QUESTION: Can I freeze fresh artichokes? What is the best way to preserve fresh artichokes? -Kim R.
ANSWER: No, artichokes can only be frozen after cooking and should not ever be frozen raw. If you try to freeze raw artichokes, they become discolored and will have a poor flavor when they are cooked. When selecting artichokes for freezing, pick out artichokes that are an even and uniformly green color, with tightly adhering leaves. The freshest artichokes should be big and compact and should be rather heavy for their size.
To prepare your artichokes for freezing, remove all of the outer leaves and the fuzzy choke (which is aptly named, as it is actually a choking hazard). Once all of the inedible parts have been removed, you will be left with the pale colored inner bracts (or leaves). Trim the tops and the stems and wash the hearts in cold water, using a colander to drain well after washing.
Once your artichoke parts are nice and clean, it is time to blanch them to prepare them for freezing for long term storage. When blanching most vegetables for freezing, you just boil them in water and then quickly move them into an ice water bath to cool. However, with artichokes, they need to be boiled in a mixture of water and either ascorbic acid or lemon juice at a ratio of 1/2 cup lemon juice or 1 tablespoon of ascorbic acid to 2 quarts water. This is to keep the artichoke globes from darkening.
Small artichokes should be blanched for three to five minutes, while medium sized chokes should be blanched for 7 minutes in the acidic water mixture. To help heat penetrate more readily while blanching, drill a hole into the base of the artichoke before boiling. After boiling, move the artichokes into an ice water bath to cool for the same amount of time that they were boiled. Then, drain in a colander and place face down on a clean towel to dry.
After you have blanched your artichokes, there are two different methods which you can use to freeze them for long term storage. You can either flash freeze your artichokes on cookie sheets before moving to suitable containers for long term storage, or you can move them into their containers directly and freeze them in their containers. To flash freeze them, place artichokes in the freezer on cookie sheets, face-side up, until fully frozen. Once frozen, place desired portions into suitable containers and return to the freezer.
Once cooled, blanched artichokes can be transferred to suitable containers and frozen directly. As they cannot be packed tightly together, there is no reason to leave headspace in containers when freezing artichokes. Once cooked, steamed artichokes can be wrapped in foil, placed in plastic bags, and freezed whole as well. Suitable packaging for freezing artichokes includes freezer bags, rigid tupperware or glass containers, or heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Frozen artichokes should keep for six to eight months before starting to deteriorate. To thaw frozen artichokes, remove them from the freezer and wrap them securely in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the artichokes in foil over steaming water until thawed and then proceed to cook them as desired. Alternatively, fresh artichokes can be stored up to one week in the refrigerator by sprinkling them with a little bit of water and putting them into an airtight plastic bag.