Spinach used to be one of my least favorite vegetables. It wasn’t until my husband finally talked me into trying some that I fell in love with its flavor. Now? I can’t get enough of it. It has become one of my favorite crops to grow in the garden because it’s pretty easy to grow. But, since it doesn’t stay fresh in the refrigerator forever, I needed some new ways to preserve spinach.
While my favorite way to eat spinach is fresh out of the garden, sauteed in butter with a bit of garlic and sea salt, I’ve learned that when it’s preserved correctly, I like it just as much and it can be used in a variety of ways in dishes throughout the year. So, next year the goal is to grow more of it. A fall garden just isn’t happening this year, so we won’t have any veggies growing out there this season other than garlic.
And since I like to try new and interesting things when it comes to preserving spinach, I came up with 3 ways that you can preserve your crop so you can enjoy its deliciousness all year long.
How to Blanch and Freeze Spinach
This is probably the easiest and most common method for spinach preservation. It keeps its nutrients and is great to throw into soups, sauces, and even a breakfast smoothie. In fact, even though the texture does change when it is frozen, the taste remains so you can even sautee it in butter with some garlic and sea salt and eat it.
If you want to, you can cook spinach straight from its frozen state. This will help keep its vitamin C content, as opposed to thawing it first. However, it will have a decent amount of water content as it thaws, so keep that in mind when making your recipe.
Note that you can skip blanching and simply wash, dry, chop and freeze spinach. However, blanching helps retain nutrients and it will last longer in your freezer (up to a year versus up to 6 months if you don’t blanch.
A pound of spinach will yield about 2 cups of frozen spinach.
Rinse Your Spinach
The first step is to rinse it. Spinach tends to get a lot of dirt on it. Or, it does in my garden. But, maybe I just need to mulch better…. Aside from that, I don’t care to freeze any hidden insects. As you’re rinsing, go ahead and check for any rusty/browned, chewed up or mushy leaves and toss them to the compost pile.
Chop Your Spinach
Just chop or rip your spinach leaves into bite sized pieces. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I also remove any super long stems. If the pieces are already fairly small, you can skip this step. But, I like my spinach broken into bite sized bits.
Blanch The Leaves
Now, you’ll want to place the leaves into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute only. You’ll need just a couple quarts of water for every pound or so of spinach. I usually do about a pound at a time as it is easiest for me and I can keep the bags pretty evenly sized.
Remove From Heat and Submerge in Ice Cold Water
After you’ve boiled the spinach for 1 minute, it’s time to immediately place it into an ice bath. I just put a big pot of ice and water next to the stove so I can move the spinach immediately. Let it sit in the ice bath for about another minute. This process simply stops it from cooking any more. If you check the water and it’s getting warm, just add a little more ice while the spinach soaks.
Drain and Dry Your Spinach
Place the spinach in a colander to drain it, then lay it out over some towels to dry. You can take another towel on the top of it to help squeeze the excess water out. You’ll want it as dry as you can to improve the texture.
Pack into Bags Label, and Freeze
Once you get the spinach as dry as you can, you can simply pack it into freezer bags, remove the excess air and toss it in a freezer. I like to use our vacuum sealer when I freeze stuff, so we usually make bags out of that. But freezer bags will work as will any freezer safe container. Make sure you label what it is and the date so that you know when you look in the freezer. Blanched spinach will keep about a year in the freezer. If you skipped the blanching, it will keep roughly six months.
How to Dehydrate Spinach
We typically use our dehydrator for things like venison jerky or fruit leather. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t dehydrate leafy greens. Dehydrated spinach makes it simple to sneak a healthy dose of veggies into just about any recipe.
Dehydrated spinach does not really retain any flavor, but it does keep its nutrient value so it is perfect for sneaking into things like your kids breakfast smoothies. It is also great in recipes that have a lot of moisture so soups, casseroles and pasta sauce are perfect.
You can leave the flakes as is and toss them into soups and casseroles or you can even grind the dried leaves into a powder if you want to be extra sneaky.
Rinse Leaves & Discard Any Past Their Prime
Same as when you freeze it, it needs rinsed to remove dirt and bugs. Grab any brown, mushy, or simply past their prime leaves and toss them to the compost.
Dry it as thoroughly as you can get it as the drier it is, the less time it will take to dehydrate it. I place it on some towels and squeeze out as much liquid as I can. You may also want to remove any large, thick stems at this point. The thicker stems won’t dry as quickly as the leaves and then you’ll have a problem on your hands….
Arrange Leaves on Trays
Put your leaves on the trays in a single layer. They can touch on the edges a bit, but don’t allow them to overlap.
Place the trays of spinach leaves in your dehydrator and dry them at 125°F for about 4-6 hours. You might want to rearrange them and put the top on the bottom about halfway through the dehydrating process just so they all dry evenly but it may not be necessary depending on your dehydrator.
Store Them or Turn Them Into Powder
Now you can simply put them in a mason jar or other container and store the flakes to use as needed. Alternatively, you can crush them up and grind them into a powder and store the powder. This is completely up to you.
How to Can Spinach
I love canning food… canning spinach, however isn’t one of my favorite things to do. First off, it takes a decent amount to get any jars. An average of four pounds of spinach is needed to make one single quart. Spinach also doesn’t smell the greatest while canning.
But… my husband likes canned spinach. So, I guess once in a while a girl has to indulge the amazing man in her life. Right?
Canned spinach can be warmed up and eaten (like my husband likes it). Or you can drain it and add it to just about any dish you care to. However, it tends to be a bit on the watery side so use caution.
Also, since spinach is a low-acid food, it has to be pressure canned. Water bath canning will not safely preserve spinach, no matter who told you otherwise. If you aren’t entirely sure how to use a pressure canner, you can check out my tutorial.
Wash Spinach Well
I know, same step as always. But, it bears repeating. Make sure you wash spinach really well if it’s going to be used in canning. A few rinses are usually necessary to make sure you get all the grit and dirt off of the leaves. Discard any and all leaves that are wilted, brown/rusty or just simply past their prime. You only want to use your absolute best spinach for canning.
Blanch The Spinach
Just like freezing, canned spinach needs blanched. However, instead of leaving it in the boiling water for a minute, you’re going to wait until it begins to wilt. Stir the spinach up while it’s heating up to make sure it all gets cooked fairly evenly. Then, throw it in some ice water to stop it from cooking.
Pack Spinach Into Jars
Quarts or pints, doesn’t matter. We use pints because a quart is, well, a lot of canned spinach. But, you can use either. The processing time is the only thing that will differ, which I will note below.
You’ll pack your spinach, tightly, into your hot, prepared jars leaving a generous 1″ of headspace. You can add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to pints (or 1 teaspoon to quarts) if you desire, but it isn’t necessary.
Add Boiling Water
Once you have your spinach packed in, you’ll pour some boiling water on top. Leaving that same generous 1″ of headspace at the top.
Wipe Rims and Set Lids
Using a damp cloth, wipe around the rim of your jars to remove any debris from the rim. Otherwise, it won’t seal properly. Once you have that, center your lid on top and finger tighten the ring.
Place the jars into the pressure canner. Process pints for 70 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure adjusting appropriately for altitude.
Preserving spinach is a great way to keep a delicious, healthy green on hand year round (if you grow enough). I can’t wait to get more spinach put up even if it’s from Costco this year….
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