Posted by: oceannah | July 14, 2012

From Field To Freezer 101

So you’ve hauled in a nice big bunch of goodies from your garden.  But you’re not quite sure you wish to be on the all broccoli diet for the next several days, and in fact, you think it would be awesome to save some of the harvest for winter when the price tag on an organic head of broccoli is about $4.00-$5.00.  Where to begin?

The very first thing I want to get out of the way is this:  THIS IS NOT DIFFICULT.  If you’ve ever boiled water, you can do this.  Yes you’ll need to prep a bit, but it is not hard to put up your own veggies.  Here’s how…

What you will need:

Knife for chopping vegetables

Pot of boiling water

Strainer to pull out the hot veggies

Sink or bowl full of ice water

Bags or containers to place blanched vegetables in

Step One:  Put a pot of water on to boil.

Step Two:  Chop vegetables, aim for uniform pieces so that they will blanch evenly and then cook evenly later on

Broccoli at the ready

I also did a batch of cauliflower
Bowl: Wheel thrown, B-mix, clear glaze with copper carbonate wash on rim fired cone 6

Step Three:   put some of the vegetable into the boiling water.  It’s important to not crowd them, aim for enough to cover the surface of the water one piece deep.

Why do you even need to blanch the vegetables?  Quick and dirty answer, it stabilizes them so they don’t degrade while being frozen.  The enzymes in the food will continue to break down the vegetables even in the freezer, just slower than if you left them out on the counter.

I use a very general rule of not longer than 2 minutes in the boiling water.  Smaller stuff like peas would be less.  The object is not to cook the vegetables, only to stop/greatly reduce enzymatic action.  A timer is handy here, or just use a clock and watch it.   Now is not the time for multi-tasking.

Step Four:  After the vegetables are blanched you need to STOP the action of the boiling water…fast.  Use ice cold water for this.

let them float in the cold water for a while til they are cool all the way through

Step Five:  Once the vegetables are thoroughly cooled place them on a towel or in a colander to drain.  Don’t pack up any extra water, it will turn to ice crystals and lessen the quality of the food.  Have your bags or containers ready and please make sure to label with a) the contents and b) the date.  I’ve done it the other way, and trust me, you think at the time that you will surely remember which bag is broccoli and which is green beans…but after a month or two in the freezer it just isn’t so!

A little peek in the freezer…one of the great tools of the homesteader.  Looks like it maybe time to defrost soon!  So broccoli and cauliflowers are tucked in.  They will taste wonderful this winter.  This is an intentionally small work.  I recommend that you do the same.  I have processed two full bags of corn in a day, and I don’t recommend it.  When the load is smaller it is a) more likely to get done b) more enjoyable c) less clean up.  This processing leaves me with three nice heads of broccoli and three ok sized heads of cauliflower in the fridge for the coming week.  There’s still another row of broccoli in the garden coming along, and I’ve just planted the fall crops which will be larger both in the size of the vegetables as well as the amount for storage, since standing over a pot of boiling water in the autumn is easier than on a hot July evening.

So how long did this all take?  About an hour.  Of course that doesn’t account for all the time of growing the food. 😉   It is simple to do and if you have storage space in a freezer why not catch the bounty of the season?!


Linked to: Homestead Revival Barn Hop 


The Ole Saturday Homesteading Trading Post


  1. Excellent step-by-step instructions and photos.

    It is always such a treat to pull a bag of homegrown veggies out of the freezer come mid-winter.

    • I agree! Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you appreciate the step by step.

  2. It is weird – but I love posts like these – reminds me of my mom and all the stuff she did — canning and freezing, making sauces etc–it is all very cozy and homey –and when you do this kind of stuff – it does make a house a wonderful home

    • I know what you mean Louann….for me it is certain smells that really snap me back to my childhood of processing tomatoes at the kitchen table. Thanks so much for your comments always, you’re a gem.

  3. Amazing! It will be so nice to having yummy veggies in the winter!

    • Oh yes Sandi, veggies in winter is one of the hardest things to procure in these parts. Not many choices esp. if you want org. xo

  4. Because my grandmother had a 1/4 acre garden till in her late 80’s (and was mowing her lawn in Alabama till 85 or so), we were able to dive into her large freezer whenever we were there and pull out bags of green beens, green peas, crowder peas, okra, corn, you name it, it was in there. Then, we’d go to her cellar, and get jars of sauerkraut, canned peaches, tomatoes, everything you can think of. Boy, were we spoiled. She did all the work and we got to eat it. I never imagined I’d be attempting to grow my own vegetables at this point in my life, but it has brought me immeasurable joy. Thanks for the instructions, as step-by-step is what I need! And it looks like I will have a lot of tomatoes to deal with.

    • Well there you have it Kaye, it’s in your genetic code to be a gardener!

  5. I just got to the end where you say, “If you have room in the freezer,”haha, my freezer has been full of discontinued photographic paper for the last 8 years, since I converted to digital and just haven’t been able to let it go (because letting it go, means I’ll never make another print in my darkroom). My garden is small, so everything gets eaten, except maybe all those tomatoes.

    • awwww I know Kaye, I used to love the magic of watching a picture come to life there in the dark… It’s a brave new world now though.

  6. What do you do to get all of the crawlers out of the broccoli? I hope we have some for freezing too, but we may just end up with enough for a few fresh meals.

    • Free protein; ) lol!

      • That’s what my dad used to say. It didn’t make me feel any better about it then, either. 🙂

      • Right, blech…. I’ll take my protein on the side 😉

      • Ick…

      • Oh come on, you guys! I’m betting that you’ve both eaten some unintended beasties at one point. It’s not like they’re unwholesome… I mean you grew them in the same healthy, loving manner as the plants they feed upon, right? So what’s the big deal; other than (you said it; ) the “ick” factor? “Bugs” of all sizes – right down to the microscopic – are an incredibly important part of a healthy biosphere and isn’t that what we’re ultimately aiming for by growing our own?

      • Healthy biosphere, yes…tasty on the plate, Nay! There is a huge gulf betwixt edible and palatable at least for moi!

        As far at eating unintended protein I’m sure I have. But that does not mean I aim for that 😉

        Now we all know our bodies are probably more ‘beasties’ than ‘us’ when you pair it all down. But actively deciding to NOT consume certain varieties is where I’m at.
        If you’d like, I can save up all the random little critters and ship them your way…hehehe, they are indeed very wholesome and grown organically 😉


      • That’s a very generous offer, but I’m good thanks (lol)
        (Tomato Hornworms & Earwigs are the ones that really drive me into a frenzy of bugicide; )

      • hahaha… we have tons of earwigs this year too!

    • Heidi, When I’m blanching for the freezer, I don’t worry much about it since I’m dunking them in boiling water…yup, they float right to the top those lil green buggers. For preparing fresh I give a soak in water and then cut everything up if it looks like it might be needed, I’ll re-rinse. I do not like having loopers in my food, or any bugs for that matter although it comes w/ the organic seal of approval 😉

  7. Hi Anna, Thanks for the (as always; ) excellent instruction on blanching and freezer prep.
    Not sure if you have the same option down there, but (in addition to cartons) our milk comes in a 4 litre bag containing 3 smaller (roughly 1 American quart each) bags. I reuse the one quart bags with my vacuum-sealer for the freezer – because they’re a heavier weight plastic – and assuming I do a good job w/sealing, there’s never any freezer burn and they’re FREE: )

    • Great job recycling plastic Deb. Our milk comes from a local farm and we get it in 1/2 gal mason jars. I don’t have a vacuum sealer but I’ve been known to suck out the air w/ just my mouth ;).


      • Oh lucky you!! We had fresh milk as a kid and it was LOVELY! Seriously wonder if this is the cause of milk intolerance – the manipulation of milk – I mean… Pasteurisation is safest for mass market, but why does it need to be homogenised? Just one more thing for the body to say “whaa?”

  8. Fantastic tips. Now I can purchase even more at the farmer’s market with the assurance I may freeze that which we cannot eat quickly.

    • 🙂 Buy it while it’s cheaper and more local, way to go!

  9. Anna you sure have been busy! I am amazed at all you have going on right now. Thanks for linking up this week to “The ole Saturday homesteading trading post” this week. 🙂

    • I agree, summer is a VERY full time and sometimes it can feel a bit much.

  10. Oh what bounty! Back envy….back!

    • hahaha… I feel exactly the same when I look at your beautiful hand works 🙂 That new bag is right up my alley color wise, just WAYYY beyond my skill set.

  11. I’ve been fooling myself on the broccoli front. You’re right – even if I only got two bags out of it, that would be nice and then we could stop eating it ALL the time right now. 😉

    • Hey Little Sis, Pretty much the only veggie that I don’t mind eating B-L-D for the short time it’s on is asparagus. Otherwise, a bag here, a bag there, it all adds up at the end of the season.

  12. An excellent step by step…..I will definitely be doing this in the future. 🙂

    • GOOD for you!! You won’t regret it come winter…thanks for popping in 🙂

  13. Love it!!! Thanks for the great idea

  14. Great how-to! I follow the same process, but use a vacuum sealer to prevent freezer burn…well worth the expense!

    Found you on the Barn Hop!

    • Thanks so much!

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