Thursday, May 17, 2012

Freezing Spinach – The Time is Now

Over the past couple of years I planned on freezing piles of spinach in the fall, since it is a cool weather plant. It is available in Michigan in the spring and fall. But, often the there is a small yield available at the farmers market in the fall. It seems that the flurry of summer activity followed by the threat of frost puts spinach – one of my favorite vegetables – on the back burner.

But in spring, it is front and center as the first fresh vegetable available. So, get yours now and get it into the freezer. It is easy.  I purchase mine in half pound bags (and I reuse the bags for my next trip to the market) and freeze what was one pound in individual zip bags. I use them the most for lasagna and for spinach dip.

The most difficult part of freezing spinach is washing it. The beautiful folds in the leaves can carry soil and it needs to be swished in a sink full of cold water to remove all of the grit.

Start by stripping the leafy part off of the stems. The stems are stringy when cooked, so they are best in the compost bin or I suppose adding them to a stir fry might work. And, juicing them in another option, of course. Fold the leaf in half and pull the stem downward to remove it.

After cleaning, here is my process.

1.       Tear the cleaned spinach leaves into pieces that are a few inches long.
2.       Blanch the (half pound before stem removal) spinach in a steamer for 1.5 minutes.
3.       Immediately put it into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
4.       Squeeze it out in handfuls and set them on a towel.
5.       Squeeze out the clumps one more time before putting them into zip bags. I put about what started out as one pound into each bag. Don’t put your whole batch into one bag unless you plan on using that much at one time.
6.       Flatten the spinach clumps out for more even freezing and press the excess air out of the bag.
7.       Put the small serving bags into a larger bag and set in the freezer.

When you use the spinach, it will thaw quickly in a microwave or in a pot with a small amount of water or butter.

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