Selecting High-Quality Broccoli:
Select firm, young, tender stalks with compact heads. If leaves are still attached to stems they should be dark green and firm. Yellowing flowers means the broccoli is old. Broccoli should be harvested before the individual clusters start to open and processed as soon as possible after harvesting.
Preparing for Freezing:
Remove the leaves and woody portions. Peel stems if desired. Separate heads into 1 1/2 inch flowerets.
Water-blanch 3 to 4 minutes or steam-blanch a pound at a time for 5 minutes. Cool, drain and package. Broccoli does not have to be blanched before freezing, however, blanching the florets will enable them to retain their quality longer in the freezer. Stalks retain their quality a long time regardless of blanching.
Best Freezing Method(s):
- Boilable Bags: Place desired amounts into boiling bags, add desired seasoning, press out air and seal. Blanch broccoli in boiling water, cool bags in ice water, pat dry and freeze. Broccoli can also be frozen in boilable bags without blanching.
- Tray Packs: Clean and prepare broccoli and either blanch or leave them unblanched. Lay in a single layer on cookie sheets and place them in the freezer. When fully frozen (12 to 24 hours), portion them into suitable containers and freeze.
- Dry Packs: Transfer blanched or unblanched florets and stems directly into suitable containers for freezing.
Broccoli does not need a provision for headspace unless it's chopped (leave 1/2 inch). To pack more tightly, face florets in alternating directions.
Freezer containers should be moisture and vapor resistant and should not be prone to cracking or breaking at low temperatures. Containers should provide protection against absorbing flavors or odors and should be easy to label. Suitable packaging for freezing broccoli includes freezer-grade plastic bags, rigid plastic containers or glass containers and heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Maximum Storage Time:
Unblanched: florets last well for 6 weeks and stalks for 3 months. Blanched broccoli stores up to 8 months at 0ºF.
Broccoli can be added to dishes for cooking directly from the freezer without thawing.
Before blanching, it's a good idea to immerse florets in brine (4 teaspoons salt to 1 gallon water) for 30 minutes to remove insects.
Do not wash until use. Store broccoli in perforated plastic bags for 3 to 5 days.
By Ellen Brown