Here's the proper way on how to blanch eggplant to prevent bacteria from destroying the nutrients and change the color, flavor, and texture of food during frozen storage.
Eggplant is an excellent addition to many dishes, or even eaten as a main ingredient. But a lot of people are put off because the eggplant they have eaten is bitter.
I can tell you how to fix that. It's just one of the things I will uncover for you in this article about how to blanch eggplant. Ready to find out more? Then, please read on.
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How to choose
Eggplants should be harvested when they are still young. Don't go by size, though. It is seldom an indicator of maturity. The best way to test an eggplant's readiness is by gently placing it in the palm of your hand and giving it a gentle squeeze with your thumb.
If it is ready to be picked, the flesh will give slightly, then immediately resume its shape.
When the flesh is hard and does not easily yield to thumb pressure, the plant is not yet ripe enough to be harvested.
When the indentation made by your thumb remains, it means that the eggplant is over-mature. It will have big, fibrous seeds inside it, and the flesh may already have turned brown.
Did you know that there's long-standing controversy about male and female eggplants?
Of course, gender-wise, you get male and female plants. I reveal more about how I found out about this at the end of the article.
The other thing you should know about eggplants is that they have a "dimple" at the end of the fruit referred to as the "blossom end."
There are two types of dimple
One is more round, while the other is more oval. The eggplants with the round circular dimples usually appear to contain more seeds.
They also seem to be less meaty, so when searching for the best ones to buy, go for the ones with oval-shaped dimples. These dimples are often referred to as "belly buttons."
Eggplants tend to bruise quite easily, so handle them gently when testing and harvesting. Never cut the fruit from the cap.
Cut the stem, leaving the cap in place on the eggplant with a bit of stem that is still protruding.
You also need to bear in mind that eggplants don't like cold environments. It means they don't store very well.
- To get the best flavor from eggplants, they should be consumed as soon after harvesting as possible.
- If you attempt to store them, wrap them with plastic, and keep them in the fridge for one or two days.
- Keep your eyes on them when refrigerated. They will quickly begin to display soft, brown spots and will become bitter.
- It is best to use eggplant while it still looks fresh, and the cap is still a little green.
Nutritional value and health benefits
Eggplants are fruits rather than vegetables; technically, they are berries. They have a low-calorie count, and while they are still not peeled, they contain fiber. They also have a little folate and potassium.
Nutrition Facts (1 cup cooked, cubed )
- Calories - 27.7
- Carbohydrate - 0.82 grams
- Dietary fiber - 2.48 grams
- Folate - 14.26 mcg
- Phosphorus - 21.78 mcg
- Potassium - 245.52 mg
- Protein - 0.82 grams
Preparation and serving
When you cook eggplant, it soaks up bucketloads of oil. It's because as it cooks, the air evacuates its cells, and the oil speedily replaces it.
Many people who cook with eggplant tend to salt and press it or drain it before cooking. Doing this process encourages it to lose much of its water, which means it will not absorb as much oil as you cook.
If you do salt your eggplant before cooking, you need to rinse it with cold water and pat it dries to remove excess salt.
To peel or not to peel?
That is the question. The answer lies in what the recipe you are using says. But if you are going to leave the skin intact on the fruit, your choice of eggplant, when you buy it, becomes an important issue.
Buying younger and more tender eggplant becomes key. It is because the older the plant gets, the tougher its skin becomes, and the longer it takes to cook.
By the time the skin has cooked, the flesh inside the fruit will be overcooked.
You can bake, grill, sautee, or steam eggplant. It is well known for its versatility and will go well with cheese, garlic, onion, and tomato. Don't eat it raw, however. It is not very pleasant.
Do not try canning or drying eggplant. It doesn't work well. In terms of preserving for longer at home, the best thing to do is to freeze it.
Cook first, then freeze.
Eggplant has high water content. It is because of this fact that it is not recommended to try freezing it from raw.
The question is, can you freeze eggplant? The best thing to do just before you pop it into the freezer is first to cook or blanch it partially.
There are two ways of preparing eggplant for freezing, and choosing the right method is dependent on how you will be using it later.
1 Freeze eggplant slices
If you are anticipating using the eggplant to make sandwiches or eggplant parmesan or putting it into a dish in pieces, you should cut it into rounds or slices before freezing.
- Cut it into rounds, each about one inch thick.
- Bake in an oven at 350°F for between 15 to 20 minutes (dependent on the size of the fruit), or until it just becomes tender.
- Allow it to cool and then intersperse the slices with pieces of wax paper to stop the slices from sticking together.
- Store in lidded containers or freezer bags.
2 Freeze Eggplant Purée
If you will be using the eggplant to make dips, sauces, soups, spreads, or stews, the best thing to do is cook the eggplant whole, puree the flesh, and then freeze it.
- Prepare the eggplant, prick through the skin with a fork, then roast it in your oven at a temperature of 400°F for approximately 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the fruit. When it begins to collapse, it's ready.
- Let it cool, then cut in half along its length. Scoop out the flesh, which will have automatically pureed, and freeze it in lidded containers or freezer bags.
- Whichever of the two methods you use, if you follow the instructions carefully, it will last for up to one year in your freezer.
How to blanch eggplant before freezing
If you have a fancy for eggplant parmesan during the winter months, just think how flavorsome it would taste if you'd harvested the fruit yourself and immediately frozen it at home.
Freezing eggplant is one of the easiest ways of setting aside a veggie for those cold winter months. Here's how it should be done.
What you need
- One medium, fresh eggplant. This equates to one serving. Remember, it cooks down.
- ½ cup of fresh lime/lemon juice per gallon of water
- A one-gallon pot filled with boiling water
- Two big bowls - full of cold water and ice.
- A well-sharpened knife
- A vacuum food sealer or Ziploc style freezer bags. Freezer quality bags are the best as they are heavier and offer better protection against freezer burn.
Step by step instructions
Step 1 - Get your eggplant!
You need the eggplant to be as fresh as possible. Whether you are harvesting a homegrown one or buying it from the store if there will be any sort of time lag between getting into the house and freezing it, keep it in the fridge in the meantime, or cover it with ice.
Ensure the eggplant is harvested or bought while the skin is a nice dark color overall, and before the seeds inside have matured. Different varieties of eggplant freeze more successfully than others.
As with various veggies, eggplants soften after being frozen and lose water when the cell walls split.
I find that the conventional black type of eggplants fares better than others, such as the purple types or the Chinese or Thai ones. However, is some recipes - Indian Baigan Bharta, for example - it doesn't make much difference.
Step 2 - Wash the eggplant!
Not much of an explanation needed. Simply rinse under the faucet with cold or lukewarm water.
Step 3 - Peel the eggplant.
Using a sharp knife, chop off the ends about one-quarter of an inch. Now remove the eggplant's skin. I find that an ordinary vegetable peeler works best.
Step 4 - Slice the eggplant
Cut into round slices - about one-third of an inch thick. Don't dawdle. If peeled eggplant is left exposed to the air for more than half an hour, it will begin to discolor.
Step 5 - Get the pots ready.
Fill a pan two-thirds with water, and add half a cup of fresh lemon juice. (Half a cup for each gallon of water). Fill a large bowl with cold water and lots of ice. You will need this to rapidly cool the fruit once you remove it from the pan of hot water.
Step 6 - Blanching eggplant
Fruits and veggies all contain enzymes and bacteria. Over time, they cancel out the nutrients and affect the color, flavor, and texture of the product, even when frozen.
To stop this from happening to eggplant, it needs to be blanched, boiled or steamed, to kill off these enzymes before freezing.
- Carefully immerse the eggplant slices into the boiling water. As it has been sliced relatively thinly, it only needs blanching for about 3 ½ minutes.
- Start the countdown immediately after pouring the slices into the boiling water. Cover, and continue to boil for the recommended time.
- If you are blanching a lot of eggplants, you can use the same water as many as five times. Just be sure to top it up each time to make sure there is enough water to cover the slices.
Step 7 - Cool the eggplant
When the time is up, take the slices out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon and place them straight into the bowl of iced water you've prepared.
Allow the slices to sit there for five minutes or so until they become cold.
This rapid cooling immediately stops any further cooking. Add more fresh ice if necessary.
Once cool, drain off the water and pat them dry. If you are going to be using the eggplant at a later date for eggplant parmesan, now is the time to dip the slices in batter, bread crumb, and wrap with wax paper.
Step 8 - Bag the eggplant
If you own a FoodSaver® vacuum sealer, you will know they are great for sealing foodstuffs before freezing. If you haven't yet invested in one, a Ziploc bag works nearly as well, although it's more difficult to get all the air out of it before you seal it.
Removing the air helps prevent freezer burn, and it is a fantastic way of sealing food items.
If you don't own a vacuum food sealer and use Ziploc bags, after putting the food inside the bag, zip it up but leave it slightly open at one end; just enough, you can insert a soda straw into the bag.
With the straw in position, suck the air out. To remove the straw, squeeze it where it enters the bag, and pull it out while zipping the bag up. The job is done.
If you are going to be frying individual slices of eggplant later, it is good to put a plastic film or wrap between the drained slices to prevent them from sticking to one another.
If, after draining, the eggplant is still very wet, place it into the plastic bag, leave it open and place it in an upright position in the freezer. A few hours later, when it's frozen, seal it without any hassle.
Step 9 - You're Done!
Put the bagged, sliced eggplant into your freezer. If you have a quick freeze shelf, use it.
Pick or buy eggplant when it is at peak readiness - when it feels firm, not limp. Cook it as soon as possible, or if there will be a delay before you do, keep it cool with ice, or store it in your fridge for no more than two days max.
Frequently asked questions
How long can they be frozen?
The length of time for which eggplant can be frozen is dependent on your freezer's temperature setting and how it is packed.
Proper freezers are preferable to frost-free compartments as these only operate just above freezing for keeping ice at bay.
- Proper vacuum sealing (as with a FoodSaver® vacuum sealer, or similar), will extend storage time.
- Use thicker plastic bags to help ward off freezer burn.
You can store frozen eggplant, in a Ziploc bag in an ordinary freezer for about nine months. This can be extended to 14 months if vacuum sealed and deep-frozen. Any longer, and while the eggplants won't make you ill, they will start to lose their taste.
Difference between male and female eggplant
Would you like to know how to go about choosing the best eggplant? I have eaten many eggplants in my lifetime, but sometimes I confess that they tasted somewhat bitter.
I have gone down the route of slicing and generously salting and leaving them to sweat for a while before washing clean and patting dry, to try and get rid of the bitterness. It helps, but not always entirely.
However, now my darkness has been lightened. I now know how to pick the best eggplant without fail.
When recently shopping at a local farmer's market, I happened to come across a woman on one of the veggie stalls talking about eggplants.
I got closer, so I could hear what she had to say. She said something I had previously not known.
Eggplants have a gender. They are male or female.
Well, gender wars being what they are, if like me you're a woman, you will think that the female is in the ascendancy, whereas if you're a man, you'll think the opposite.
But when it comes to the eggplant, however, the answer is clear. The male plant is best, well, in terms of eating anyway. Sad, but true.
Mother Nature figured that the female eggplant should be more about seeds and reproducing than tasting good. It appears that the more seeds a plant has, the more babies are likely to be forthcoming.
But science puts a slightly different interpretation on it. The University of Illinois Extension says the seed issue is more about reproduction than gender, and I have to say, I wholeheartedly agree.
When it comes down to seed being a gender issue, there is another fact that flies in its face.
It is that the maturity of eggplant has a big part to play. Apparently, younger, smaller eggplants have fewer seeds than older, bigger ones.
In further support of the female eggplant, if they have more seeds, which makes them more bitter, this is not to attract seed eaters.
Let's face it; we females have a hard life at the best of times, let alone having to be concerned about your seeds eaten. Am I right, or am I right?
There is something else too. Female eggplants are often a little rounder than their male counterparts. Now, how about that?
But, on the subject of eggplant belly buttons - take a look at this picture below.
The one on the left - with the slit belly button, is the female, and the one on the right - with the round belly button, is the male.
When all is said and done, you have to make up your own mind. Ever since I heard that lady at the farmer's market, I have gone by the belly button thing.
If you see someone frantically rummaging through the eggplants on display, it's probably me - looking for MR right.
It may be just the power of suggestion, but it seems to work for me. I am hunting the male of the species, and bitter eggplants are a thing of the past.
Blanching Eggplant for Freezing
- Vacuum food sealer
- vacuum sealer bags or Ziplock bags
- Cutting board
- Big bowl for an ice bath
- 2 fresh eggplants
- ½ cup lemon or lime juice
- water (for blanching)
- Ensure the eggplant is harvested or bought while the skin is a nice dark color overall, and before the seeds inside have matured. Wash the eggplant thoroughly.
- Using a sharp knife, chop off the ends about one-quarter of an inch. Now remove the eggplant’s skin. I find that an ordinary vegetable peeler works best.
- Cut into round slices – about one-third of an inch thick. Don’t dawdle. If peeled eggplant is left exposed to the air for more than half an hour, it will begin to discolor.
- Fill a pan two thirds with water, and add half a cup of fresh lemon juice. (Half a cup for each gallon of water). Fill a large bowl with cold water and lots of ice. You will need this to rapidly cool the fruit once you remove it from the pan of hot water.
- Carefully immerse the eggplant slices into the boiling water. As it has been sliced relatively thinly, it only needs blanching for about 3 ½ minutes. Start the countdown immediately after pouring the slices into the boiling water. Cover, and continue to boil for the recommended time.
- When the time is up, take the slices out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon and place straight into the bowl of iced water you’ve prepared. Allow the slices to sit there for five minutes or so until they become cold. This rapid cooling immediately stops any further cooking. Add more fresh ice if necessary.
- If you own a FoodSaver® vacuum sealer, you will know they are great for sealing foodstuffs before freezing. If you haven’t yet invested in one, a Ziploc bag works nearly as well, although it’s more difficult to get all the air out of it before you seal it. Removing the air helps prevent freezer burn, and it is a fantastic way of sealing food items.
- Put the bagged, sliced eggplant into your freezer. If you have a quick freeze shelf, use it.