Recipes sometimes call for cooks to "blanch" fruits or vegetables. While it may sound like an elaborate technique, all it means is to put the item in question in boiling water, lift it out after the prescribed time, and cool it off quickly.
Yep, it's just that simple!
Blanch in 6 Simple Steps
This is really breaking things down to the nitty-gritty, but the timing (prepping the vegetables while the water comes to a boil) will keep your time in the kitchen efficient, and not forgetting to have a large bowl of ice water at the ready will keep that produce blanched, not boiled.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. If you are blanching peaches or tomatoes in order to peel them, leave the water plain. For everything else, add enough salt so it tastes the water tastes a bit salty. I am not kidding here. None of this dash-of-salt nonsense when it comes to blanching! The salt helps the whole process along!
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
- Meanwhile, rinse, trim, or chop the fruit or vegetable as called for in the recipe.
- Put the items in the boiling water for the prescribed time (usually in the 30-second to 2-minute range).
- Drain or lift out 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 or, in the case of spinach and other greens, squeeze the water out of them.
Congratulations! You've blanched something! It's as simple as that!
Why Would I Blanch Fruits & Vegetables?
Blanching performs a variety of functions, depending on the fruit or vegetable at hand. A few reasons include:
- To loosen skins for peeling, as in the case of peaches and tomatoes
- To set a bright green color and keeps pretty vegetables from turning gray, as with asparagus, greens, peas, or the green beans pictured here
- To leech out bitterness, especially in hearty cooking greens such as kale, collard greens, and dandelion greens
- To prepare vegetables for freezing
- To partially cook items before adding them to a dish (What's the difference between blanching and par-boiling in this case? That ice water bath—blanching involves a quick cooling off that isn't always necessary with par-boiling)
In short, it's a handy technique to know.