In the days before refrigeration, root vegetables were prized for their keeping qualities. In the cool and dark of a root cellar, carrots, rutabagas and other vegetables could be kept edible for months. Few modern cooks have a root cellar at their disposal, so freezing root vegetables is a more convenient option for long storage. In most cases, it's best to dice the vegetables into cubes before freezing them.
Choosing Your Vegetables
Most root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips and rutabagas, freeze well when diced. So does winter squash, which isn't a root vegetable but shares many of the same characteristics. Beets are an exception and should always be cooked whole, because they'll bleed flavor and color if they're diced. Choose mid-size vegetables, free from visible blemishes and insect damage. Trim off any remaining greens as soon as you get home from the market, because they'll draw on the vegetable for nutrients and cause it to deteriorate.
Preparing Your Vegetables
Scrub or rinse your vegetables well, before you begin. The skins or rinds of your vegetables often contain natural bacteria from the soil they were grown in, and if you simply begin peeling or cutting you can carry those bacteria from the skin into the vegetables themselves. Peel the vegetables using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, and cut them into cubes. For most vegetables, a 1/2-inch dice is an appropriate size, though 1/4-inch cubes are often better for carrots because they're smaller.
Blanching Your Vegetables
Vegetables all contain natural enzymes that break them down, freeing up their nutrients to enrich the soil. That's a good thing in nature, but it's less desirable in your freezer. To stop those enzymes, diced root vegetables should always be blanched in boiling water or steam before they're frozen. Boil the vegetables in small batches for 2 to 3 minutes in a large pot of well-salted water, then transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. If you have a steamer, you can steam the vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes instead. Once chilled, they can be drained and packaged.
Freezing Your Vegetables
You can package your root vegetables separately in individual bags or containers, or combine your favorites in meal-size packages. If you're putting them in rigid freezer containers, allow a half-inch at the top so the vegetables can expand as they freeze. Otherwise, vacuum-seal the vegetables or pack them into individual freezer bags and squeeze out as much air as possible. If you'd like to have well-separated individual cubes, as with commercially frozen vegetables, freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Then, once they're frozen, pack them airtight into freezer bags.
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