Your freezer allows you to preserve the bounty of your garden or extend the life of your market-fresh vegetables with minimal effort and maximum appeal. Knowing how to choose and prepare your fresh broccoli before freezing makes all the difference between ending up with crisp, flavorful florets or mushy, unappetizing broccoli.
Raw or Cooked?
The National Center for Home Preservation points out that freezing fully cooked vegetables is possible, but it compromises the texture and flavor of the vegetable once it's reheated. So, although you can freeze fully cooked broccoli, it won't have best color, smell or flavor. For best results, freeze raw, blanched broccoli. Select broccoli with young, firm stalks and compact heads.
Blanching is an essential step to freezing raw vegetables. By briefly exposing the broccoli to boiling water and then shocking it in ice water, which halts the cooking process, you're able to effectively stop the natural enzymatic actions that cause food to break down. This, in turn, helps preserve optimal flavor and texture during freezer storage. As an added bonus, by blanching the raw broccoli, you also thoroughly kill bacteria and remove dirt, making it safer to eat after storage.
Cut the Broccoli
Prepare the broccoli by rinsing it under cold water. Remove any leaves and woody stalks before cutting the broccoli into uniform pieces.
Stir 4 teaspoons of salt into 1 gallon of water. Immerse the broccoli in the brine and let it soak for 30 minutes, as recommended by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Fill a large saucepan or pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. While you're waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl -- or your kitchen sink -- with ice water.
Blanch the Broccoli
Add the broccoli to the boiling water and allow it to blanch for three minutes before transferring the broccoli to the ice bath. Let the broccoli cool completely in the ice water before transferring it to a plate or a baking sheet lined with clean towels.
Dry and Freeze It
Drain the broccoli and let it air-dry. Package the broccoli in an airtight container or freezer bag without leaving any head space in the bag or container. Seal it and store it in the freezer for up to 12 months. If possible, vacuum-seal the broccoli to reduce the formation of freezer burn-inducing ice crystals.
Using Frozen Broccoli
There's no need to thaw that frozen broccoli before using it. In fact, cooking website The Kitchn recommends keeping them frozen until you're ready to use any frozen vegetables for optimal flavor and texture. Throw it in a steamer basket and steam the broccoli until it's crisp-tender and then season it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Add it directly to soup, casseroles and stir-fries.