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How do you prepare beets for freezing?

Beets are a versatile and nutritious root vegetable that can be enjoyed year round when properly stored. Freezing is an excellent way to preserve beets for months while retaining flavor, texture, and nutrients. With a few simple steps, you can have tasty beets ready to thaw and use in your favorite recipes.

Selecting and Preparing Beets for Freezing

Choose fresh, firm beets with smooth skin and no bruises or blemishes. Small to medium sized beets work best for freezing. Avoid overly large beets, which tend to be fibrous and less tender. The variety of beet does not matter, though red and golden beets are the most common.

Wash the beets thoroughly under cool running water, scrubbing with a vegetable brush to remove dirt. Trim off the leafy green tops, leaving about 1 inch of stem attached. Leave the taproot and tail intact.

Beets can be frozen cooked or raw. Cooking them slightly before freezing softens their texture and reduces preparation time later. Here are the basic prep steps for each method:

For raw pack freezing:

  • Leave beets whole with taproot and stem attached
  • No need to peel or cut

For cook-freeze method:

  • Trim and peel beets
  • Cut into 1/2 inch cubes or slices
  • Blanch or steam beet pieces for 3-5 minutes to partially cook
  • Submerge in ice bath to stop cooking process
  • Drain and pat dry

Selecting Packaging for Frozen Beets

Beets are best frozen in rigid containers or freezer bags. Plastic containers, freezer-safe glass jars, or aluminum pans work well. Allow 1⁄2 inch headspace at the top for expansion. Quart or pint sizes are ideal for 1 pound portions. Sturdy freezer bags are a good option for bulk freezing in larger quantities.

Heavy duty aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap can also be used. Wrap each beet individually or in small batches with layers separated by double wrapping. This protects against freezer burn but can make it tricky to thaw just what you need.

Do not use cardboard, thin plastic containers, or thin waxed paper, as they are permeable to air. Freezer burn can cause beets to dry out, take on rancid flavors, and become limp in texture.

Blanching or Cooking Beets Before Freezing

Heating beets briefly before freezing helps stop the enzymatic processes that cause loss of flavor, color, and texture. Blanching also wilts the greens, clears dirt from crevices, and softens skins for easier peeling.

Follow these steps for blanching whole beets prior to freezing:

  • Bring a large pot of water to boiling.
  • Add beets and boil for 15-25 minutes until partially cooked.
  • Drain beets and submerge in ice bath for 5 minutes to stop cooking.
  • Slide skins off under cool running water.
  • Pack cooled, peeled beets for freezing.

To steam rather than boil, place beets in a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam 15-20 minutes until partially tender.

If cutting beets into pieces before freezing, they can be quickly blanched:

  • Bring water to boiling in a large pot.
  • Add beet pieces and blanch 3-5 minutes.
  • Drain and immediately dunk in ice bath to cool.
  • Pat dry and pack into chosen containers.

Syrup Blanching Beets

An alternative blanching method is to use a sugar syrup, which helps beets retain color and enhances natural sweetness. Make a simple syrup by combining 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar, and 1 tsp salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add beet pieces or whole beets. Simmer gently until heated through, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and cool in an ice bath before packing for frozen storage.

Dry Pack Freezing Cooked Beets

Beets that are fully cooked may also be frozen. Bake, boil, roast, or steam beets until completely tender when pierced. Allow to cool thoroughly, then slip off the skins. Cut into slices or cubes if desired. Pack cooled cooked beets into freezer containers, leaving 1⁄2 inch headspace. Seal and freeze.

Tray Freezing Beet Pieces

For small diced or sliced beets, tray freezing is often the most efficient approach. Spread pieces in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet or aluminum pan. Place in the freezer until completely frozen, about 2 hours. Transfer the frozen beet pieces to a rigid freezer container or zip-top bags.

With individual pieces frozen quickly, you can remove just the amount needed at a time. Return remainder to the freezer right away before thawing occurs.

Beet Greens and Tops

The leafy beet greens are also packed with nutrients. Blanch first for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Let cool, then squeeze out excess moisture. Pack into rigid containers leaving 1 inch headspace or in bags pressed thin to exclude air. Seal and freeze for up to one year.

Freezing Pickled Beets

Beets that are pickled may also be frozen for long term storage. Prepare your favorite pickled beet recipe and allow to cool fully. Pack the cooled pickled beets and liquid into rigid freezer containers, allowing 1⁄2 inch headspace. Make sure beets are fully submerged in the vinegar brine. Seal and freeze for up to one year.

Freezer Jam with Frozen Beets

Thawed or fresh beet puree can be used to make colorful freezer jam. Cook equal parts crushed beets and sugar together until thickened, 5-10 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and let cool before stirring in lemon juice and freezing according to your recipe. The beets add natural pectin as well as a vivid hue.

Optimal Freezer Temperatures

Maintaining a constant 0°F or below is ideal for long term beet storage. At this temperature, frozen beets will retain quality for 10-12 months. The freezer door should stay closed as much as possible. If the temperature rises above 0°F, beets may deteriorate faster.

Set your freezer’s temperature as low as possible for maximum frozen beet storage time. Monitor with an appliance thermometer to ensure optimal freezing conditions.

Freezer Burn Prevention

Freezer burn can ruin the texture of frozen beets, causing them to turn dry and limp when thawed. Follow these tips to avoid freezer burn:

  • Use high quality, moisture-proof packaging like plastic containers or heavy freezer bags.
  • Exclude as much air as possible when packing.
  • Seal containers airtight and press out excess air when using bags.
  • Avoid overpacking containers, allow headspace for expansion.
  • Wrap individual beets in foil or plastic wrap if using interim packaging.
  • Label packages with contents and freeze date.
  • Freeze in small portions to limit thawing/re-freezing.
  • Do not overfill freezer, air must circulate freely.

Storing Other Root Vegetables

In addition to beets, many other root veggies freeze well for long term storage including:

  • Carrots – Dice, slice, or freeze whole young carrots
  • Parsnips – Dice, slice, or roast and puree
  • Turnips – Dice or cook and mash
  • Radishes – Grate or slice into pieces
  • Rutabagas – Dice, cook and puree
  • Potatoes – French fries, mashed, diced, whole baby potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes – Bake, mash, slice, or dice

Follow similar blanching or cooking steps before packing these veggies for the freezer. Maintain 0°F storage conditions for best quality and maximum frozen shelf life.

Thawing Frozen Beets

Thaw just what you plan to use rather than the entire package to avoid waste. There are several safe methods for thawing frozen beets:

Refrigerator Thawing

For gradual thawing, place frozen beets in a bowl or dish in the refrigerator. Most pieces will thaw overnight or within 24 hours. Cook immediately once thawed.

Cold Water Thawing

Seal frozen beets in a plastic bag and submerge in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Small pieces may thaw in 1-2 hours, large whole beets may take 2-3 hours to thaw.

Microwave Thawing

Individual beet pieces can be thawed quickly in the microwave. Remove from packaging first and place in a microwave-safe dish. Thaw at 20%-30% power in short 1-2 minute intervals, flipping/stirring between sessions. Cook immediately once thawed.

Oven or Stovetop Thawing

Frozen beet pieces can also be thawed in the oven or on the stovetop. Place them in an oven-safe dish, cover, and bake at 350°F, stirring occasionally, until thawed, about 15-20 minutes. To thaw on the stovetop, place beets in a saucepan over low heat with a little water or broth, covered, stirring periodically until thawed.

Cautions About Thawing

Avoid thawing frozen beets at room temperature or warmer conditions. This puts them in the food danger zone for bacterial growth. Also do not refreeze thawed beets; cook and eat immediately for food safety.

Cooking and Serving Frozen Beets

Once thawed, frozen beets can be prepared as you would fresh beets. They are already partially cooked from blanching, so require just brief additional cooking. Here are some serving ideas:

  • Roast with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400°F until heated through, 15-20 minutes.
  • Saute chopped beets in butter, broth, or olive oil about 5 minutes.
  • Blend into soups, sauces, or smoothies.
  • Microwave individual portions 2-3 minutes until heated through.
  • Heat in casseroles, stews, or stir fries.
  • Pickle, can, or preserve thawed frozen beets.
  • Puree or mash cooked frozen beets.

Adjust seasonings as needed once heated. Frozen beets are convenient to have ready for recipes all year long.

Pickled Beet Uses

Thawed frozen pickled beets are tangy, tender, and ready to enjoy. Try them:

  • On salads or grain bowls
  • Mixed into potato salad or tuna salad
  • Served alongside roasted or grilled meats
  • As a burger topping
  • Added to sandwiches and wraps
  • On cheese boards or antipasto platters
  • As a pizza topping
  • In martinis and Bloody Marys

Pickled beets make any dish more vibrant in color and flavor. Their acidity balances rich foods beautifully.

Checking Your Frozen Food

It is important to routinely check the condition of items in the freezer. Look for signs of frost build up, freezer burn, or thawing/re-freezing issues. Discard anything past its prime or that shows signs of spoilage.

Wipe spills quickly and organize to eliminate clutter for better air flow. Remove older items first when using up frozen foods. Keeping your freezer clean, cool, and organized will ensure safety and quality of all your frozen fruits, veggies, and other foods.

Conclusion

Freezing is an easy, cost-effective way to enjoy beets year round. With proper preparation and storage methods, their flavor, texture, color, and nutrients are perfectly preserved. Blanching or cooking beet pieces before freezing helps stop enzymatic changes and improves results. Use rigid freezer containers or heavy duty bags, press out air, and maintain 0°F or below for best quality retention. Thaw only what you plan to use right away and cook thawed beets promptly for food safety and best flavor. Frozen beets are handy to have on hand for nourishing, vibrant meals and sides all winter long.