect size for our then family of 6.
The best resource that I’ve found on freezing veggies is the classic Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America’s Classic Preserving Guide. It has the blanching/steaming times for every vegetable you can think of, plus how to prepare the vegetables for freezing. Some veggies like zucchini do better when shredded first, and don’t need blanching/steaming as a first step.
Most vegetables are prepared in a similar way to broccoli, except for the debugging step. After picking the broccoli, soak the heads in salty water for at least 15 minutes to help get rid of the cabbage worms. While cutting the broccoli into uniform pieces, thoroughly check the heads for little and big green worms. I like to trim the longer stems off the small heads, and steam them with the heads.
Blanch the pieces in boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes or steam for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size. Since I prefer to use as little water as possible, I steam my pieces for 4 minutes in a steamer that I picked up at Ikea several years ago. 3 to 4 large heads will fill the steamer after trimming.
After blanching or steaming, the vegetable pieces need to be shocked with cold water. The classic way is to dump the pieces in a cold water bath with ice. My way is to dump the pieces in a colander and run cold water over them. Then I shake the water off and let the pieces cool enough to be handled. I package my veggies in quart bags which gives me enough veggies for a side for dinner.
Most vegetables need an average of 4 minutes for blanching or steaming, with denser vegetables like carrots needing a little more. When the vegetables are ready to be harvested, I do several batches in an afternoon, mixing the veggies together at the end to make mixed veggies or keeping them separate like green beans.
I use quart freezer bags to package the vegetables for the freezer. I usually put 2 cups of vegetables in each bag, and then squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. I label each bag with the contents and date. Then, I lay the bags flat in the freezer for the initial freezing. Once the contents are frozen, I can stack the bags in the freezer to maximize space.
When cooking the frozen veggies, dump them into a saute pan in a frozen state and cook the water off first. Then, add your fat, additional fresh veggies, and seasonings of choice, and saute until done.
Canning and Freezing Resources
Granite Ware 0718-1 Enamel-on-Steel Canning Kit, 9-Piece