Friday, July 10, 2009

Freezing Swiss Chard

In our household, Swiss Chard is sometimes overlooked at this time of year, having to compete with more glamorous vegetables like broccoli and peas for my time and energy. In other years, I would be busy making dazzling jars of strawberry jam. But this is 2009. The year the squirrels ate all of my strawberries. And buried a few for good measure when they couldn't choke down one more juicy morsel.

                                                          This was the year the rabbits were everywhere we looked and often as not, dining on our peas. So this year the Swiss Chard looked very lovely to us. We harvested all of it, rinsed it in buckets outdoors, cut it into thin slices (3/4"?) , and packed it into a laundry basket to bring it into the porch

                                                                       In the kitchen the freezing process begins with blanching the chard.  To blanch a vegetable is to put it into boiling water very briefly, then to plunge it into ice water to stop the blanching process.  Blanching kills enzymes in the produce that would otherwise cause it to go bad in the freezer.

On the right is the deep pot of water used to blanch the chard. Also notice that I'm heating more water in the tea kettle. It is surprising how quickly the water level drops in the cooking pan as you continue to remove batches of chard from the water. Thus the pot must be replenished with boiling water from time to time.

Here you see the chard in the strainer in the boiling water.
(Naturally you would keep the lid on while blanching.)

Broccoli or chard would be processed for two minutes.  Smaller foods, such as peas, would need just one minute. 

After two minutes I remove the lid and lift the strainer full of chard
and let the excess water drain back into the pot...

...then I dump the chard into a cold water bath to put a stop to the blanching process.
You don't want to cook the chard, just put the enzymes out of commission.
Here you see the large plastic boxes we use to make big ice cubes just for this purpose. In the bowl are the two fresh cubes I just put in, as well as two former ice cubes that have nearly completely melted. I keep a small stream of water going to keep the water cold and fresh. 

As each batch of chard becomes cold, I remove it from the ice water, spin it dry in a salad spinner, and pack it in to quart freezer boxes. 

In the winter we will cook down a whole box of chard in the wok with olive oil and garlic.  Dee-lish!!
The huge colander full of chard is reduced down
to four and a half quarts ready for the freezer.

Once frozen, we repack the frozen chard into freezer bags to free up
the boxes for other uses.

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