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.
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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