Ask the Homemaker: How to Freeze Asparagus
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I bought an abundance of asparagus at Costco, and realize that I’ll never be able to eat all of it before it goes bad. Can I freeze asparagus?
First, I’d like to say that it tickles me no end that my mom, lifelong homemaker, is asking me a question! Yes Mom, you can indeed freeze asparagus! I consulted several agricultural extension services (which are awesome resources for all sorts of things) to find out asparagus-freezing best practices. (you can skip right to the instructions here)Yes Mom, you CAN freeze asparagus! Here's how Click To Tweet
Best practices for freezing asparagus
Among the extension services crowd, the points of consensus are:
- Do it as soon as possible after they are harvested. If you’ve bought them in the store, you should ideally freeze the excess the same day you buy.
- Yes, you have to blanch it.
- Get it frozen as soon as possible after blanching.
Blanching properly and cooling/freezing quickly are important in maintaining the texture and quality of the asparagus. You can just rinse it off and throw it in a zip-loc, but you’ll probably be unhappy with the floppy, mushy result when you eat it later.
So if I do it right, the asparagus will thaw out and be EXACTLY like it was when it was fresh. Right?
I’m thinking this page would rank better in Google searches if I said you can freeze asparagus and have zero loss of quality. But that would be a big ol’ lie and I’m not a very good liar.
So why is it that when you freeze asparagus or almost any other fruit or vegetable, you can never get that super crisp texture back?
Jenny, can we have a science lesson? Please?
I thought you’d never ask. When you freeze water it expands, right? (Yes. The answer is yes.) Most fruits and vegetables are over 90% water by weight. When you freeze produce, you are actually freezing the water inside the vegetable. The expanding, freezing water ruptures the cell walls. When you freeze and then thaw out produce with a very high water content, you’re left with sad, floppy, ruptured cell walls. Ruptured cell walls do not a crispy veggie make. The higher the water content of the item, the mushier the thawed piece of whatever-that-used-to-be is. Have you ever tried to freeze a cucumber or a tomato and then use it in a salad? Blech (although I do have a little trick about freezing whole tomatoes in edition 001 of Heathen Homehacks).Ruptured cell walls do not a crispy veggie make. Click To Tweet
Asparagus is a middle of the road vegetable as water content goes, and while you can’t regain the just-out-of-the-garden texture of fresh asparagus, you can minimize the loss of quality by properly preparing it before you toss it behind that mysterious lump of unlabeled foil in your freezer.
A few words about blanching
Blanching is sort of a PITA. It adds an extra step and a couple of extra pans to wash. But do it. Your end result will be much better. Produce has little enzymes munching and working all the time. When you blanch your asparagus (or whatever else) you stop or at least reaaaalllly slow down those enzymes. This helps maintain the quality. BUT, you have to make sure that you blanch for just the right amount of time. Not enough can actually stimulate the hungry little enzymes. Too much and you start to lose color, flavor and nutrients. I know this seems intimidating but it’s really just a paying-attention sort of thing.
It’s important to get the produce into an ice bath as soon as the blanching time is up, to stop the process.
OMG, enough with the lip flapping already. How do I freeze asparagus?
I’m getting there…
How to Freeze Aparagus
First, remember that when you freeze asparagus you can’t get more out of it than what you put in. In other words, the better the asparagus is to begin with, the better your end product will be. Choose asparagus with tightly closed tips, like this:
Look for bright green color (unless you’re buying a white or black variety of course!). The tips may be a darkish purple and the stalks should be firm but not woody. Wrap them in a damp paper towel and store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container until you’re ready to prepare them.
The basics are
- Snap them
- Wash them
- Blanch them
- Flash freeze them
- Bulk freeze them
- A pot or high-sided frying pan big enough to completely submerge the asparagus as they lie on their sides
- A steamer basket or tongs or a very large slotted spoon
- A bowl large enough to completely submerge the asparagus after blanching
- A clean kitchen towel
- Plastic freezer bags
What you’ll do:
- Snap them by holding one end in each hand an then bending the stalk. Nice, firm, fresh asparagus will snap off in just the right place without much effort on your part. Generally though, You’re looking to get rid of the ends – the dark purple part you see in the photo above.
- Wash the asparagus thoroughly.
- Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside.
- Fill your pot or pan with water and bring it to a boil. (An asparagus steamer (this is the one I use*) is great for steaming asparagus but not blanching them. The asparagus must be completely submerged in the water for blanching)
- Drop some asparagus into the boiling water. Don’t overcrowd the pot. The water should come back to a boil right away. If it doesn’t, you’re putting too many in.
- Start timing as soon as the water comes back to a boil and time carefully!
- small spears 2 minutes
- medium spears 3 minutes
- large spears for 4 minutes
- Use tongs or a large slotted spoon to plunge the asparagus into the ice water..
- Leave them in the ice water for about 3 minutes – until they are completely cool.
- Lay them on the towel and get them as dry as you can.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the asparagus out in one layer.
- Pop the sheet into the freezer for 3 or 4 hours – until the asparagus is completely frozen (this is flash freezing).
- Once the individual spears are frozen, you can put them into a freezer bag and as long as they are kept at freezer temperature, they’ll stay nice and separated. You can take out just the number of spears you want to use!
You can skip the flash freezing part and just dry them off as well as you can and get them into the freezer, but flash freezing is one of my mostest favoritest things to do. I keep the “frozen pizza” rack in my freezer freed up just for this purpose. I can fit two cookie sheets here at a time.
Does this sound like too much of a pain to consider doing? I gotta be honest: It usually is for me. I’m highly unlikely to bother with all of this for store-bought produce unless I’ve gotten a great deal on it. Have you ever blanched? How about flash freezing. Are you a fan?Freezing asparagus: Blanch 'em or weep! Click To Tweet