As some readers know, broccoli is my all-time, hands-down favorite vegetable. I adore it in every permutation possible.
But it’s notoriously difficult to preserve.
I can hear you scoffing. Just freeze it, you’re saying! Every grocery store has packages of frozen broccoli.
But decades ago, as a young mother first dipping my toes into food preservation, I tried both freezing and dehydrating broccoli with dispiriting results. I followed the directions meticulously – carefully blanching for the precise amount of time, etc. – and the end product was inedible. Freezing turned the broccoli into a soggy revolting mush. Dehydrating turned it black. Canning isn’t recommended at all. Whatever I was doing wrong, it completely turned me off preserving my favorite veggie. I literally went 25 years without attempting to preserve broccoli in any way.
I thought about purchasing freeze-dried broccoli, but it’s prohibitively expensive – especially in the quantities I wanted.
Then last summer, a friend with a large garden emailed about how she was so overwhelmed with the amount of broccoli she had grown that she was dehydrating it like crazy. I immediately pounced on her experience.
The issue, apparently, came down to blanching. Blanching is a sacred practice within food preservation circles. It is defined as heating vegetables in boiling water or steam to slow or stop the action of enzymes. It also helps preserve the vegetable’s natural color (pretty ironic considering my early blackened results). Blanching also kills mold spores, bacteria, and fungus. I short, there are many reasons to blanch … except one.
I. Couldn’t. Make. It. Work. (At least with broccoli.)
So I turned to my gardening friend, who had enough surplus on hand to experiment with dehydrating both blanched and unblanched broccoli. In her experience, the unblanched dehydrated broccoli was superior in both taste and quality.
Okay, this was heartening news. After a 25+ year hiatus – and freed from the shackles of blanching – I decided to try dehydrating broccoli once more.
So last summer – this was before we moved to our new home – I purchased a three-pound bag of broccoli…
…cut it into small pieces…
…and put them in the dehydrator.
As it turns out, one three-pound bag of cut-up broccoli exactly filled the six trays of my dehydrator.
I set the temperature at 125F for eight hours (per the recommendation of this brand of dehydrator). The results – were terrific!
I mean, look at this! Nice color, good and crisp – just what I’d always hoped dehydrated broccoli would look like. What took me so long to try this?
Plus, that three-pound bag, once dried, compressed nicely into a one-quart jar.
However that’s all I got done with regards to dehydrating broccoli. Instead, we got caught up in the pressure of selling our home and moving, frantically preserving the garden produce, etc. Broccoli got put on the back burner.
Fast forward to last week, when I went a little crazy. On a rare trip to the city, I came away with ten, count ‘em, bags of broccoli. I reserved two for fresh eating, but had plans to dehydrate the rest.
Once again I went through the chore of cutting everything small.
I cut up two bags’ worth at a time since I pressed both our dehydrators into service.
We didn’t especially want the house smelling of broccoli, so I set the units up outside.
I dried it at the same temp as before (125F) and for the same amount of time (eight hours), but because the humidity was a bit higher than my last experiment, I had to add two extra hours of drying time (rotating the trays) for a couple of batches to make sure everything was dry.
This time I used some half-gallon jars for storage.
But what does this dried broccoli taste like once it’s re-hydrated?
I made a cauliflower stir-fry the other day using re-hydrated broccoli. I used some of the stuff I dried last summer.
I boiled a pot of water, then turned off the heat and added the dried broccoli to it, stirring occasionally.
After 15 minutes or so, it was re-hydrated…
…and I drained it.
After that, I simply added it to the stir-fry like any other cooked broccoli. It tasted great.
I can’t tell you how absurdly pleased I am to be able to preserve my favorite vegetable. Broccoli from here to eternity, baby! I can dry as much as I like.
This means that until such time as we get a garden established (next year), I’ll always have broccoli on hand.
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