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How to Freeze Fresh Asparagus Spears (Whole or Cut Up)


Asparagus

Freezing fresh, locally-grown asparagus when it's in season is a great way to preserve those lovely spears and to ensure you can enjoy the wonderful health benefits of asparagus all year long. But before you freeze all those extra asparagus spears in your fridge, you should know that frozen asparagus stalks don't have the same crunchy texture as garden-fresh spears. The flavor of asparagus, by contrast, is not affected by frozen storage, as long as you freeze it properly, and frozen asparagus makes a great addition to everything from soups to casseroles.

If you want to be able to pull tasty asparagus spears from your freezer later on, you will need to blanch them before freezing. Blanching, or scalding fresh vegetables in boiling water (or steam) for a set amount of time, helps protect the color and flavor of frozen produce. To prevent over-blanching, this procedure is typically followed by immersion in very cold water. Here's how to blanch fresh asparagus spears before freezing them:

  1. Wash the asparagus spears and trim off the woody, fibrous ends. Leave the spears whole or cut them up to your liking.
  2. Get a large kettle of water boiling. You will need about one gallon of water for each pound of asparagus.
  3. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Place the bath near the stove.
  4. Blanch the asparagus spears by boiling them for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on size.
  5. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and immediately submerge in the ice water to halt the cooking process.
  6. Let the asparagus chill in the ice water bath for 2 to 4 minutes, then drain thoroughly in a colander.

Note that when blanching and cooling whole or cut up asparagus spears prior to freezing, it is important to use big kettles and bowls, and a lot of water. If you want to freeze a large amount of asparagus, it may also be a good idea to blanch and cool the asparagus in batches. By following these tips, the water will quickly return to a boil after you add the asparagus to the boiling water, and the water in the ice water bath will stay cold enough during the cooling process.

After chilling and draining the blanched asparagus, you can just divide the spears or pieces into freezer-safe bags or containers which you can then stash in your freezer. But, while this method may be the fastest one, it is not necessarily the best way to freeze asparagus. If you directly throw the asparagus spears or pieces into a freezer bag or container, they will freeze into a massive lump of frozen asparagus, and you won't be able to grab just a handful of frozen asparagus spears or pieces from a freezer bag or container.

The good news is that this is easily remedied. To make sure the whole or cut up stalks won't stick together in the freezer, simply line up the blanched pieces in a single layer on a baking tray, and stick the whole thing in the freezer. When the spears or pieces are frozen, you can transfer them into freezer bags or containers for longer storage. If you pre-freeze the spears or pieces this way, they will freeze loosely, and you can later take out only what you need from the freezer. Here are more detailed instructions on how to freeze asparagus, step by step:

  1. When thoroughly drained, spread out the whole or cut up asparagus stalks on a parchment-lined baking tray, leaving a little space between each piece.
  2. Place the baking tray in the freezer for a few hours, or until the asparagus is thoroughly frozen.
  3. Remove the tray from the freezer and lift the edges of the parchment paper to dislodge the pieces.
  4. Pack the frozen asparagus in freezer bags, removing as much air as possible, or in freezer-safe containers.
  5. Use a permanent marker to label the bags or containers, and put them in the freezer for storage.
  6. Remove whole or cut up asparagus spears from the freezer as needed for cooking.



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