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From scalding hot to ice cold – for vitamin-rich vegetables
Blanching requires lots of boiling water, a little ice cold water and hardly any time at all. This method for preparing vegetables is not only quick and easy, but also retains most nutrients.
Briefly placing food in boiling water and then plunging it into ice cold water is a cooking technique best known as blanching. More broadly speaking, this definition may also include the process of briefly steaming the food before submerging it in an ice water bath. How long the vegetable should be boiled for depends on the type of vegetable you are blanching – however, it tends to be under five minutes for most.
The term blanching derives from French and essentially means “to whiten”. In the past, blanching was mainly used for meat which, when briefly soaked in boiling water, takes on a white hue – thus giving blanching its name. Nowadays, blanching is mainly used for vegetables, but also for fruit and nuts. The biggest advantage of this method is that vegetables in particular retain their colour, shape, flavour and valuable nutrients.
Blanching can be a preparatory step or it can constitute the entire cooking process. It all depends on which vegetable you want to blanch. After boiling in the saucepan and submerging in ice water, leaf spinach is ready to eat. Firm vegetables, on the other hand, are usually blanched prior to freezing. This helps them to retain their shape and colour and, when the time comes, they will cook more quickly.
Cabbage leaves are often blanched to make them suppler and thus easier to turn into cabbage rolls. Blanching green beans is only a good idea if you plan on freezing them first and reheating them at a later date. They contain phasin which can cause stomach complaints, so they need to be cooked more thoroughly than blanching alone.
No matter what you’re blanching, you will need a large saucepan with plenty of water. When it comes to boiling the vegetables, they should be completely submerged in water. First, however, add a generous helping of salt to the water and bring it to the boil. In the meantime, prepare a large basin with ice water and have it at the ready next to the saucepan. By now, the vegetables should be washed, chopped and ready for blanching.
Once the water is boiling, place the vegetables in the saucepan. After a few minutes, remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them straight into the ice water. This immediately halts the cooking process. Take the vegetables out of the ice water almost immediately and leave them to drain in a sieve. That’s all it takes to get crunchy, colour-intensive vegetables that are rich in nutrients, yet easier to digest than when raw.
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