How to Freeze Greens

Welcome again to Jennifer Locklin of Jane Deere!  For the second in her “Techniques” series, she brings us all the info we’d need to freeze greens for future use.  This swiss chard she’s working with here is just lovely.. she’s lucky enough to have grown her own, but you could of course use greens from your local farmers market or CSA box, if you’re thumb isn’t quite so green!  See the whole series. Originally Published on: Oct 13, 2010

How to Freeze Greens:  Collard, Mustard, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale

Here’s how to do it:

1. Pick the greens: Whether you are picking your own or getting them from a farmer’s market, make sure you select greens that are not too large or tough. Some leaves are naturally big, like collards and Swiss chard, so make your best judgment. Stay away from discolored, yellow leaves and leaves with a lot of bug damage.
*It’s very important, if you’re picking from your garden to harvest in the cool of the morning or evening, otherwise, the midday sun will cause wilting and you will defeat your purpose of having fresh, crisp veggies. Process vegetables as soon as possible. If not right away, keep in refrigerator or on ice.

2. Wash: I like to use a double sink method. Fill both sides with clean, cold water. After trimming off excess stems and any leaf damage, place desired leaves into one side of sink. Agitate leaves in water with your hands. Let the leaves sit in the water for about 3 to 5 minutes to allow all of the dirt and grit to sink to the bottom. After the time is up, skim the leaves carefully off the top of the water and transfer over to the fresh water side. Agitate again with hands and wait for another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from water, rinsing in cold running water for the final rinse. Place onto double-folded clean kitchen towels for drip-drying.

3. Blanch greens:  Fill large pot about 2/3 full of clean water and bring to a full boil.  Use one gallon water per pound of prepared vegetables. Put the vegetable into vigorously boiling water. Push down with tongs. The water should return to boiling within 1 minute, if it doesn’t, you are using too much vegetable for the amount of boiling water. Start counting blanching time as soon as you place the vegetables into the boiling water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and keep heat high for the time given in the directions for the vegetable you are freezing. In this case, 3 minutes. (Here’s a handy chart for cooking times: National Center for Home Food Preservation)

What & Why? Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.

Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.

Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size. Underblanching stimulates the activity of enzymes and is worse than no blanching. Overblanching causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals.

4. Shock greens: Shocking vegetables is the process of plunging them into ice water to immediately stop the cooking process. This preserves the color, nutrients and flavor.

Fill clean sink basin or large bowl with fresh water and a lot of ice. Using tongs or slotted spoon to remove boiling vegetables, immediately transfer to ice bath and gently stir and submerge allowing them to cool for about the same time as they cooked.

5. Drain: I like to gently squeeze the water out of the chard so that I’m not freezing a lot of ice crystals. Here, I laid multiple layers of paper towel on my counter top and placed squeezed bundles of greens to drain. I measured the piles based on serving sizes. I used about 1 handful per person to amount to a serving. I bagged the greens according to the servings I would typically use for a given meal or recipe.
6. Bag: A lot of people like the Foodsaver system, but I don’t have one yet. I used Ziploc freezer bags and squeezed out as much air as possible. Make sure to label and date your packages! Greens can be kept frozen for 8 to 12 months.
Resources: Cooking Times from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

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