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Other than peppers and onions, the general rule of thumb is that before you freeze vegetables, you have to blanch them.
The reason being that if you throw them straight into the freezer when they’re raw, their texture will turn from crisp to rubbery, and eventually, discoloring enzymes kick into action and reduce any remaining structural integrity.
Blanching vegetables staves off this self destruct protocol, galvanizing them just enough to survive the extreme temperatures of the freezer and the rigors of the defrost, but it’s not always practical.
Many people don’t feel comfortable trying cooking techniques they’re not overly familiar with, and blanching food does cause a few issues, so let’s discuss an alternative.
How Exactly Does Blanching Work?
Blanching sweet potatoes stabilizes them by siphoning air from their tissue, thereby reducing the chances of oxidization, and adding longevity to color and texture.
It also deactivates lipoxygenase, polyphenol oxidase, polygalacturonase, and chlorophyllase, the enzymes responsible for the deterioration of fruit and vegetables.
Why Blanching May Not be the Best Course of Action
Blanching is definitely one of the fastest way to prepare your sweet potatoes for freezing, and it’s certainly the most widely used method, but it’s not a perfect process.
- Blanching vegetables requires a very short amount of time in intense heat followed by submersion in ice water (shocking), but the process happens so quickly that not many of the microorganisms living on or in the food survive and are carried on into the freezing process.
- The biggest flaw in the blanching technique is that any water-soluble nutrients and vitamins are sucked out of the sweet potato into your pan or ice water. Vitamin C and potassium in particular are at risk of being leached away. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant that helps combat free radicals as we draw nutrients via food digestion. Potassium is essential for muscle function and a healthy nervous system.
Can You Freeze Sweet Potatoes Raw?
Unfortunately, you can’t freeze sweet potatoes when they’re raw. Their moisture content is too great and will begin seeping to the outer areas of the potato, which will lead to crystallization.
Crystallization triggers something called freeze burn that basically sucks the soul out of your food rendering it an empty husk. Freeze burns quickly destroy both the texture and flavor of food by drying it out until it crumples in on itself.
So, What’s the Alternative?
If you’re adamant about avoiding the blanching process, your only other option is to cook the potato via some other means, and the tastiest method is to bake them.
The first step of this process is always to preheat your oven. For the speediest results, you’ll need your oven to reach between 350 and 400°F. A medium to large potato should take roughly 55 minutes.
Smaller ones will cook much faster, and you may even want to reduce the temperature a little. If your oven doesn’t get that height, set it to its maximum temperature and leave your sweet potatoes in for longer.
Once your oven’s fired up, it’s time to give the skin of your sweet potatoes a good cleaning. If you have one handy, use a vegetable brush to scrub their skin. If you don’t have a vegetable brush, just give them a thorough wash with your hands.
The cleansing of vegetables is a very important, oft-ignored part of food preparation. Since sweet potatoes are root vegetables grown in the ground, they’re especially in need of a good rinse. Remember not to soak your potatoes as this will start the leaching process to some degree.
Now that your sweet potatoes are all freshened up, you should give them a few pokes with a knife or a fork. Don’t stab them too much, two to three times on each side is plenty. These holes vent buildups of steam, ensuring your potato doesn’t explode, leaving you with the clean up from hell and an empty stomach.
Next, you need to put them in their spacesuits! Give each of your potatoes a full tin foil wrap, set them on a preheated baking tray, get them in the oven on the middle shelf, and that’s that.
As cooking times for potatoes are heavily dependent on their size and shape, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with a temperature probe. If your sweet potatoes have an internal temperature between 205-212°F in their widest section, then they’re cooked to perfection.
Your next port of call is to remove them from the oven and leave them to cool, peeling some small vents in the tinfoil to help accelerate the process.
Can You Microwave Instead of Bake?
You can microwave your sweet potatoes instead of baking them.
It will be a much faster process, and it will keep the nutrients intact, but the final product won’t be quite as tasty.
How to Freeze Baked Sweet Potatoes
If you wish, you can freeze your potatoes in the foil they cooked in, but for the best results, you should portion them into resealable freezer bags.
The problem with using the tinfoil as the container is that it may not be completely airtight, and there might be some residual moisture on its surface that will crystalize in the freezer.
Don’t worry about removing the skin. A lot of people don’t like the texture of sweet potato skin, but if you can stomach it, it’s full of potassium, fiber, and vitamins.
If you’re portioning your potatoes, it might be worth flash freezing them on a parchment-lined baking tray before placing them in your freezer containers. This is just to prevent them from freezing together into a block.
A flash freeze should only take around 2 hours, at which point you can remove them, bag them, and place them back in the freezer where they’ll last a total of one year.
Side Note – Make sure you label your potatoes with the date you freeze them, so you always know how long they’ve been in cold storage.
Defrosting Your Sweet Potatoes
The best way to defrost sweet potatoes is in the fridge either overnight or over the course of a day. A gentle defrost will amount to the most succulent flavor and pleasing texture.
If you’re in a rush, you can pop them straight in the microwave on a defrost setting for 10-20 minutes. Failing that, set them to heat on full power for around 1 ½ minutes, check them, then heat in 30 seconds to 1-minute increments until ready.
Reheating Your Sweet Potatoes
You have a few options when it comes to reheating your sweet potatoes. If you’re a busy bee, the fastest way is in the microwave.
Depending on their size and the power of your microwave, they may need as long as 3 minutes, but it’s best to do this in 1-minute increments as it’s very easy to overcook them.
If your sweet potato is portioned for a meal you’re cooking, your second option is to throw it straight in your pan from the freezer. As long as the chunks are small enough, they’ll thaw and cook through with the rest of your ingredients.
Your third option, and the one that’s likely to yield the tastiest results, is to bake or roast them. If you have whole potatoes, simply do as you did the first time around. Preheat your oven to 350°F, wrap them in tinfoil, and set them to cook. This time they’ll only need between 25-30 minutes.
If you’re working with portioned potatoes, place them on a parchment-lined baking tray, drizzle with a bit of oil, season with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs and spices, cook for 5-10 minutes, and voila!
If you’re trying to eat healthy, not comfortable with blanching, or perhaps have no access to ice for shocking, don’t sweat it.
Both baking and microwaving your sweet potatoes can sufficiently prepare them for the freezing process.
Now you can stock up your freezer and enjoy sweet potatoes whenever the feeling takes you. Hurray!