The Complete Idiot's Guide to Preserving Food comes out tomorrow!! Yea and Yippee! I am so excited I could can a cucumber. (Actually, that's a very bad idea, but you understand.)
On With the Main Event
People seem to have a love-hate relationship with this vegetable. Often, it's the result of having it crammed down your little gullet when you were a child or having had the miserable experience of eating canned spinach. Feeding that gray, glutinous glob of stuff to your family should be a criminal offense.
Fresh, young spinach is tasty, and spinach you've put up yourself and frozen is as good as fresh, if you do it right!
I plant a mix of spinach varieties. I like the different textures that the three main types of spinach give. There are Savoy, Semi-Savoy, and Smooth (also known as flat-leafed).
The crinklier the spinach leaf, the more sand or grit that gets trapped there. You definitely want all that sand out before you freeze this veggie. This means rinsing the leaves in several changes of cool water.
Swirl the leaves around, a few handfuls at a time. If you overcrowd the sink, you're going to make slow, slow progress. Once the water is completely free of grit, set the leaves aside and move on to the next few handfuls.
If you're using the leaves in a salad, a salad spinner is a nifty way to get rid of excess moisture. If you're going to freeze the leaves, you're ready to move on to the next step: Blanching.
Blanche DuBois or A Spinach Car Named Desire
Blanching time for young, tender leaves is 2 minutes. Place the leaves in rapidly boiling water, using a wooden spoon to make sure they get thoroughly submerged. Replace the lid. Begin timing when the water returns to a full boil.
Remove the spinach from the pot and plunge immediately into cold water. This stops the cooking process. When the leaves are cool (and it takes about as long to cool as it does to blanch), drain thoroughly in a colander.
I like soft freezer bags better than the stiffer ones with zippy closures. I can mold the bag to the food I'm freezing and squeeze out the excess air and moisture.
Add a pint of thawed, chopped spinach to the middle layer of your favorite lasagna recipe. It adds color, flavor, and texture and makes a family favorite even better!