Whether for Mirepoix or just for dicing up in sauces, celery has all kinds of uses in the kitchen, but a significant problem with it is they seem to always go off no matter what you do.
If you try storing it in the fridge for more than a week or so, you will usually come back to find your celery sticks have turned into a vaguely green, watery mush.
Could you freeze them instead? What would storing celery in the freezer do to your celery sticks?
The Problem With Freezing Celery
While you certainly can freeze celery, it isn’t an optimal way of preserving them, simply due to celery’s physical nature.
Unlike a lot of root vegetables, celery is mostly made of water, which is what helps gives celery it's refreshing taste and crisp snap when you bite into it.
In the freezer, however, both of these things get destroyed. When you freeze something, especially something with a lot of water in it, the water freezes into ice. As the water freezes, it takes up a larger volume in the same space, which results in it beginning to break down the cell walls of the celery stalks.
This is why frozen celery never has that familiar crispness that fresh celery has; all of the frozen water has broken down the cellulose and made it more stringy than snappy.
Taking it out of the freezer itself is another problem as well. Defrosting celery causes those now broken cell walls to be unable to hold in the water molecules bound within the cellulose, resulting in the now melting water seeping out of the celery. This is why defrosted celery will look like it is melting and end up floating in a pool of water.
While freezing celery causes some problems, you can still definitely do it, though don’t hope for any of its crispy crunchiness. So, what can you use it for?
What Can You Use Frozen Celery For?
Frozen celery might not be as good as fresh celery, but it is still incredibly useful as an ingredient in recipes.
For example, frozen celery would go really well in things like soups, sauces or as ingredients in stuffing. If you are adding celery for the flavor and the nitrogen, rather than for crunch, then frozen celery would be just as good as fresh.
In fact, if adding it to sauces or to make stock, it can actually be even better, because it will cook down a lot faster.
How to Freeze Celery
To freeze your celery, you first need to make sure that you remove any dirt or debris found on the celery. Small bits of dirt or sand can cling to the interior of the stalks, so make sure you wash it thoroughly.
Next, for extra convenience, consider cutting up your celery now in the shape you will eventually want to use it for sauces. Having to chop defrosted celery stalks into the shape you want it is an arduous, messy task that no one wants, and this can help avoid it.
Finally, once it is prepped, you should quickly blanch your celery.
Bring a pot of water to boil and quickly dunk your celery in it for about three minutes. This will help kill any bacteria and halt any of the enzymatic processes already working to break down and decompose the celery.
Once blanched, quickly cool it in a container of ice water, and then pat it dry for freezing.
To avoid solid clumps of celery in your freezer from sticking together, freeze the celery lying flat on a baking sheet. Put the whole sheet pan in the freezer, wait a few hours for it to freeze, and then separate into individual containers or bags.
This gives you frozen solid, readily prepared celery that is in distinct pieces from the rest of the celery.
Keep it stored in freezer-safe bags and it can keep upwards of 18 months if you keep your freezer cold and the bag sealed.