I’ve had to leave my modernized Amish farmhouse and move into a 1970s raised ranch in a development with a name.Â My husband Mike got a great new job, and so we’ve moved to Fayetteville, NC. For someone born and raised in Ohio, the whole sun in the winter thing is completely different. And since I’ve not lived in suburbia for quite some time, lots of other things are different too.
It doesn’t look like any of my neighbors have gardens–although I’ve heard it’s difficult to grow here due to the clay subsoil. There are lots and lots of lovely green shrubs too–with leaves, even, not just piney evergreen types. And who knew that magnolias would still be in leaf here? (I can hear our readers in temperate climates howling with laughter right now!)
I’ve just made my first fill-the-freezer-and-pantry trip to the grocery store, and that was an experience too. Fresh fish is relatively inexpensive–we’re only two hours from the coast, and there’s lots of organic fish farming here.
About those carrots. See, baby carrots were on sale, 10 1-pound bags for $10. Since there’s just the hubs and I, we do indulge in the luxury of baby carrots from time to time, although I usually try to buy local, fresh, organic carrots (and other produce). But sometimes, my food scruples and my budget scruples collide, and they certainly T-boned right there in the produce department. For 78 cents a bag, a few minutes of blanching, and tossed in a freezer container, I could score enough baby carrots to keep us in entrees for at least a month. And if I got more before the sale was off, who knew how long it would be until I had to buy carrots again? We–well, the spouse mainly–mostly eat them cooked, so this was a great buy for us.
As I was checking out with my massive amount of groceries, the carrots surfaced. The woman behind me in line blurts out, “What are you going to do with all those carrots?” I told her I was going to blanch and freeze them. She was surprised, and said so. “Who knew…” And of course, I was equally amazed that someone wouldn’t jump on this bargain and stock up.
The carrots are fresh vegetables, every bit as fresh in February as if they were harvested in March or April. And not only that, there are all kinds of other root vegetables and leafy greens that are in season in the winter that can be handled in similar ways–lightly blanched, drained dry, labeled and frozen. Why not take advantage of local sales? You don’t have to grow it yourself to find it, fix it, and feed your family great food.
This process is roughly how I deal with large amounts of vegetables that have to be blanched. It’s pretty large scale, so if you need to, work it down to a way that works for you. I’ve tailored it for carrots here.
Blanching Carrots: Fresh Baby-Cuts or Fresh Carrots Cut Into 2-inch Pieces
2. Set your largest pot–spaghetti pot size if you have it–on to boil.
3. Go through your carrots, and trim any stem ends. Rinse and drain.
4. Fill the bottom of your cooler with ice. Essentially, you’re lining the bottom with ice. Add water to ice until ice is just floating. Place large stainless steel bowls (mixing bowls from your stand mixer will do) down into ice and water mixture. Add fresh cold water to bowls until they are about 1/3 full. You don’t want the bowls to float very much, and you DO NOT want the cooler’s ice/water mixture to flow into the bowls. That will contaminate your foods, and that’s not good. (Especially if you’re using commercial ice. The ice may be clean, but what about that bag?) These water baths will cool your hot veggies. Remember, the bowls will sink when you add the carrots in.
1. Once the water is boiling, add 1 to 2 packets of carrots to the pot. Boil for 2-4 minutes. (If using cut full-size carrots, add 1 to 2 cups.)
3. Leave in bath 2-5 minutes, until very cold. Drain veggies in colander, spread on cookie cooling rack to dry a bit more. (You may want to put dishtowels under the cooling rack to soak up the drips.) Once they’ve stopped dripping, place in small freezer container. You want the carrots dry, but not bone dry and shriveled. Too wet, and they’ll ice over–aim for still damp to the touch.
You may find it easier to use one of the wire handled drainers to scoop up your carrots and pop them into the water baths and final drain. If you have a large slotted spoon or a cooking spider, that will also work well for the transfer steps.
Keep a sharp eye on your water baths, and swap in fresh cold water if needed.
Use these carrots as a ‘bed’ when roasting meats, for stir fry–slice when still partially frozen–or steam and serve with butter. Yum – on the cheap!