QUESTION: Can I put spinach in the freezer? Do you have any tips on how to prepare it? -Jay R.
ANSWER: Spinach keeps well in the freezer, so freezing any of your harvest that you won’t be eating right away is a smart way to make sure all your homegrown spinach makes it onto your dinner plate (and you don’t lose any spoiled greens to the wastebasket or compost pile). When you’re freezing homegrown spinach that’s fresh from the garden, your frozen spinach will have that same bright, vibrant flavor, and it will stay ready to use for nine to 14 months. Once thawed, you can use your spinach in a variety of cooked dishes, although it won’t have the appropriate texture for a raw spinach salad or sandwich topping. For every two pounds of fresh spinach you start out with, you’ll end up with about a quart of frozen spinach leaves.
To begin preparing spinach for frozen storage, you’ll first need to wash the leaves thoroughly to get rid of dirt, insects, and anything else that may have made it into the bunch from the garden outside. Chefs recommend a triple rinse (dunking the leaves into cool, clean water three separate times, running a new batch of water for each rinse) to get all the grit out of the leaves. This is the time to remove the stems if desired. You don’t need to remove the stems of young, tender spinach leaves unless they’re especially stringy or you have a personal preference not to eat them. If your spinach leaves are very large, you should also tear them into pieces about an inch or two wide.
Next, you’ll need to blanch the spinach leaves so the enzymes they contain don’t make them bitter while they’re stored in the freezer. This step makes a big difference in the flavor of your final product, and it takes literally five or so minutes. Begin by boiling a large pot of water (your largest stockpot is best) and preparing a large bowl of ice water. Let the leaves boil for exactly two minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the ice water bath. The leaves need to stay in the ice water for at least two minutes. Dry your blanched spinach using a salad spinner or by spreading the leaves out in a single layer on an absorbent dish towel.
Once the leaves have dried, it’s time to pack your blanched spinach into containers to freeze. You can use plastic containers designed for storing food in the freezer or seal portions of one or two cups into freezer safe plastic zipper bags. If you choose the bags, to prevent freezer burn you can use a straw to remove as much air from the bag as possible before closing it. If you have a vacuum sealer, freezing spinach is an excellent time to use it.