Canning And Freezing Greens

fresh greensIf I could grow only one thing in my garden, I’d have to choose greens. Now, if I had to narrow that down to a specific variety, I’d be in trouble. But if I could grow just greens, I would have an endless variety—spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, beet tops, cabbage, lettuce, and more. And they would all have a place of honor in that 25×75 plot of ground out back.

I know that greens get a bad rap. We all have bad memories of our parents coaxing us to “eat your greens, Honey.” We can remember those slimy, army-green piles of mush on our plates staring back and mom encouraging us to “try a little vinegar” to help get them down. I know that fresh, stir-fried greens are so much more appealing. But in the dead of winter, throwing a cup of Swiss chard into the soup pot brings such an aroma to the kitchen, those memories just fade away forever.

Canning greens

Canning anything is my method of choice because I tend to forget to take supper out of the freezer before 5 p.m. However, if you want your greens to taste “fresh from the garden,” canning is not the way to go. I’m still going to include instructions here, though, because if you want to add them to soups or casseroles, having a few jars on hand is great. We have a mid-size family so I can greens in pints. Use quarts for large families and half-pints for couples.

  • Sort leaves, remove any you would not want to eat, and wash. Cut off tough stems and midribs and chop.
  • Steam the leaves, stirring, until thoroughly wilted.
  • Pack into hot jars, leaving ½ inch headroom. Add ¼ teaspoon salt for pints and ½ teaspoon for quarts. Pour boiling water up to ½ inch from the top.
  • Pressure-process at 10 pounds of pressure—70 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts.

Freezing greens

Frozen greens can be cooked to eat as they are. We like to cook them in ham broth with some diced onions. We also add them to stir fries, casseroles, and pasta dishes. I freeze them in plastic freezer boxes or my canning jars. You can also use zipper-shut, plastic bags.

  • Sort leaves, remove any you would not want to eat, and wash. Cut off tough stems and midribs and chop.
  • Blanch the greens in boiling water. Most varieties blanch for 2 minutes. Collards blanch for 3 minutes. If you live 5,000 feet or more above sea level, add 1 minute to these times. A pasta pot with the colander inside is the best tool for this job. That way, when your two minutes are up, you simply lift the colander, drain, and dump the greens.
  • Immediately immerse them in icy cold water. I use a colander in this bowl, too. I dump the greens from the “hot” colander to the “cold” one. Stir. Chill for as long as you blanched them.
  • Remove greens from the ice water to a thick towel. This allows excess water to drain from the greens before packing them into containers. I recommend that you use an old towel, or a dark colored one. Otherwise it will be stained that army-green color.
  • Seal and freeze.

Keep in mind when preserving or cooking greens that what may look like an overwhelming amount raw will cook down to a small bowlful. Typically, you will need 2-6 pounds of greens to fill one quart jar.

I keep two books in my kitchen all summer long. They are must haves for food preservation instructions. The first, Putting Food By by Hertzberg, Vaughan, and Greene, not only gives instructions for canning and freezing; but also drying, root cellaring, and curing. Ball Blue Book by the Ball Brothers Company gives explicit instructions for canning and freezing and some of the greatest recipes you will ever find.

So, forget those slimy, army-green mounds on that childhood plate and “eat your greens, Honey.” You will be glad you did.

Photo by jbachman01


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