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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Freeze Greens (Spinach, Kale, Chard, Collards, etc.)

Last year I went a little crazy with my CSA.  Besides getting my normal pickup, I would also buy extras of everything at the farmer's market from the same farmer.  Carl knows my weakness for vegetables, so would often offer me deals that he knew I couldn't resist.  Once I came home with 10 pounds of haricots verts!  Obviously, my small family of four (one of which was an infant) couldn't eat 10 pounds worth of green beans before they went bad.  So I started freezing them to use in the winter.  (My mom often says that I remind her of Laura Ingalls Wilder!  But she lives in California where she can buy whatever fruit or veggie in season at all times of the year.  We don't have that luxury here in Kentucky.)

The point of the story is that I found that you can freeze almost anything!  I'll post tutorials on other veggies as we go along, but today I'm going to focus on greens.  We get a lot of kale, Swiss chard, spinach and other greens in our CSA, and although I love greens, I don't always have the time to make something with them before they start going bad.  Also, I love to put spinach in my lasagna, but I only make that in the winter when it's not too hot to turn on the oven.  This is a great way to have great local spinach (or other greens) on hand when it's not in season.  When you want to use it, just defrost and add it to whatever dish you're making!

The trick is to blanch them first.  What is blanch, you ask?  We'll get to that in a minute, but first you need to prepare your greens.  Wash them in cold water.  At this point, I usually chop my greens roughly since most of my recipes call for sliced or chopped greens.  You don't have to do this, but I find it makes it easier for me later on.

Once you've prepared the greens, it's on to blanching.  Blanching means that you cook the greens in boiling water just for a couple of minutes to stop the bacteria and enzymes from breaking down your veggies in the freezer.  (You can find the specific blanching times below.)  Start the timer as soon as you place the greens in the water and cover the pot.  You can use the blanching water up to five times before having to replace it with clean water.

When the timer goes off, you will need to shock the greens in ice-cold water to stop the cooking.  I use my big pasta pot with the strainer.  Then all I have to do is pull the strainer out and move the greens to the ice bath in a large bowl.  You keep the greens in the ice bath for the same amount of time that you cooked them for. 

Once they've cooled, take them out, squeeze as much water out as you can and let it drain a little.  I like to make one-cup-sized balls (so I know how much each packet is in the freezer) and set them on a clean kitchen towel to drain a little more.  Once they're drained to your satisfaction, put them in freezer bags, remove all of the air (Ziploc Vacuum Bags work great here), and then layer them in the freezer.  Make sure you label them with what is inside and the date!  You can store them for about 9 months in a regular freezer or up to a year in a deep freeze.

Blanching Times:

Beet Greens 2 minutes
Chard 2 minutes
Collard Greens 2 minutes
Kale 3 minutes
Spinach 2 minutes
Turnip Greens 2 minutes

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Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction June 15, 2011 at 11:58 AM  

Brilliant! I always get way too many greens in my CSA box... Will definitely be freezing some now. Eating greens for every meal during the week gets old very quickly :)

Emily June 15, 2011 at 1:23 PM  

I'm so glad I saw this today! I have a bunch of greens left over from last week's CSA box and I'm about to get more greens in my new box today. I was feeling so guilty about some it going bad, but now I can freeze the leftovers. Thanks for the tip.

megan @ whatmegansmaking June 15, 2011 at 3:29 PM  

Great idea! I have a ton of greens at the moment and wasn't sure what to do with them!

Peggy June 15, 2011 at 7:49 PM  

Oh I love this tutorial Mindy! We're still getting loads of greens in our CSA so it's good to know that I can freeze them so easily =)

Sarah June 16, 2011 at 1:35 AM  

Great post! I always end up with way too much produce and I just so hate to waste it!

Anonymous,  November 29, 2011 at 8:52 PM  

Great tip definitely worth trying.
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I tried this last night and I liked it very much.

gluten free pasta December 11, 2011 at 10:00 PM  

This process will surely make your vegetables last longer.

beccles suffolk December 12, 2011 at 12:21 AM  

This is a really great tip, I've never heard this before. Thanks.

Karl January 17, 2012 at 4:42 AM  

I think it'll really make it better if it's frozen. Good thing you shared this tip. Thanks.
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F December 14, 2012 at 12:56 PM  

Pretty sure Laura Ingles didn't have a freezer! :)

I freeze my greens too. I put up 15 lbs of kale and chard and I can tell I'll do more next year.

They aren't quite as versatile as fresh, but they go great in soups, pastas and lasagna.

How do you use yours?

Mindy December 14, 2012 at 1:19 PM  

@Foy Update: I usually use my spinach in lasagna and kale in soups. Sometimes chard or collards go into stuffed shells. :-)

Sarah December 26, 2012 at 1:17 PM  

Thanks for the tutorial! We use our greens in smoothies a LOT, but we always use them fresh. Do you think they'd still be good in a smoothie once blanched?

Dina October 21, 2015 at 9:04 PM  

Hi! Thanks for this, it's going to be very helpful for me!

Any thoughts on how long I should blanch chicory for? I've been getting an abundance of it lately...

Unknown November 1, 2015 at 6:52 PM  

I put the bag of fresh spinach in the freezer as is....then I take out what I need and put some directly into my smoothies. So when bags of fresh spinach are on sale I buy several. I also buy the big bag at Costco and do the same thing. Works for me.

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