Sunday, June 6, 2010

how to freeze spinach

I'm not going to try to hide this from you. The other day, I ripped out a whole bed of spinach. It was a lot of spinach, and I froze it all, and the whole process from first pick to last sweep in the kitchen took me all of two and a half hours. There were several necessary tasks that I was avoiding at the time, and all the while, I insisted to myself that the world would stand still for my spinach processing- that this was the most important thing I could possibly be doing with my afternoon. Squirreling away greens for my family that I would pull out in the dead of winter? Nothing could trump that one. When I finally emerged with dirt on my face and spinach roots in my hair, I had exactly 3 half-pound bags of spinach to stack in my freezer.

Yup, I'd be shying away from the obvious if I didn't admit that I was a bit looney to engage in the process at all.

Don't get me wrong- you absolutely want to start freezing greens, especially if you have a busting garden or you can't quite keep up with your farm share. In the winter, I assure you that you will take great joy at throwing your own kale-sicle into a pot of soup. We'll talk about the freezing of various greens over the coming weeks, but just so you're not dying of suspense, I'll tell you right now that you can freeze kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, collards- you name it. The method is pretty much the same with every green, but today we're just going to talk about spinach.

Are you ready for it? Would you like to get really dirty, bring a whole lot of crazy bugs into your kitchen, and then work for a couple of hours just so you can create a few satisfying bags of perfect green loveliness?

Me too! I love this stuff.

If your spinach is washed, and in neat bags from you farm share or the market, this whole process will much quicker and cleaner. But if there is anyone out there who, like me, has recently (or are procrastinating, and you need to do it today!) pulled out a bed of spinach that has just started to bolt, we're going to start at the beginning. So here, in just 13 easy steps...

How to Freeze Spinach

If the spinach is still in the ground:

1. Pick it! If it is getting too big and starting to flower, pull the whole plants out.
2. Separate the leaves from the stems. (Note: as my friend Jen reminded me, you don't have to make a big mess. You can shear the leaves off the plants and pull out the roots later, or just let them decompose in the soil) Fill every bowl and pot in your house with the leaves. Compost the stems.
3. Wash the leaves. Fill the bowls with water, and add a drop of white or apple cider vinegar to the water. Swish around, and then drain.
4. Repeat step three. Remove the snails that have sped up the sides of the bowls in panic.
5. If your spinach was especially dirty, repeat again.

If your spinach is already washed by some saintly farmer, start here:

6. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
7. Fill a large bowl (if you have any left that aren't filled with spinach) with ice water. Place nearby to the heating pot on the stove.
8. When the water is boiling, put about 4 large handfuls of clean spinach leaves into the boiling water. Keep them submerged for about 15 seconds.
9. With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the spinach from the boiling water, and submerge into the ice water. Keep submerged in ice water for 10 seconds.

10. Remove the spinach from the ice water, squeezing out excess water. Put the spinach onto a cutting board.

11. Chop roughly.
12. Choose your portions according to how much spinach you like to use at once. Perhaps you have a favorite recipe that calls for 4 cups? Then fill your bag with four cups. I like to fill my bags with 8 ounces of chopped spinach. Whatever your preference, put your spinach into freezer bags, and label them with the amount that you chose.
13. Shake the contents to make a nice flat bag. It has taken me years to really learn this trick from my friend, Jen, who freezes enough food to feed us all. If you make a flat bag, then the bags will stack up in your freezer.

Satisfying, isn't it? Yes, an entire bed of spinach turned into 3 tiny freezer bags worth. Yes, there are still earwigs in my kitchen. But still- still! You know where I'm coming from right? There are three perfect little blocks of spinach now waiting to nourish my children through the long dark winter. And with a few more afternoons like this one, the stack will grow! In these next months, we'll fill up that unsung hero of home food preservation, the freezer... one slightly looney afternoon at a time.


  1. Love this. Blanching is a miracle, isn't it? I made arugula pesto today, and turned two pretty full grocery plastic bags of arugula into...wait for it...two ice cube trays of pesto, plus enough for my dinner. But it was worth it. Right??

  2. Totally know where you're coming from. :)

    I did this the other night and there were snails absolutely everywhere. The snails are back in the compost now, and the spinach in my freezer. Hooray!

  3. i liked his idea, effort and presentation.

  4. Thanks for sharing :-) Jennifer O'Sullivan

  5. Hi,

    I was wondering if you have ever tried freezing raw spinach and what your experience has been? Blanching spinach has the downside of washing away soem nutrients.

    This link describes freezing raw spinach:

  6. I have tried a bit of freezing without blanching, and my experience has been that the texture just doesn't hold up as well. I've been taught that blanching stops the deterioration of the vegetable, and that does seem to be the case. This post does seem to have pretty good results, though- perhaps I'll experiment some more! I do freeze zucchini (grated) and rhubarb (chopped) fresh, and that works great.