Recipes sometimes call for home cooks to blanch fruits or vegetables. While it may sound like an elaborate technique too tricky to attempt at home, it's not. Blanching simply means putting the item in question in boiling water, lifting it out after the prescribed time, and cooling it off quickly (often in a bowl of ice water). In short, it's a handy and super easy technique to know.
How to Blanch Your Produce
Prepare your workstation prior to blanching. Use a pot that is big enough to fit your vegetables or blanch in multiple batches. Also, prepare a large bowl of ice water and if you will be blanching multiple batches, have a place to store the finished product. A dishcloth or plate should work fine. If you are blanching multiple batches, you may need to replace the ice water, as the hot vegetables will quickly melt the ice. You'll also want a slotted spoon or tongs to help remove the fruits or vegetables from the boiling water.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. If you are blanching peaches or tomatoes, leave the water plain. For everything else, add enough salt so the water tastes a bit salty. A good dose of salt helps the whole process along, maximizes the flavor, and helps any green vegetables stay a vivid green color.
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
- While the water is coming to a boil, rinse, trim, or chop the fruit or vegetable as called for in the recipe.
- Once the water boils, put the items in the boiling water for the prescribed time (usually somewhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes).
- Drain or lift out the fruits or vegetables and transfer them to the ice water (alternatively, you can lay them out generously spaced on a single layer on clean kitchen towels and let them air-cool or rinse them under cold running water). Swish them around in the water until cool.
- Drain and pat dry. In the case of spinach and other greens, squeeze the water out of them. If you are blanching to remove the peel, wait until the fruit or vegetable is cool enough to handle and slip off the skin.
Why Blanch Fruits and Vegetables?
Blanching performs a variety of functions, depending on the fruit or vegetable at hand. A few reasons for blanching include:
- To loosen skins for easy peeling, as in the case of peaches and tomatoes
- To set a bright green color and keep vegetables from turning an unappetizing gray, as with asparagus, greens, peas, or green beans
- To leach out bitterness, especially in hearty cooking greens such as kale, collard greens, and dandelion greens
- To prepare vegetables for freezing
- To parboil items before adding them to a dish or later cooking them in a different method
What's the difference between blanching and parboiling? Blanching requires a quick cooling off in an ice water bath that isn't always necessary with parboiling. Parboiling is a way of semi-cooking the item, so it can cook for a shorter time in the main dish it is being used in. After blanching is complete, use your fruits or vegetables as the recipe dictates and discard the water.