Broccoli

One of the few vegetables I always blanch is broccoli. For years I skipped blanching before freezing altogether. As I mention elsewhere on this blog, blanching affects food quality rather than food safety, and I wasn’t really tasting the difference with most vegetables. Besides, I grill corn, onions, eggplant, and most other veg before freezing, which makes a blanch step redundant.

Broccoli, I’ve learned, is a big exception. Frozen raw, it ends up tasting bitter and woody, even when you add cheese and stock to make a soup. I opt to place the chopped stems and florets in a steamer basket instead of plunging them into the boiling water. Hervé This explains in Kitchen Mysteries that hydrogen ions ultimately are responsible for cooked vegetables appearing brown instead of green. Putting vegetables directly into water only increases their contact with hydrogen. Learn to steam-blanch broccoli and make Broccoli Cheese Soup

Chowders

I’m a fan of thick, hearty soups. Although I make miso or hot and sour soup when I’m down with a bug, I gravitate toward soups that you know are filling just by looking in the pot.

Last week, I mentioned a range of thickeners that can be added to the pot. My favorites are flour-and-butter roux, as in 30-Minute Cherry Tomato Soup. and potatoes. Potatoes have the advantage of acting as both main ingredient and thickener and can be the prominent—or even the primary—ingredient; they can be added to the pot precooked or raw. Like tomatoes, potatoes are mostly water, but the portion that is solid is almost entirely starch. As you heat potatoes, the starch softens, expands, and gels, making the soup more viscous. Keep this in mind when you’re preparing a potato-thickened soup: Potato starch gels at a lower temperature than flour. The result is a far thicker soup. Learn to make Hearty Corn Chowder and Boozy Potato Chowder

Stocks

I can’t recall when I started making soup stocks. All I know for sure is that vegetable stock and shrimp stock have long been staples in my freezer. The pair meets most needs, but I keep a lighter Corncob Stock and heavier mushroom stock on hand when growing season and freezer space allow.

Like salad dressings, stocks are easy to make and adapt. They’re also powerful: Replace water with stock when preparing soup, a sauce, or even plain rice, and you instantly elevate your dish to the next level. But stocks can be too powerful: Store-bought stocks are often too intensely flavored and too highly salted. By making your own, you can control everything from content to salt ratio to storage size. They can be made with whole vegetables, but they’re equally tasty from the trimmings off another meal. You don’t really need a recipe, but a few techniques can help. Learn to make Vegetable Stock and Shrimp Stock

Under Pressure

I have vivid memories of a giant silver kettle rattling away on the stovetop, letting off steam like a rocket about to head to the moon. But I was likely too young to be involved in actually running this pressure canner. And by the time I was old enough, my mom had acquired a vacuum sealer and exchanged the steamy heat-of-summer process for extra chances to open the freezer door.

When I inherited my mom’s canning equipment more than a decade ago (with the caveat that I fill both our shelves with its results), I also inherited “the beast”: the heavy pressure canner capable of holding 7 quarts. I promptly broke it before I could even get its old seal tested. It now makes a lovely open kettle for cooking down applesauce and other large batches. I’ve never replaced it, and I’ve never missed it. And here’s why. Read more about (not) pressure canning