Monday, June 23, 2014

Spinach: Steaming, Blanching and Freezing

This was the first year that I've had a really successful spinach harvest since moving here. We direct seeded the spinach seeds and that seemed to help them establish. Evidently spinach doesn't transplant well.

We've been enjoying the young tender leaves in salads throughout the spring. We've had a cold, wet spring so I feel like the spinach season lasted longer before it wanted to bolt. Only yesterday did I go out to the garden and see the tiny flowers/seed heads forming. So I knew it was time to bring it all in.

We picked a bushel basket full of larger leaves and I made a Spanakopita (Spinach Pie) for dinner last night. It had feta, dill, parsley, and nutmeg wrapped in flaky Phyllo, buttery dough. It was delicious!

I intended on making more salads with the remaining spinach, but our lettuce is following suit in the garden and getting ready to bolt. So I think we'll use that up in it's fresh state because you can't freeze lettuce.

You can, however, freeze spinach. Frozen spinach works great in cooked dishes.

Some of my favorite are:
  • sauteed spinach with garlic, olive oil and soy sauce
  • spinach and artichoke dip
  • creamed spinach
  • spanakopita
  • soups
  • quiches and omelets
  • added to meals like meatloaf, spaghetti, or meatballs for a hidden nutritional boost. 

To store the harvest I decided to steam our spinach, then blanch and freeze it.

I washed the spinach thoroughly and broke off really large stems. For the most part, the stems don't bother me. Once the spinach is cooked, they soften and what doesn't, gives a bit of a firm texture that I kinda like.

I don't have a proper steaming device, but this collection/contraption of a pan, colander and lid works well.

I got about an inch and a half of water boiling, then, working in batches, I filled the colander with spinach and placed the lid on top. I let it steam, turning it twice till it was wilted.

Then I placed the spinach in ice water till it cooled to the touch.

I can't believe how much it cooks down. There's always a "wah, wah, wah" moment when wilting spinach. You start with this impressive bulk of leaves, and end up with this tiny compact wad. Oh well.

Once cooled, place on a clean towel and wring out the excess water. Like seriously...give a it a good two fisted wring.

Fill freezer bags in desired measured amounts and remove as much air as possible.    


doglady said...

I'm impressed that you grew enough spinach to fill a bushel basket. That will taste so good in the winter. Have you considered a Food Saver? I absolutely love mine. They even make bags big enough to freeze a heritage turkey or half a broad breasted.

Jennifer Sartell said...

You know, my mom had one when I was younger but I never really paid much attention to it because it was before I really started gardening on my own. I'm going to have to ask her if she still has it and if she uses it. Thanks for the reminder!

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