I've been asked to explain the method I use for freezing my asparagus so it doesn't turn to mush when reheated and served. Mushy asparagus? Yuck, I wouldn't bother trying to freeze it if it turned out like that. And canned asparagus? Even worse.
Here is a small cutting of asparagus stalks I gathered first thing this morning after we had eaten some of it fresh with our breakfast.
The bottom of most stalks is too tough or woody to be used so the pile of these pieces (on the right) is what I've cut off and will go straight to the compost heap as even our poultry won't eat them.
The bigger, but still tender, pieces I will keep and blanch go right into the blanching basket on the left. The green bowl holds the tips and smaller more tender parts of the stalk. I blanch the bigger pieces for only 2 minutes and the smaller most tender pieces get blanched for only 1 minute. I know most preserving books and info on the Internet will tell you to blanch the asparagus for a longer period of time, but this is what works for me.
For the blanching, I use a pot that my blanching basket fits into just right. After bringing the water in this pot to a rolling boil, the basket with the bigger pieces go into it for the 2 minutes. I always use a timer which you can see running.
Immediately after the 2 minutes are up, the pieces in the basket get dumped into a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking action. Most info will tell you to use ice water but the water right from our well is nearly that cold so that's what I use. Actually, I use two bowls filled with the cold water. The asparagus goes into the first bowl for a few minutes, then into the second bowl while I do the next blanching process.
The small pieces and tips are blanched in the boiling water for only 1 minute and then follow the same cooling process as described above.
Then I put all the pieces together in a colander to drain for a couple of minutes.
From the colander the blanched asparagus gets spread out on a clean towel on the counter. The big towel will hold a much larger quantity (and usually does) than I have here.
Then I roll up the towel so that more moisture from the pieces can be absorbed. The drier the asparagus pieces are when they go into the freezer, the longer they will retain all the good stuff you want to end up on your plate and in your belly. And the lack of moisture will keep ice crystals from forming on the vegetable.
I dump the contents from the towel into a bowl and measure out the amount I know is adequate for a serving for the two of us and put it into a small plastic bag. I lay the bags out flat on a cookie sheet until solidly frozen and then pack the smaller bags into a larger freezer bag for long term storage in the freezer.
To serve I take the frozen bag out of the freezer and . . .
. . . dump it into a small amount of boiling water in a small saucepan. (Hunh. Optical illusion here. It looks as though there is asparagus in the water here, but it's just the small amount burbling of water.) I cover the pan and, keeping it over a relatively high flame, leave the asparagus in the water only until the water comes back to a boil. Immediately turn off the water, drain the asparagus and add some butter to melt, and serve.
Done this way our asparagus tastes as close to fresh as you can get it. No, it doesn't taste exactly like that you harvested straight from the garden, but it's not mushy and still retains a bit of nice crispness.
I've never tried to freeze asparagus I've purchased so I don't know how that would work. Using our own from the garden, I try to always process it within an hour or two of cutting it and I do believe that helps with the whole process.
Hope this helps a bit so none of you have to be subjected to mushy asparagus. Yuck.
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