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Monday, July 13, 2009

Freezing Spinach

Hi all. I really am here still. It's just summer time and the kids are all home and need lots of things to do, so I'm keeping pretty busy keeping them busy.

I had some spinach in the garden that was still green when I cleaned out the garden last year, so I left it in just to see what it would do. Come to find out that spinach is a biennial, so it's perfectly happy to live through the winter if it's not too harsh of a winter or is covered and start growing again in the spring. Very cool. So we've been eating this spinach, but it's just gone crazy, and then started "bolting" where it sends up a stalk and tries to produce seed. This was some random hybrid spinach, so I really wasn't interested in collecting seed from it, so I pulled all the plants and decided to try freezing it. Never tried freezing spinach, so I consulted my Ball Blue Book (usually a fantastic reference for freezing, canning, and dehydrating food) and here's the instructions:

Pick young, tender, green leaves. Wash thoroughly and cut off woody stems. Blanch 2 minutes and avoid matting leaves. Cool. Drain. Pack in can or freeze jars or plastic freezer boxes. Seal, label and freeze.

Sounds pretty easy. I am NOT a fan of cooked greens, so I figured if this didn't go well, it really wouldn't be a great loss and the chickens could eat my mistakes. Well, long story short, the spinach freezing went fine and is actually better texture than store bought frozen spinach. Might do this again. I put my little assembly line workers to work washing and picking the leaves off the spinach (their attention was intermittent at best--they really just wanted to play in the water in the sink, but I tried anyway). I despise dirt in my spinach (I think it tastes like dirt anyway, so it's not helpful to have the crunchy texture of dirt added in) so we washed it a bunch of times to make sure it was really clean. Then I thought whole spinach leaves wouldn't be too useful, so I chopped them up in about 1-1 1/2 inch squares.
Next was blanching for 2 minutes. That means you boil water and put the veggie in the boiling water and then pull it out after 2 minutes. I didn't want to be chasing little spinach leaves around a pot of water trying to pull them out, so I put the chopped spinach in cheesecloth.
Tied the cheese cloth in a "bag" to hold it all together and put a knot a little higher up so I'd have a place to grab the bag when the 2 minutes were up.
Put it in the pot, boiled for 2 minutes and used my pasta spoon to pull the bag out. Slick.
Opened the bag up and emptied the spinach on a cookie sheet to cool. After it cooled, I put it in freezer bags and stuck it all in the freezer. **Read the comments!--I should have cooled the spinach in ice/cold water to cool it properly before bagging and freezing it (turned out fine anyway, but that's the right way to do it).**
We used some the next night to make quiche that actually turned out very good (should have doubled it and made two). Pretty tasty for cooked spinach . . .
So there you have it. The almost fully illustrated guide to freezing your own spinach! :)


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