Last year I froze a lot of carrots and peas. I made two big mistakes: 1) I grew the wrong kind of carrots for freezing. If you will be eating your carrots fresh or canning them I wholeheartedly recommend the ‘Sugarsnax’ (hybrid) variety I grew last year. They are very orange and very sweet and stayed pretty darn crunchy when pickled. However, they do not have strong tops and therefore cannot be pulled — they must be forked or dug out of the ground — and they lose their snap altogether when frozen, reemerging flaccid and mushy. 2) I cut corners and dumped all my blanched veggies into bags before freezing.
What’s wrong with that? Well, even though I had done my darndest to dry the veggies before pouring them into freezer bags, they were still pretty damp. When they froze, they formed ginormous, solid clumps. Every time I wanted a cup of peas for tater tot casserole or a handful of carrots for stew I had to at least partially thaw they whole bag in order to bust off a chunk. (This can’t have helped the mushiness problem).
This year I not only grew a variety of carrot that is more highly recommended for freezing (‘Red-Cored Chantenay’) but I am taking the time to go through the extra steps to make free-flowing frozen veggies like the kind you get at the grocery store, so that I can pour off however much I need without thawing the whole bag. (The other option would have been to freeze smaller quantities but I opted not to because the quantity I need varies widely.)
Step one: Wash, chop, and blanch. A good food preservation book will give recommendations for how long to steam or boil your veggies. (I personally am quite fond of The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest and Stocking Up.) I like to keep the veggies in a colander instead of pouring them right into the water and then fishing them out with a slotted spoon.
After boiling or steaming, plunge the veggies into ice water.
Step two: dry. Roll the veggies in a clean tea towel and press or squeeze lightly.
Step three: freeze. Distribute the veggies on a baking sheet (I use an old jelly-roll pan so that the peas don’t roll right off. My pan is kind of gross so I line it with waxed paper.) so that they are not touching each other, and leave in the freezer for 1/2 to 1 hour or as long as it takes for them to be frozen.
Step four: bag. Gently dislodge the frozen veggies from the pan and pour them into freezer bags or other freezer-safe containers.