Can you freeze red cabbage? (+3 freezing benefits)

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you freeze red cabbage?”. We will also discuss the benefits and drawbacks of freezing red cabbage, how you can freeze it, and how you can thaw frozen red cabbage.

Can you freeze red cabbage?

Yes, you can freeze red cabbage. Freezing is a widely used preservation method to extend the shelf life of food. When you freeze red cabbage, the low temperatures inhibit the enzymatic activity and proliferation of microorganisms, preventing the deterioration of the food. However, it is important to mention that freezing can affect the texture of cabbage, making it softer after thawing. Besides that, freezing is one of the best ways to keep your red cabbage preserved (1,2).

What are the benefits of freezing red cabbage?

Overall, the benefits of freezing red cabbage are related to preserving its nutritional value and extending its shelf life (3,4).

Retain nutrients

By freezing red cabbage, you can effectively retain its vital nutrients, such as vitamins and antioxidants. The low temperatures inhibit enzyme activity that could otherwise degrade these beneficial compounds, guaranteeing that you will still benefit from them while ingesting the thawed cabbage.

Slow down microbe growth

When you freeze red cabbage, it can be kept for a long time without losing quality, since the freezer’s low temperatures prevent the growth of microbes and enzymes that lead to deterioration.

Convenience when cooking

Freezing red cabbage also provides you with culinary flexibility, as red cabbage is always available, regardless of the season. This gives you more freedom to use it in different recipes even when it’s not generally in season.

What are the drawbacks of freezing red cabbage?

The freezing process can induce physical and biochemical changes in red cabbage, affecting both its texture and quality. Because of the formation of ice crystals, and the subsequent expansion during freezing, the cell walls can rupture and disrupt the structural integrity of the cabbage. This cell damage leads to a softening effect, especially upon thawing, as the cell walls are unable to retain their original rigidity and crunch (5,6). 

The formation of ice crystals can also cause freezer burn, which can occur when air comes into contact with the cabbage, and can impact its taste and texture (5,6). 

The thawing and freezing processes can cause the cell walls of cabbage to rupture, allowing enzymes and pigments to seep out and change the color and flavor of the cabbage (7). Additionally, moisture loss due to the release of intracellular water during freezing might result in a less crisp texture and even a wilted look (6).

It’s worth mentioning that certain substances, including vitamin C, phenolic compounds, and anthocyanins, can be degraded by enzymatic processes, especially oxidative enzymes, which may result in a loss of nutritional value and sensory properties. However, during the freezing process, degradation usually does not occur until after 4 to 6 months (8,9).

How can you freeze red cabbage?

For proper storage of red cabbage, you should first wash the cabbage to remove any outer leaves and after cut the cabbage into desired shapes (2).

To avoid deterioration of your red cabbage, it is advisable to blanch it to inactivate enzymes such as polyphenol oxidase. Blanching is a process where the cabbage is briefly boiled and then immediately immersed in ice water. Blanching for about 1-2 minutes breaks down enzyme activity while retaining color and nutritional integrity, especially polyphenols (2,10,11).

After blanching, drain and pat dry the cabbage to remove excess moisture. Once you have blanched the red cabbage, make sure to drain and pat it dry to remove any excess moisture. Then, spread the cabbage in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for a quick freeze (2).

Once the cabbage feels firm to the touch, transfer it to airtight containers or freezer bags, squeezing out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Finally, don’t forget to label the containers and store them in the freezer at a temperature of 0 °F (-18 °C) or below (2). 

When it comes to cooked red cabbage, first allow it to cool down to room temperature. Then transfer it to an airtight container or a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible, and label it with the date of freezing. Place the container or freezer bag in the freezer at 0 °F (-18 °C) or lower (2).

How can you thaw frozen red cabbage?

You can safely thaw frozen cabbage in the refrigerator to ensure a safe temperature transition. By gradually thawing in the refrigerator, the cabbage thaws evenly, minimizing the potential for bacterial growth. Once thawed, you can use the cabbage in a variety of ways (12). 

You can also use the microwave to defrost your frozen cabbage. However, the microwave can unevenly thaw your food. Because of that, you have to make sure to reheat/cook immediately on the stove top until the ideal temperature of 165 °F (74 °C) especially to avoid bacteria growth and consequently foodborne illness (12,13).

Can red cabbage go bad in the freezer?

In general, no. Since you keep your red cabbage under constant freezing temperature, it can remain safe for a long period. As we mentioned before, freezing helps to preserve the cabbage by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and enzymes that cause spoilage (2).

It is recommended to consume frozen raw red cabbage within 10–12 months for optimal flavor and quality. Long-term storage may lead to the loss of some polyphenols (2,14).

Cooked frozen cabbage, can last for at least 9 months, but you have to keep constant low temperatures (2,4).

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can you freeze red cabbage?”. We also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of freezing red cabbage, how you can freeze it, and how you can thaw frozen red cabbage.

Reference

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References

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Silva CLM. Home Freezing of Fruits and Vegetables. In book: Frozen food science and technology, 2008.

3.-

lsailawi HA, et al. Effect of Frozen Storage on the Quality of Frozen Foods-A Review. J Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, 2020, 14(3).

4.-

USDA. Freezing and Food Safety. 2013

5.-

Zhu Z., et al. Measuring and controlling ice crystallization in frozen foods: A review of recent developments. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 2019, 90, 13-25.

6.-

 Van Der Sman RGM. Impact of Processing Factors on Quality of Frozen Vegetables and Fruits. Food Engineering Reviews, 2020, 12, 399–420.

7.-

Krause GH, Grafflage S, Rumich-Bayer S, Somersalo S. Effects of freezing on plant mesophyll cells. Symp Soc Exp Biol. 1988, 42:311-27.

8.-

Sablani SS. Freezing of Fruits and Impact on Anthocyanins. Processing and Impact on Active Components in Food, 2015, 147-156.

9.-

Fennema, O. Effects of Freeze Preservation on Nutrients. In: Karmas, E., Harris, R.S. (eds) Nutritional Evaluation of Food Processing. Springer, Dordrecht. 1998.

10.-

Watkins CB, Nock JF. Production Guide for Storage of Organic Fruits and Vegetables. NYS IPM, 2012.

11.-

Abu-Ghannam N, Jaiswal AK. Blanching as a Treatment Process: Effect on Polyphenol and Antioxidant Capacity of Cabbage. Processing and Impact on Active Components in Food, 2015, 35-43.