Cauliflower can be eaten raw or cooked and prepared in a variety of different ways.
The various ways of cooking cauliflower allow it to adopt a slightly different taste profile and texture, from purees and crunchy snacks, to cauliflower rice, salad, curry, or battered and deep-fried florets.
Cauliflower does not have a very long shelf life, but the good news is that you can preserve cauliflower in the freezer for 8 months. You will need to take a little extra care to prepare the cauliflower for freezing to ensure it remains well-preserved.
Below is everything you need to know about freezing cauliflower successfully.
Types of Cauliflower
Generally available as a white vegetable with green outer leaves, cauliflower is a wonderfully versatile vegetable. The leaves are edible but are often removed with only the head of cauliflower being used in meals. Cauliflower also comes in orange, green, and purple varieties.
Cauliflower can be boiled, steamed, roasted, pickled, grilled, and eaten raw. It is often added to curries, stews, and casseroles, served as a side dish with cheese sauce, incorporated into a salad, or served raw with a dip.
Cauliflower can also be turned into a rice replacement by finely chopping or pulsing the florets to look like grains of rice. The vegetable has also gained popularity as a gluten-free flour substitute to make pizza bases.
Can You Freeze Cauliflower?
Cauliflower has a crunchy texture that softens on cooking. Freezing cauliflower is a good way to preserve the vegetable to avoid waste and it makes for convenient meal preparation.
Cauliflower does require some preparation before freezing to prevent a soggy texture once thawed.
As a fresh vegetable, cauliflower naturally contains ripening enzymes that continue to function while frozen. The ripening enzymes eventually cause the vegetable to spoil if not blanched in hot water before freezing.
Another factor affecting the texture of the cauliflower on freezing is the formation of ice crystals. Ice crystals damage the cell walls of the cauliflower resulting in softer, less crisp florets once thawed. Cauliflower is a pretty hardy vegetable and if prepared correctly will last for 8 months in the freezer at excellent quality.
Frozen cauliflower is best to use in cooked dishes as the texture won’t be quite as crisp once thawed making it unsuitable for salads.
How To Blanch and Freeze Cauliflower
Always freeze cauliflower when it is still fresh. If the cauliflower is nearing its expiry, it will not freeze well.
Step 1: Wash
Remove the green outer leaves of the cauliflower and wash the head thoroughly to remove any sand or critters hiding between the florets.
For thorough cleaning, soak the cauliflower in saltwater. Fill a bowl with water and add one to 2 tablespoons of salt. Stir to dissolve. Leave the cauliflower in the water for a few minutes and rinse.
Step 2: Cut
Remove any damaged or brown florets and cut away the bottom hard stem of the cauliflower head. Now, separate the florets from each other and cut the florets into smaller pieces removing them from the head.
Step 3: Blanch
Boil a pot of water on the stovetop. While the water is heating up, fill a separate bowl with ice water. The larger sizes of cauliflower cuts will take longer to blanch, so if you cut big chunks, add them into the pot of boiling water first.
After they have cooked for one minute, add the medium size florets to the pot. After another minute, add the smallest pieces and boil for only 60 more seconds. If you cook the cauliflower for too long, it will become soft and mushy on thawing.
Immediately remove the cauliflower and place it into the ice water to stop the cooking process.
Step 4: Dry
Once cold, drain the cauliflower from the ice water. Dry it with a clean kitchen towel to remove water droplets and excess moisture.
Step 5: Flash Freeze
Spread the florets out on a lined baking sheet and place it in the freezer. Only leave them in for an hour or just long enough to freeze. The flash freeze method prevents the cauliflower from sticking together when packed.
Step 6: Pack
Pack the cauliflower into resealable freezer bags. Press out all the air before sealing. The more air or moisture around the cauliflower the greater chance there is of freezer burn developing and textural damage.
Step 7: Label and Freeze
Write the date of freezing on the bag so you know how long the cauliflower has been frozen.
How To Thaw Frozen Cauliflower
Since cauliflower is best used in cooked dishes after freezing, there is no need to thaw it. You can take the cauliflower straight out of the freezer and add it to the dish you are cooking.
Since there has already been some textural breakdown during the blanching and freezing process, frozen cauliflower won’t require a long cooking time.
Keeping cauliflower frozen saves time, food waste, and essentially money. Flash freezing the cauliflower before packaging prevents the florets from clumping together and allows you to remove only as much as you need from the freezer at a time.
Whether used in a quiche, casserole, pie, soup or transformed into a pizza base, frozen cauliflower can be incorporated and cooked in many different and delicious ways.
See more: Can You Freeze Broccoli?