Because spinach is one of my favorite greens, second only to kale, I plant spinach every year in my garden and freeze all the greens that I can to enjoy year-round. But, many people may not know the right way to prepare spinach and other greens for freezing. So, here is the best way to blanch and freeze spinach.
The best way to blanch and freeze spinach is to:
- Wash the greens at least 3 times to remove all the sand, grit, and foreign matter.
- Bring a large pot or Dutch oven half filled with water to a full rolling boil.
- Drop the spinach, either whole or chopped, into the boiling water.
- Bring the pot of spinach back to a full rolling boil and boil for 1 minute.
- Remove the pot from the heat source and drain the spinach, reserving the liquid it was blanched in.
- Cool the spinach as quickly as possible by plunging it into ice water.
- Squeeze the water from the spinach.
- Put the spinach into freezer-safe containers and cover them with the reserved liquid from the blanching process. Be sure to leave enough space in the container to allow for expansion as the spinach freezes.
- Attach the lids firmly, label the containers, and freeze when the spinach is completely cooled.
If you are wondering why I reserve the liquid that the spinach is blanched in and add it back to the spinach, it is to save the nutrients that are cooked out of the spinach during the blanching process.
Alternate Way To Freeze Spinach
There is an alternate way to freeze spinach which is my preferred method. With this method, I follow these steps:
- Wash the greens well at least 3 times so that the greens will have no sand, grit, or foreign matter like leaves or (shudder) bugs.
- Then prepare a pot with enough water to cover the greens and bring it to a full rolling boil.
- Drop the spinach into the water either whole or chopped.
- Cook the spinach until done, approximately 30 minutes, and season to taste.
- Allow the spinach to cool completely.
- Put the spinach into freezer-safe containers and cover with the liquid from the pot.
- Attach the lids firmly, label the containers, and freeze.
This method saves time by cooking all the spinach at once and not having to cook each individual batch, and it saves energy in the same way. All you have to do when you want to serve the spinach is to thaw, heat, and serve. Greens that are cooked and then frozen do not taste like leftovers and are as good later as when they are freshly cooked. Other vegetables frozen this way do tend to taste like leftovers and not freshly cooked, but greens are an exception.
Can You Use The Alternate Method For Other Vegetables?
You may be thinking that this would be a good method to use for all vegetables. But, even though this is a good way to prepare and freeze spinach as well as any other types of greens, it is not a good method to follow to prepare other vegetables for freezing.
Even though you can use this method to freeze other vegetables, and you can certainly do that under certain circumstances, the primary reason you would not want to prepare all vegetables for freezing this way is that when you blanch and freeze other vegetables, such as peas, corn, beans, and carrots, when you thaw and cook the blanched vegetables, they will taste like freshly picked vegetables. But, when you cook the vegetables completely, freeze them, and then thaw, heat, and serve, they now taste like leftovers, not vegetables fresh out of the garden.
Can You Freeze Spinach Without Blanching?
There are those who say that if you are going to cook spinach within a short time that you do not have to blanch them first; just wash and freeze without blanching. I suppose you could do that if you wanted to. But, keep in mind that even though the spinach is frozen, it will continue to mature or age unless it has been subjected to the high temperature of the boiling water, and the “enzymes” which cause plants to grow and mature will still be causing the spinach to age and to continue losing nutrients as times passes.
Besides, if circumstances keep you from cooking the spinach that has been frozen without blanching within a short time, the spinach will become discolored, or even brown, and the taste and texture of the spinach will change.
How Does Blanching Help To Preserve Vegetables That Are Frozen?
Most of us who are canners and/or gardeners who have been preserving vegetables for a while know that to preserve vegetables by freezing, they must first be blanched. But, I have discovered in recent years that some folks who are new to canning and freezing do not know that, or maybe they do know about blanching but think that it is optional.
Blanching, however, is not optional. In order to preserve vegetables by freezing so that they look and taste the same when they are later thawed and cooked as they do at the time they are frozen, the enzyme or enzymes that cause vegetables to age must be destroyed, or the vegetables will continue to age even though they are frozen.
The enzyme action that causes vegetables to ripen and mature brings them to maturity when they are at their peak as far as flavor, color, texture, and nutrient value. Once they are picked, that process works very quickly to age the vegetables causing them to start losing nutrients, changing color and texture, and reducing the quality of the flavor. Eventually, the vegetables become inedible and begin to rot.
In order to preserve the quality of the vegetables when they are first picked, they need to be consumed, canned, or frozen very quickly. Some vegetables last longer than others, but they will all last much longer when refrigerated than when they are left at room temperature. But, even though they are still edible, they lose nutrients quickly.
If time permits, I try to can or freeze vegetables the same day that they are picked or the following day at the latest to preserve as much of their nutritional value as possible. Blanching and freezing stops that growing and aging process and allows you to enjoy the flavor of the vegetable as it would have been on the day that it was blanched and frozen and allows you and your family to enjoy the benefits of the nutritional value of those vegetables on the day that they were processed.
How Long Does Spinach Last In The Freezer When Blanched?
All the authorities tell us that spinach will last for approximately 1 year in the freezer if they have been blanched. But, in reality, even though the spinach that we freeze will be at its peak of flavor for up to a year when frozen, they will be good for a much longer period of time than 1 year.
Pro Tip: My personal rule of thumb is to try to use the oldest vegetables from the freezer first, but I have eaten vegetables that have been in the freezer for up to 5 years that were very good after that length of time.
How Long Does Spinach Last In The Freezer When Not Blanched?
If you are planning to use spinach within a few weeks, you can certainly freeze it without blanching. For example, if you put spinach in your smoothies and you will be using some of the spinach every day, you can freeze it without blanching. But, if it is forgotten and left for an extended period of time, it will turn brown and will be quite unappetizing.
I have read articles that say you can store it unblanched for up to 3 months, but I would be more inclined to limit that amount of time to approximately 1 month.
How Long Does Fresh Spinach Last In The Refrigerator?
Fresh spinach, when stored in the refrigerator, will usually last for a week and possibly up to 10 days. This is the normal time frame for spinach that has just been freshly picked either from your own garden or at least from some local garden or farm.
The important thing to keep in mind when you buy fresh spinach from a grocery or supermarket is that you do not know when it was picked, and you cannot count on the spinach lasting in your refrigerator for an additional 7 to 10 days.
How Long Does Fresh Bagged Spinach Last In The Refrigerator?
If fresh spinach has been stored in a plastic bag since it was picked, it should last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Here again, keep in mind that you don’t know how long the fresh spinach, either bagged or unbagged, has been sitting in the grocery’s refrigerated case.
How Can You Keep Bagged Spinach Fresh Longer?
Here is a good way to keep your bagged or unbagged spinach fresh for a longer period of time:
- Line a plastic container with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
- Carefully remove the spinach from the plastic bag and place it in the plastic container, which will help eliminate the possibility of the spinach becoming bruised or crushed by other containers in the refrigerator.
- Cover the spinach with another layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and cover it with the plastic container’s lid.
- Store in the refrigerator.
If you don’t have the right size plastic container, like this type found on Amazon, wrap the spinach in a layer of paper towel or clean kitchen towel and place it in a plastic bag. Then, seal the plastic bag and store it in an area of the refrigerator, preferably the crisper, where it will not be bruised or crushed by other items in the refrigerator.
Can You Vacuum Seal And Freeze Fresh Spinach?
You can definitely vacuum seal and freeze fresh spinach, but like all vegetables, they should be prepared for freezing, which means blanching, before they are vacuum sealed.
After vegetables like spinach and other greens have been blanched, they should be frozen in some sort of container like a plastic freezer box, and then removed from the box and vacuum sealed. This process will keep the liquid in the spinach or other vegetables from interfering with the sealing process of the vacuum sealer.
Be sure to check out: When Are Turnips in Season? (With State by State Chart).
How Do You Thaw Frozen Spinach?
There are 5 excellent ways to thaw frozen spinach. The way you choose will be determined by your specific needs.
- In the refrigerator: Remove the container of frozen spinach from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
- In a bowl of hot water: Remove the container of frozen spinach from the freezer and place it in a bowl of hot water. Change the water as it cools so that the process will be quicker.
- In the microwave: Remove the container of frozen spinach from the freezer, remove it from its container and place it in a microwave-proof dish and thaw on defrost in the microwave.
- On the kitchen counter: Remove the container of frozen spinach, set it on a plate or in a bowl, and let it thaw at room temperature.
- In a pot or boiler on the stovetop: Remove the frozen spinach from the freezer, remove the spinach from its container, place the spinach in a pot with a small amount of water, and heat over low heat until thawed.
Can You Eat Spinach After It Bolts?
I’ve often been asked whether you can eat spinach after it bolts, and the short answer is probably not. Once spinach bolts, which means it sends up flower stalks, or as we say back in Mississippi, it goes to seed, it becomes bitter and has an unpleasant taste. It will not make you sick if you eat it, but it will not taste good.
Home-Canned vs. Store-Bought Spinach
Let’s face it, spinach is one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. I’ve known many people who love other greens, such as turnips and mustard but hate spinach, or at least think that they do. As a matter of fact, I used to consider myself one of those folks, but that was when I had only tasted canned spinach because we didn’t eat spinach when I was growing up, and I had never eaten fresh spinach.
And, I cannot stand the taste of canned spinach.
But, a few years back, I planted some spinach in my garden, cooked the spinach just like I cook turnips, mustard, kale, and collards, and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Now I am hooked. I am officially a spinach lover!
Not only is spinach a delicious vegetable, it is loaded with nutrients including fiber, folate, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K, making it one of the most healthy vegetables out there. Spinach is quite versatile and can be eaten raw, cooked, and canned. It can be eaten alone as a side dish, as part of a salad, included in a quiche or casserole, and even blended into your favorite smoothies.
Just remember, the best and only good way to freeze spinach is by blanching. For complete information on how to blanch spinach for freezing, take a look at the USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) National Center for Home Food Preservation website. This website has the latest information on all things related to canning and freezing.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss Freezer Strategy | The 10 Do’s and Dont’s of Freezing Foods.
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