How to Freeze Broccoli

Garden-fresh broccoli tastes amazing—nothing like its supermarket cousin. Freeze this cool-weather crop in season to savor later.

Broccoli

Broccoli

Garden-fresh broccoli tastes amazing—nothing like its supermarket cousin. Freeze this cool-weather crop in season to savor later.

©2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Garden-fresh broccoli tastes amazing—nothing like its supermarket cousin. Freeze this cool-weather crop in season to savor later.

Can you freeze fresh broccoli? Yes, you can, and the process isn't difficult at all. Freezing broccoli preserves this nutrient-packed and fiber-rich vegetable for winter enjoyment—and it's truly a snap to cook the frozen florets. If this veggie is a family favorite at your house, learn how to freeze broccoli in a way that guarantees success.

Broccoli is a cool-season crop, and the best way to enjoy fresh-from-the-garden flavor is to freeze it in season. In cooler areas, you'll typically see locally grown heads for sale at farmers' markets in early summer. In warmer regions, you may be able to purchase fresh broccoli from spring through early summer and again in mid- to late fall. Or you can grow your own.

When purchasing or harvesting broccoli, look for heads that are tight and firm. If individual buds are showing even a hint of opening, avoid that head for freezing. You'll get the tastiest result when you freeze the ripest, freshest heads.

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Loopers, small caterpillars, also love to feast on fresh broccoli. The blanching process should kill them, but they may remain wedged inside the tight florets. If the idea of unknowingly consuming a worm is too much for you to stomach, separate heads into easy-to-handle sections and soak in a brine solution of four teaspoons salt to one gallon of water for 30 minutes. Rinse heads after brining.

Split broccoli sections into florets that are no bigger than 1.5 inches across. Remove the thicker stems, but save them; you can also freeze these for use in soups and stews. Broccoli—florets and stems—must be blanched for effective freezing. If you freeze it raw, you'll wind up bitter, drab green, shriveled stems. Blanching preserves the bright green color and tasty flavor.

You can either blanch in boiling water for three minutes or steam for five minutes. When blanching in boiling water, a Chinese spider sieve works well to remove broccoli quickly from the water so that none overcook.  You can also use a colander that fits inside your pot, if you use a large enough pot. That makes removing the broccoli all at once a cinch.

Cool broccoli in ice water for the same amount of time you heated it. Dry the broccoli as best as you can before freezing. A salad spinner works well to force water out of each tiny floret joint. Alternately, you can drain the broccoli with a colander and then spread it on a towel and blot dry. Work quickly, though. It's best to shift broccoli as quickly as you can from ice water to freezer.

You can individually quick freeze broccoli on a parchment-lined tray and then package into air-tight freezer bags. This method works best if the broccoli is thoroughly dry. Otherwise, package broccoli in freezer bags in portion-size amounts. This is important because if there's any water left on the broccoli prior to freezing, it will freeze into a large mass, which you won't be able to separate to serve just a part. After bagging broccoli, gently shift the florets in the bag to get it as flat as possible for fastest freezing.

To freeze stems, slice off the tough outer layers. Chop the soft inner layers into bite-size pieces. Blanch and chill using the same times as for florets. Freeze separately from florets, since you'll most likely prepare them in different dishes. Individually quick freeze stems on a parchment-lined tray before placing in freezer bags, and you'll be able to grab a handful of stems to add to stews or soups.

To serve frozen broccoli florets, steam or boil for no more than 60 to 90 seconds. You can also toss frozen florets directly into stir fries, quiche, pasta, or soup. Frozen broccoli lacks the firm crunch of the fresh stuff, but it isn't mushy. For best flavor, use frozen broccoli within a year.

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