When it comes to healthy foods, lettuce rules the roost. Not because it is the most healthy, and certainly not because it is the tastiest. No, the ubiquity of lettuce comes from three factors: The fact that it basically requires no preparation, the relative ease of actually eating it, and its distinct lack of flavor.
Yes, you can freeze lettuce.
In fact, it’s a perfect vegetable to freeze. It is easy to prepare, so you know it is durable. It is not complicated to eat, so thawing it will not be hard. And it lacks flavor, so freezing and thawing cannot take that much from it. But whether or not you can freeze it is one question. The how is just as important.
How to Freeze Lettuce
Start by washing the lettuce, since you don’t want anything growing on it or eating it while it’s sitting in the freezer. Then, tear the leaves from the head of lettuce. After that, you need to spread it out on a sheet in the freezer until it is frozen. After it is frozen you can put it into a container to keep it frozen.
The crazy thing is, lettuce that is frozen in this way lasts for up to a year. There are only a handful of foods in the world that can be stored for that long, and most of the foods that can be stored for that long are full of preservatives. Lettuce just has a naturally long shelf life.
How To Store Frozen Lettuce
Lettuce can last a long time, but it doesn’t matter how long it can last if you store it wrong and subject it to bacteria or freezer burn. So, here are a few ways to store your lettuce after you freeze it in a pan.
This can be a washed-out jam jar or a fancy piece of Tupperware. In both cases, the advantage of the glass container is the same: It is sealed airtight.
Some people believe that the best way to seal anything is with a “vacuum seal”. People think that, however, not because they think everything should be vacuum-sealed, but because they misunderstand what vacuum sealing means and are under the mistaken impression that vacuum sealing and airtightness are the same.
Vacuum sealing means there is no air in the container at all. Airtight sealing just means outside air cannot get in. If you find a way to vacuum seal your lettuce, that works too. But remember that all you need is an airtight seal to get the job done properly.
The reason you need an airtight seal is because you do not want bacteria floating around the cold air of your freezer to land on your lettuce. This might give the impression that the bacteria will always make you sick were you to consume it; this is not the only problem you are trying to prevent with the airtight seal.
You are also trying to keep bacteria from consuming your lettuce. Due to lettuce’s fragility and the produce hygiene, you hopefully practice before using dethawed lettuce, bacteria consuming your lettuce is actually far more likely than you consuming bacteria from your lettuce. This is especially true if you kept the lettuce in storage for a year.
Zip Top Bags
This is a great storage method with very few drawbacks. Where the glass jars and Tupperware take up more space than the lettuce normally would, plastic zip-top bags can conform their shape to wherever you need to place them.
They can be sealed airtight as well, although check carefully whether they are sealed properly before you store them. Small breaches are unlikely to provide an entryway for bacteria at first. But if you store lettuce for a long period of time, a small probability becomes multiplied with every passing day.
So, in a way, their ease of use is also a drawback due to this risk. But at the same time, they are cheaper too, so if you use them properly, you won’t ever run into any problems.
Does Lettuce Need To Be Blanched Before Freezing?
Many guides that detail the use and preparation of vegetables like lettuce reference “blanching”. They advise you to do it before cooking, as well as before freezing for storage. But what is “blanching”? Is it necessary to do it in order to properly preserve lettuce? Is it important for making lettuce? What is the deal?
Blanching is the process of submerging your vegetables in hot water or oil. That’s it.
If it seems overly simple, that’s because blanching is always used in conjunction with other steps. For instance, blanching might be done before lettuce is mixed into a stew in order to keep the lettuce as hot as the stew.
Compare blanching to cooking; some meals’ entire preparation process is just “cook and eat”. Blanching isn’t like that. So, when you see a guide recommend blanching before freezing, what does that mean? Well, it is instructing you to submerge your lettuce in water before freezing it. The question is: Is this necessary?
In a manner of speaking, yes. Blanching, or something like it, is necessary. But that has less to do with blanching and more to do with keeping your vegetables cleaned properly before storage.
You will want to wash your lettuce before freezing it, and blanching is a good way to wash vegetables. Getting the veggies wet will also speed the freezing process, as the water cools faster than lettuce does.
This only applies to blanching in the water though. Blanching your lettuce in oil will fail to wash away any lingering bacteria on the lettuce and will make your lettuce freeze improperly as well.