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I want to try making my own frozen veg since they go bad fairly quickly in my fridge. I've got carrots, beans and some greens.

I've never blanched anything before, so I'm willing to try, and I understand that each veggie has their own respective cooking time.

However, I'd rather steam them.

Is this possible? Or does the blanching process do magical things to preserving the veg that steaming won't?

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    If you've never blanched before, why the expressed preference for steaming? – logophobe Jul 25 '14 at 13:09
  • I've heard steaming locks in more nutrients and other good stuff, basically. Plus, although it is somewhat looked down upon to do things in a microwave, I've had some success making things in the microwave, which including steaming veggies. This isn't steaming veg, but here's a recipe that worked really well for me: food52.com/blog/8139-barbara-kafka-s-marinated-eggplant – user21142 Jul 28 '14 at 1:32
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The part about blanching that is important is that the vegetables are briefly cooked and then immediately doused in cold water to stop the cooking process. Processors use boiling water as it is easier to manage and you can put flavorings and other additives (preservatives, color enhancers, etc) to the water to get the effect desired. There's no reason you can't steam them instead as long as you dip them in ice water to arrest the cooking process. There's some things that steam blanching wouldn't be good for, like removing the skins from tomatoes, for that boiling water is the way to go, but for preparing vegetables for the freezer it will work fine.

Some considerations:

  1. Industrialization of the process: it's easy to set up a line with a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water while using a basket to immerse. Steaming won't be as straightforward, and will be more time consuming. If you have a lot of vegetables you may want to consider boiling instead
  2. Safety: You will need to be able to move the vegetables from your steamer to the ice water quickly without getting scalded, so think about your setup and tools
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Frozen veg almost always has enough ice crystals to steam itself. You can jumpstart the process by poking holes in the top side of a bag of frozen veggies, then microwaving the whole bag 30 seconds at a time until done to taste. It works surprisingly well if you're in a hurry.

For "actual" steaming, the advantage over blanching is that the cooking process is a little gentler. Heat is transferred at a steady rate into the food, and very evenly throughout, meaning larger batches are easier to cook all at once to the same "doneness". There's no water motion attacking your veg, so you avoid wear and tear, which can be important as frozen veggies can be more fragile than fresh stuff (e.g. broccoli).

The only disadvantage would be that steaming is somewhat slower, which means with frozen veg the outer parts can be mush while the insides are still cold, common in thick-cut veggies like some kinds of frozen carrots, cauliflower, etc. You can get around this by microwaving as above, just until the veggies are almost (but not quite) thawed.

I've worked in restaurants whose frozen veg was done both ways. I've found the results better with steaming.

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    I think you may have misunderstood. The OP isn't talking about how to cook already-frozen vegetables, but rather how to precook fresh vegetables before freezing them. – Cascabel Jul 26 '14 at 7:58
  • @Jefromi Amazing no -ve for this one, yet totally wrong answer? – TFD Jul 26 '14 at 22:11

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