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I think this will be the first part of a series of “how to” blogs on freezing vegetables. Freezing veggies (and fruit) is one of the best and easiest ways for us be more self-sufficient and have better control over our food.
I love greens, especially Swiss chard. It is probably my favorite leafy green and I feel very lucky that this summer a great friend has kept me well supplied with chard. Apparently they have a forest of it growing in their garden and it was way more than she and her husband could keep up with. So, I was the lucky recipient to get the excess. And, I greatly appreciate it!
Since I was receiving more than I could feasibly eat fresh, I decided that I wanted to freeze some to add to hearty winter soups this year. It is such a simple process that anyone can do it! Plus, it's a great way to help preserve vegetables for times when fresh veggies are a little lacking. Like the middle of January in Colorado!
To freeze chard, you must follow a few simple steps, but all in all, you should have this all done within a half hour. I vacuum seal my chard into individual portions so that come soup making time, I can just grab a package out of the freezer and have the right amount.
1. Wash the chard and trip the stems off (I save the stems and then cut them up, blanch and freeze them as well).
2. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil (to blanch your greens).
3. Grab a large bowl and fill it with cold water and ice (after you blanch the greens, you want to immediately put them in an ice bath to stop further cooking).
4. While you're waiting for the water to boil, cut or tear the chard into bite-size pieces.
5. When the water has come to a boil, drop the greens into the pot (you might have to do this in a couple batches, depending on how much you have).
6. Blanch the greens for 2-3 minutes. Since vegetables (and fruits) have bacteria and enzymes that can destroy nutrients and breakdown the vegetables over a period of time, this is an important step. Don't skip it!
7. Remove from water and immediately put in the ice bath – I usually cool them for 3-5 minutes.
8. Remove from the ice bath and place in a colander to let some of the water drain out. The less water in the leaves, the less ice crystals you'll end up with once frozen.
9. Now you can bag the greens. I use a vacuum sealer. I find that it helps preserve the vegetables longer. If you don't have access to a vacuum sealer, you can use freezer bags with a zipper, just make sure you squeeze all of the air out before sealing. Or, you can also place a straw part way into the bag and then seal the bag to the straw, suck the air out, pinch the straw and finish zipping the bag as you pull the straw out.
10. Label them, toss them in the freezer, and you're done!