Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable and, therefore, worth growing in your garden or buying in larger quantities. But you may find yourself with more fresh cauliflower than you can use at one time. Luckily, freezing is an easy way to keep it from going to waste.
Freezing is the best way to preserve cauliflower. (It doesn't dehydrate well, and it will lose nutrients and get mushy if you pressure can it.) However, you don't want to just pop it into a zip-close bag and toss it into the freezer; you will end up with clumps of frozen cauliflower that will be soggy and flavorless. The proper steps for how to freeze cauliflower include prepping, blanching, chilling, flash freezing, and storing in the freezer. You will need a knife, colander, pot, bowl, ice, baking sheet, and freezer bags or containers.
Clean and Cut Into Florets
The first step to freezing cauliflower is to clean and prep the vegetable. Soak the whole cauliflower for a few minutes in water to get rid of any dirt or garden bugs. Then, remove the green parts and chop the whole cauliflower head in half. Cut out the solid stem section and divide the head into florets. You can break the florets apart by hand, but use a knife to cut big florets into smaller ones no more than 1 1/2 inches thick.
While you are preparing the cauliflower, have a pot of water coming to a boil on the stove. Also, get a big bowl of ice water ready.
Giving the cauliflower florets a quick blanching in boiling water before freezing ensures that they will retain a good texture when you get around to cooking with them. Once the cauliflower is separated into florets, drop the florets into the pot of rapidly boiling water. Let them cook for 5 minutes. Drain the cauliflower in a colander.
As an alternative, you can steam the cauliflower for 5 minutes rather than boiling it.
Chill in an Ice Bath
Immediately transfer the blanched cauliflower to the bowl of ice water. This stops the residual heat in the florets from continuing to cook them. Leave the cauliflower in the ice water for 3 minutes, then drain the cauliflower well in a colander.
To prevent the cauliflower florets from clumping together, a single layer flash freeze is recommended. This way the florets will stay loose, so it will be easy when you have a large container of frozen cauliflower but only need to take out a small amount for a recipe.
Spread the blanched and chilled cauliflower florets in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze for 1 to 2 hours. Transfer the frozen cauliflower to freezer bags or containers and label them with the date. Frozen cauliflower will keep for one year. It is still safe to eat after that, but its quality will decline.
Use Frozen Cauliflower
It is not necessary to thaw frozen cauliflower before cooking it. You can take the cauliflower directly from the freezer to make roasted cauliflower, cauliflower rice, or mashed cauliflower. When using the frozen cauliflower in a recipe that calls for fresh cauliflower, subtract the 5 minutes of blanching time from the cooking time.