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Blanching is a cooking process that involves submerging food, typically vegetables and fruit, in boiling water for a brief amount of time (30 seconds – 5 minutes). After which, the food is submerged in an ice bath or run under cold water to stop the cooking process. It’s a basic technique that every home cook…
Blanching is a cooking process that involves submerging food, typically vegetables and fruit, in boiling water for a brief amount of time (30 seconds – 5 minutes). After which, the food is submerged in an ice bath or run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
It’s a basic technique that every home cook should know how to utilize. Blanching is perfect for preparing crudite platters and certain casseroles. It’s also commonly used before freezing vegetables.
Why Blanch Vegetables? But that doesn’t really tell us why we blanch foods. What’s the point of bringing a giant pot of water to boil when we’re only going to use it for 30 seconds? It’s understandable that many home cooks try to skip blanching in recipes, but here’s why you shouldn’t.
Blanching vegetables accomplishes a few very important things:
* Stops Enzymatic Processes
* Cleanses Surface of Microorganisms
* Wilts or Softens Vegetables
* Brightens Color
* Stops Loss of Vitamins and Nutrients (Ref: National Center For Home Food Preservation)
And for those of you who are still questioning how all of that works:
How Blanching Stops Enzymatic Processes: All fruits and vegetables contain certain enzymes that are active at specific temperatures. An enzyme, by the way, is a biological catalyst that regulates chemical reactions without being destroyed by the process.
In produce, enzymes control color and flavor. At a boiling temperature, enzymes are destroyed, effectively halting all their chemical processes. It’s like hitting pause on ripening fruit and vegetables.
For certain preparations, and especially for freezing, blanching is required. That’s because at lower cooking temperatures, and when freezing, enzymes are not effectively destroyed. So, if you, for example, freeze a batch of raw broccoli, without blanching it first, the broccoli will continue to ripen and eventually rot even at frozen temperatures.
With the enzymes destroyed, the blanched produce will typically brighten in color and soften to a certain degree. And, of course, the boiling water deeply cleans vegetable and fruit surfaces.
How To Blanch Vegetables Blanching vegetables is very simple. You take raw vegetables, submerge them in a large pot of boiling water for a set amount of time, and then remove them to an ice bath or place them under cold running water for an extended period of time.
Three things are very important, though:
* Time Submerged
* Amount of Water Used
* Size of Ice BathThe amount of time a vegetable is submerged in boiling water is specific to the type of vegetable you’re blanching, so always follow recipe instructions. If you boil a vegetable too long, it can come out completely cooked, which isn’t the goal. And, if you boil it for too short a time, the enzymatic processes could still be occurring.
The amount of water you use to blanch the vegetables is important as well. If you crowd the pot with vegetables and not enough boiling water, the time provided in the recipe will be off. Your produce can blanch unevenly and the results are less than desirable.
As a guideline, use 1 gallon of boiling water for every pound of vegetables.
Preparing an ice bath that’s too small can lead to overcooked vegetables, and many home cooks underestimate how much ice they’ll need for this sort of thing. As a general rule, you need about a pound of ice per pound of vegetables. If ice is in short supply, you can also use cold running water (under 60 F).
Helpful Tips & Common Blanching MistakesSince blanching is all about time and temperature (okay, technically that’s all cooking, but it’s especially pertinent here), simple time hacks can make or break your blanch.
Many cooks use a wire basket or cheesecloth to blanch their vegetables. This way you can pull the vegetables straight out of the boiling water and plunge them into the ice bath, without anything in the way (no moving a heavy pot to the sink to drain).
It’s also vital that if you’re using an ice bath, you have it prepared in advance. This should go without saying, but its a common mistake for novice cooks – one that always ends in disaster.
The water needs to be at a full and vigorous boil before you add the vegetables. Not a simmer, not an almost boil, a real-deal bubbling pot is required! Think of it this way, when you add your vegetables, each one of them is going to lower the temperature of the water a little bit. And enzymes are only destroyed when held at boiling point for a specific amount of time. If your water isn’t it a full boil, and then your veggies continue to lower the temperature, you’re likely to let a few live enzymes slip by.
Blanching Times for Common VegetablesArtichoke Hearts (Globe) 7 minAsparagus2-4 minute (depending on width of stalk)Green Bean3 minuteBroccoli3 minuteBrussels Sprouts3-4 minute (depending on size) Carrots5 minute (whole), 2 minute (sliced) Cauliflower3 minuteCollard Greens3 minuteOnions (white, sliced)15 seconds Parsnips3 minuteGreen Peas1 minute Zucchinni2 minute