If you grew kale this year, chances are that it is still chugging along out in your garden and looking great, despite the fact that nearly everything else in the garden has perished. If anything, it’s actually improved with age and sweetened up nicely, which is what happens when kale has been through a frost or two.
Do yourself a favor and think about the many months ahead without fresh greens, and turn some of that kale into a delicious and nutritious winter treat by putting some away in your freezer. It’s also a great way to glean (or come through and do something with the ‘leftovers’) and get the most out of your garden.
Here’s how we preserve our kale:
Note: Make sure you keep your hands, the cooking area, and all utensils and pots clean from the beginning to the end of this process to make sure you minimize contamination.
1. When you harvest your kale, ensure that you pick the best-looking leaves so that they will maintain their quality once they are put in the freezer. We harvested two types of kale but mixed them together later on in the process just to make the process simpler.
2. Put a large pot of water on the stove to heat up as soon as you get back in the kitchen, as waiting for the water to boil can sometimes take the most time of the whole process.
3. Wash the kale well and de-stem the leaves. This is most easily achieved by holding the bottom of the stalk with one hand and using your other hand to slide along the stem, stripping off the leaf as you move to the opposite end.
4. Loosely roll the kale lengthwise and cut into thirds. The chunks should be rather large as they will shrink down quite a bit during blanching. Avoid chopping them too small as they will be much harder to fish out of the pot of water later on.
5. Add the kale to the pot of boiling water and use a spoon to push the leaves down so the water covers them. You can add a good amount since it will shrink down dramatically, but make sure there is a bit of space so as not to over-load the pot. Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes (Start a timer or you may easily lose track of time!). Ideally the water should be at a rolling boil. If it takes a bit of time to get back to a rolling boil after adding the kale, it will likely take closer to the three minute mark. Look for the kale to get quite limp and for the color to change.
6. Prepare a cold water bath (of you can use ice if you have it) and use a slotted spoon to lift the kale into the cold water bowl. Move leaves around in the cold water to get rid of any hot spots. If you are not using ice, you will likely need to transfer to a second cold water bath to get rid of all of the heat.
7. Strain water out and place in a plastic freezer bag labelled with the contents and the date. It’s important to minimize air and water in the bag, so press out the air as you pack in the kale. Then seal the bag most of the way and hold bag upside down to drain out any excess water.
8. Lay bags flat in the freezer so they stack nicely.
We harvested 6 bins of kale (equivalent to about 6-8 bunches of kale per bin) which turned out to be 16 one-gallon bags after processing. This is pretty exciting, as this means we will be able to open one bag of our fresh greens every week for the next 4 months! That will be particularly exciting mid-February when fresh greens are a distant memory.
Happy preserving! ~Amber