Part I of "What to do with your CSA box?"
Every summer, there is an overwhelming load of greens all around. I feel crowded in on all sides by the collards and kale and spinach and swiss chard...
But then the winter comes, and all I see is a wasteland of starchy root vegetables with nothing green in sight. (except for Snug Haven's delicious, but pricy, overwintered spinach).
So, my solution?
Use the magic of food preservation to store those extra greens until winter.
But because I don't have a pressure canner, and because--no matter what Popeye says--canned spinach doesn't sound all that appetizing to me,* freezing is my food preservation method of choice for greens.
So, this particular go-round, I prepped my collards and amaranth and mustard greens (and beet greens, which aren't pictured) for freezing. In this case, I guess I should be discussing "freezing greens and purples," since I was treating the beautiful magenta amaranth leaves as a kind of green. Although the amaranth leaves need to be cooked, you can basically treat them like a mature spinach and substitute them into any recipe that calls for spinach or other greens.
Blanching the greens before freezing is recommended because "blanching slows or stops the action of enzymes which cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. Blanching also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack." (From the National Center for Home Food Preservation)
After washing my greens thoroughly, I separated the leaves from the stems. I did this because the stems need a little longer to cook than the leaves, and I wanted them to all be evenly cooked at the end. I diced the stems, and chopped the leaves into 1-2" squares. My method of chopping the leaves is to stack them atop one another (in stacks at least 5 leaves tall) and then make slices from top to bottom, and then from side to side.
Then, I brought a big pot of water to boil, and submerged all the chopped leaves in the boiling water. I brought the water back to boil and let it cook for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, I steamed the chopped stems in another pot, for about 5-10 minutes, until mostly soft. I could've just boiled the stems in one large pot, and then thrown the leaves in after a few minutes, but I wasn't sure if I'd need to use the water over again (if there were so many greens that they demanded more than one round), and didn't want to have to go fishing out the little stem pieces with tongs (the leaves are somewhat easier to extract this way):
After boiling the greens and steaming the stems, I submerged all of it into a huge metal bowl filled with ice water. This stopped the cooking and cooled the greens off sufficiently so that I could bag them and put them in the freezer without using up all the energy of the freezer to cool them. I used the same method for bagging that I used for beans after pressure-canning: put one serving in old bread bags that I've saved, then roll up each of these and combine them all in one large ziploc freezer bag.
And into the freezer they went, to be unearthed next winter!
We'll use these greens for all kinds of things--tossing a batch into chilis, stews, lasagnas, enchiladas, etc. adds some much-need nutrition, color, and flavor during the cold winter months.
Any questions or suggestions?
*Ever wondered why the spinach Popeye is always eating is canned, rather than fresh?! You'll have to read my dissertation to find out...