Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Freezing Asparagus So It Doesn't Turn Into Inedible Mush

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.


Michelle said...

I haven't had the asparagus to try this with, but the recipe uses ALL your asparagus – even the woody stems! (Let me know if YOU try it!)

Sam I Am...... said...

I wish I still had my asparagus bed. Your instructions are wonderful. When there were 6 in our family there was never any leftover to freeze! My daughter has a bed and they eat it all too! You do work very hard but what a feeling of satisfaction!

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

I never get enough to freeze for us, but I'm expanding my asparagus bed this fall, so next year I can get more plants started. It'll be a few years after that but that's the plan anyway.

Nancy In Boise said...

Sounds good! I heard that if you peel tough asparagus like peeling a potato that is actually tender underneath I don't know if that would work? Would give you a little bit less waste. Wish I had room to grow asparagus! Looks great

Rosalea said...

Next spring! I have been growing asparagus from seed, and next spring it will be old enough to harvest. It is in a 4' X 12' raised bed that was well manured before my transplants went in. I love asparagus, hubby not so much. All the more for me then! Thanks for the tutorial, Mama Pea. It is so much better to get info from someone who has done it successfully.

Hummingbird said...

Thank you Mama Pea. I was one of the ones who asked. I was blanching the whole spear, not cutting them up. My asparagus is done for this year, but I'll try your method with the spears cut up next spring. I was going to pull half of my plants but will give it another try next year. I'm also thinking it could be the variety I have planted. My stalks are much thicker than yours. We shall see.

Mama Pea said...

Michelle - I read through the recipe. Don't know what to say, but using the "tough" ends to make the stock sounds feasible. That part of the spear just seems so . . . so . . . so unappetizing! I kid you not when I say it's sometimes so wood-like I can hardly cut through it with a sharp knife. But maybe you would get some extra nutritional value from making the stock with that part. The recipe doesn't pique my interest enough to try it though. :o\

Sam I Am - Oh, I can see how feeding a family of six wouldn't make for any leftovers from even an ample picking! But isn't it wonderful when it's fresh from the garden? Yum!

Kristina - It's hard to know just how big an asparagus patch is right for one's own needs. But you do know that you could use more than you have so go for it! You'll be glad you did.

Nancy - Yes, the waste in those tough ends does bother me. After I found out the poultry wouldn't eat them, I thought at least they add something to the compost. You know, giving whatever they have back to the soil eventually! With my next batch of them, I'm going to try peeling as you suggest and see what I find underneath.

Rosalea - Wow, good for you for starting your plants from seed. I bought our two year old roots from a nursery, but still had to wait a full two years to start harvesting. Thanks for your kind words, but when I do a tutorial post like that, I'm always hesitant because it might not work for everyone. But we all have to start somewhere and I do know it definitely works for me.

Hummingbird - My stalks are usually more like you describe yours . . . much thicker. I was really concerned about the size of mine at first this year, but then figured it must have had something to do with our extreme lack of rainfall. Fortunately, the thinner stalks have just kept coming up and I'm getting enough to freeze so the asparagus must be surviving. Hoping for nicer stalks again next year. And more natural rain! As far as cooking the whole spear, I know they have special "asparagus cookers" that are tall and narrow so the stalks stand up and I'm assuming the water in it doesn't come all the way up to the tender part and tips. Perhaps that would make the spears not quite so over-cooked? Dunno, as I've never used one. Anywho, good luck with yours next year!

BethB from Indiana said...

I hated asparagus until I was in my 40s and had some that was properly prepared and served--usually in higher-end restaurants. They knew how to do it just like you do. The reason I hated it was my mom served canned asparagus!! I know, gross, yuck, smelly! I think it was all we could afford. My sister still likes it right out of the can but also buys fresh, too. To my knowledge, neither my mom or either sister has even tried to grow it, and I've never gardened in my life, unfortunately.

This was an excellent blog entry--interesting, informative, easy-to-follow, and well-illustrated. Thanks so much for taking the time. said...

Excellent instruction for Freezing Asparagus ! I bet it would work great on store bought too ! Thank- you, Mama Pea!! Always enjoy your recipes! Take care!

Mama Pea said...

BethB - Thanks for the nice words regarding the tutorial. I appreciate hearing that.

linnellnickerson - The only thing I would wonder about with the store bought asparagus is . . . how old is it when it arrives in the store from where it was grown? Would that affect the way it would react to the blanching and freezing? Perhaps it would be just fine, but I don't know for sure. Thanks for your nice words!

Endah Murniyati said...

Lovely harvest. the asparagus looks so fresh.

Mama Pea said...

Endah Murniyati - I try very hard to process our garden produce as quickly as I can after it comes in from the garden. It's best that way!

JustGail said...

I suspect more people would love more vegetables if their first exposure wasn't mushy boiled to death versions we usually get shoved in front of us as kids.

I've peeled those tough ends, unless you have *really* thick spears, it's not worth the trouble. The only thing I can think of to use them that's not lots of work is to chop them up a bit, cook until tender then run through the mill or strainer and end up with asparagus paste(?) for... something. Otherwise it's to the compost they go.

I don't think I dried mine before freezing, I hope I remember that next year. Also, I've found steaming works better than putting it in boiling water, even for fresh from garden. Even that doesn't touch roasted with a touch of garlic and olive oil though, IMHO.

Mama Pea said...

JustGail - When I first met my husband he professed to hate green beans. I couldn't understand why until I found out his mom bought canned ones and then cooked them to gray mush!

Truth to tell, I'm sure steaming any veggie is better for us because by boiling (even briefly) we lose some of the nutrients in the water. With steaming that wouldn't happen!

Roasted asparagus with a touch of garlic and olive oil? Sounds gooood!

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