Although there are numerous ways to prepare cauliflower, blanching preserves its color and texture while preventing the loss of essential vitamins and other nutrients. The process of blanching briefly cooks the vegetable in a pot of boiling water until it just begins to soften, rendering it suitable for either immediate eating or freezing. Health enthusiasts prize this cruciferous vegetable for its nutrition; it is rich in vitamins C and K, and is a natural antioxidant that provides potassium, folate and fiber.
Fill a large stockpot or Dutch oven with water and place on the stovetop. Use one gallon of water for every pound of cauliflower. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
Rinse the cauliflower under cool water and pat dry with a paper towel or clean dishcloth while the water comes to a boil.
Cut away the outer leaves and core with a large chef’s knife. Cut the cauliflower head into the smaller florets -- about 1 inch -- which will blanch more evenly. The smaller florets are also ideal for freezing or can be used as an accompaniment to a zesty dip or sauce.
Fill a handled strainer or wire basket with the cauliflower florets and immerse in the boiling water. Fit the lid to the pot; it’s acceptable if the handle of the basket prevents the lid from fitting perfectly. If you don’t have a wire basket, use a large slotted spoon to remove the florets once they are blanched.
Blanch the cauliflower for about three minutes or until just softened. Ensure the water remains at a full boil and do not overblanch, or the vegetable will become mushy and lose vital nutrients.
Fill a large bowl half full of ice and add cool water while the cauliflower blanches.
Remove the lid from the pot and carefully remove the strainer, allowing the water to drain back into the pot.
Transfer the cauliflower to the ice bath, which will retard the cooking process.
Allow the cauliflower to rest in the ice bath for one to two minutes and drain thoroughly in a strainer.
Select firm, tight heads of cauliflower with bright, green leaves and without any bruises or soft spots. After the cauliflower has drained thoroughly from the ice bath, it’s suitable for freezing in plastic freezer bags or containers. Once frozen, the florets should be used within 12 to 18 months. Blanching and parboiling are synonymous terms.
Do not overcrowd the pot of water with the cauliflower or it will not cook evenly. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, research indicates that microwave cooking is not an effective method of blanching and could result in a loss of color and texture.