At the first of our weekly Food Preservation Drop Ins we focused mainly on rhubarb, and explored preserving it three different ways: frozen, canned, and dried.
Freezing is the most energy intensive way to preserve food. It also involves the ongoing cost of electricity and the constant potential of power failure (unless you’re off the grid). As someone who once lost the entire contents of her freezer while away on holiday, I never take for granted that relying on frozen food is always a calculated risk.
That said, freezing is an easy and convenient way to preserve food. And rhubarb is one of the easiest things to freeze. It’s as simple as washing the stems, cutting them into pieces, and putting them into an airtight freezer bag. However, some sources recommend blanching it first, to halt the development of enzymes and help retain colour, taste, and texture. I’ve never blanched rhubarb before, but this time around I decided to try it, to compare the quality to non-blanched frozen rhubarb.
In general, my blanching method of choice is steam blanching: it protects against vitamin loss, and is easier, faster, and less water intensive than boil blanching. To steam blanch rhubarb, boil some water in the bottom of a steamer pot, then add a steamer basket full of rhubarb chunks and cover. Leave to blanch for 90 seconds and then plunge the rhubarb into cold water to stop the cooking process.* Transfer it to a freezer bag, suck out as much air as possible, seal it, and add it to the freezer! Don’t forget to label the bag with the contents and date Even better, add it to an up-to-date inventory list of all your frozen goods. This will help you manage what’s in your freezer and use up older stuff first.
*Because things never work out exactly as planned, my steam blanched rhubarb experiment was compromised! Immediately after putting it on the stove, it started to hail and I had to run out to the garden to cover what I could, leaving the rhubarb to steam blanch longer than called for. Not only that, but I hadn’t prepared my ice water, and so had to settle for cold tap water to stop the blanching process! All that to say that food preservation is always an experiment, so just keep trying and learning from your mistakes (safely, of course)!