Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Keep it Fresh: Learn How to Blanch

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Emily Chapelle

What is blanching?

In the spring and summer months, we’ve got a bounty of fresh, cheap vegetables to choose from. Blanching is a quick way to cook them while preserving that peak crunch and taste. It involves partially cooking something by plunging it into boiling water for a short time, then “shocking” it in ice water to stop the cooking. To get started, check out Kathy’s step-by-step guide to blanching, and read on for more tips.

Why would I want to blanch something?

There are numerous good reasons!

  • Blanching destroys the enzymes that turn green veggies brown and mushy over time or with cooking. This makes it perfect for preparing ingredients for recipes that rely on the bright green color, such as this risotto verde.
  • It cooks vegetables “just enough” while still leaving them crisp and fresh-tasting. Blanched peas make this minty pea salad perfect for spring, while blanched carrots are delicious in a lemon dressing.
  • Blanching removes bitter flavors in some vegetables, such as broccoli rabe.
  • Blanching is a simple way to soften the skin of tomatoes for peeling; this method also works on soft fruits like peaches and plums.
  • If you’re a vegetable gardener, you’ll want to blanch most kinds of vegetables before you freeze the surplus for the winter. Not only does blanching preserve the color and texture of your vegetables, but it will also preserve nutrient content.
  • Blanching is an easy way to remove peels from nuts such as peanuts and almonds.
  • To prepare vegetables for stir-frying, blanching is the perfect way to jump-start the cooking process, especially for dense vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower (which usually take a while to stir-fry and often get soggy). Scallop and snap pea stir fry sounds delicious when you know the peas will be perfectly crisp!
  • Blanched vegetables are a nice change of pace in salads, like Salad Nicoise (pictured below), or in a vegetable and dip platter.

How do I do it?

Kathy explains the process in her guide to blanching, but here are a few more tips!

  • In order to stop the enzyme action that breaks vegetables down, the food must reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Blanching will take up to a minute longer at high altitudes, since water boils at a lower temperature.
  • The time spent in boiling water and time spent in ice water should be roughly equal. If you’re not able to prepare a cold immersion for your vegetables, putting them in a colander under cold running water will do.
  • Adding salt or baking soda to your boiling water will help make green vegetables even greener! Steer clear of lemon juice or other acids, though; these will react with the chlorophyll and turn your greens brown.
  • You need to use a lot of water. Use at least a gallon of water for each pound of food to be blanched. If you overload the water with vegetables, it will lower the water’s temperature and slow the cooking process, defeating the purpose.
  • To blanch or not to blanch? This chart will help you decide whether to blanch your vegetables before freezing them for later, and gives you approximate blanching time for several different foods

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6 Comments

Heidi Richards Mooney said:

Kathy, I recently discovered your blog and wanted to say how much I am enjoying the tour! You have an excellent, content-rich resource for women and I am excited to have found you. In fact, I just listed your blog in my summer review of Women bloggers to watch for 2008 at http://virtualwomansday.blogspot.com/. Please stop by and leave a comment.

Many thanks…keep up the great work!

Heidi Richards Mooney, Founder & CEO, Women’s eCommerce Association – http://www.wecai.org

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Heidi, I am thrilled to be part of your great list of women bloggers!

Sheila Maister said:

Hi Kathy

I enjoyed your posting about blanching vegetables. But you shouldn’t advise people to add bicarbonate of soda to vegetables when blanching. It destroys the Vitamin C and other nutrients in the vegetables.

BTW – Love your hairstyle in the video!

Love Sheila

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Sheila! I just did a bit of Googling on that topic and you are right, some nutrients are effected by baking soda and heat.

LanceG said:

Heres another good article on how to blanch.

http://www.guidery.com/article/view/how_to_blanch

I really like the video in it, very well made.

startcooking said:

Hi Lance,
That is indeed a very good video on blanching.
Many thanks for sharing!
Cheers,
Kathy