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How to Freeze Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard. Collards and Other Greens

How to Freeze Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard. Collards and Other Greens

More photos and a PDF print version coming

If you like frozen greens in the winter, just imagine how good it would taste if you had picked a bag yourself and then quickly froze it at home!  It is also one of the simplest ways to put up a vegetable for the winter. Here's how to do it, complete instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated. The greens will taste MUCH better than anything you've ever had from a store.

One note: Do not except them to be crisp. ANY frozen green becomes limp, and is best used in cooking, not salads. It's simply not possible to freeze greens and retain the crispness. Freezing ruptures the cell walls.

Directions for Freezing Greens

Ingredients and Equipment

  • fresh greens - any quantity.  I figure one handful per serving.
  • Vacuum food sealer or "ziploc" type freezer bags (the freezer bag version is heavier and protects better against freezer burn.
  • 1 Large pot of boiling water
  • 2 large bowls, one filled with cold water and ice.
  • 1 sharp knife

 

Instructions

Step 1 - Pick or select the greens!

This is the most important step!  You need greens that are FRESH and crisp.  Limp, old greens will make nasty tasting frozen greens.  Select young, tender green leaves.

How many greens and where to get them

You can grow your own, pick your own, or buy them at the grocery store. About 14 pounds of greens makes 7 quart jars; or 9 pounds is needed per 9 pints. A bushel, which produces anywhere from 13 to 20 quarts, weighs 30 pounds. That works out to an average of 2 pounds of greens per finished quart jar.

Start with fresh greens - as fresh as you can get. 

Step 2 - Wash the greens!

I'm sure you can figure out how to rinse the leaves in plain cold water.  I use a large bowl of cold water and a colander to let them drain.

Step 3 -Hull the greens

Cut off any woody stems. or damaged pieces

Step 4 - Get the pots  ready

Get the pot of boiling water ready (about 2/3 filled) and a LARGE bowl with ice and cold water.

 

 

 

Step 5 - Blanch the greens.  

All fruits and vegetables contain enzymes and bacteria that, over time, break down the destroy nutrients and change the color, flavor, and texture of food during frozen storage. greens requires a brief heat treatment, called blanching, in boiling water or steam, to destroy the enzymes before freezing. Blanching times for collards is 3 minutes and all other greens 2 minutes..

Begin counting the blanching time as soon as you place the greens in the boiling water. Cover the kettle and boil at a high temperature for the required length of time. You may use the same blanching water several times (up to 5). Be sure to add more hot water from the tap from time to time to keep the water level at the required height.

Step 6 - Cool the greens

Cool greens immediately in ice water. Drain the greens thoroughly (this shouldn't take more than a minute).

After vegetables are blanched, cool them quickly to prevent overcooking. Plunge the greens into a large quantity of ice-cold water (I keep adding more ice to it). A good rule of thumb: Cool for the same amount of time as the blanch step. For instance, if you blanch greens for 3 minutes, then cool in ice water for at least 3 minutes. 

Drain thoroughly. 

 

 

Step 7 - Bag the greens

I love the FoodSavers (see this page for more information) with their vacuum sealing!  I am not paid by them, but these things really work.  If you don't have one, ziploc bags work, too, but it is hard to get as much air out of the bags.  remove the air to prevent drying and freezer burn. TIP:  If you don't own a vacuum food sealer to freeze foods, place food in a Ziploc bags, zip the top shut but leave enough space to insert the tip of a soda straw. When straw is in place, remove air by sucking the air out.  To remove straw, press straw closed where inserted and finish pressing the bag closed as you remove straw.

Step 8 - Done!

Pop them into the freezer, on the quick freeze shelf, if you have one!

Freezing keeps greens safe to eat almost indefinitely, but the recommended maximum storage time of 12 months is best for taste and quality. The quality of the frozen greens is maintained best in a very cold freezer (deep freezer), and one that keeps them frozen completely with no thaw cycles. Excluding any air from inside the bags which leads to freezer burn, by using vacuum-sealed bags, is also important to maintaining quality.

 

 

 

 

I love the FoodSavers (see this page for more information) with their vacuum sealing!  Here's an example of one model:

FoodSaver V2840 Advanced Design

This one is the least expensive of the Food Saver models that has all the advamced features, like automatic bag detection and sealing, which makes it faster and easier to seal.  And yes, you can seal and freeze foods with liquids (just freeze the unsealed bag in the freezer overnight, THEN seal it!)

About $135
4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews 

Features

  • Home vacuum-packaging system vacuums, seals, and shuts off automatically
  • Upright vacuum-sealing appliance with SmartSeal technology keeps food fresh longer
  • Push-button operation; built-in roll storage and cutter; automatic liquid detection
  • Crush-free instant seal; 2 vacuum speeds; 2 seal levels; progress lights; integrated bag opener
  • Marinate and canister modes; includes 3 quart-size bags, 2 gallon-size bags, and a roll of bag material
  • Measures approximately 6 by 18-8/9 by 10-2/5 inches; 1-year limited warranty

 

Tips:

  • Harvest early in the morning, especially if the weather is hot, to get peak flavor.
  • Harvest the greens at its peak maturity (firm, straight, not lumpy)
  • Process promptly after harvesting, or keep cooled in the fridge or with ice until then.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I've frozen greens but they seem so bland, starchy or rubbery after being cooked. Any idea why?

    Generally, that means the greens were either old to being with, or they were overcooked.  It only takes 2 or 3 minutes to blanch the greens, then plunge them immediately into ice water.
     
  2. How long can they be frozen?

    It depends upon how cold is your freezer and how you packed them.  Colder (deep freezes) are better than frost free compartments, which actually cycle above freezing (that's how they melt the ice).  Vacuum packing results in longer storage capability, too.  Thicker bags also help prevent freezer burn.

    In general, up to 9 months in a ziploc bag in an ordinary freezer, and 14 months in a deep freeze in a vacuum packed bag.  After that, they greens won't make you sick; they just won't taste a s good.


Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book