Friday, October 28, 2022

RECIPE: How to clean and blanch large amounts of spinach

There is LOTS of spinach in the farm store, so I've been processing it to eat over the winter.  Here's how I do it.  The reason I blanch the spinach instead of wilting it in the water left on the leaves after washing it is because there are oxalates in spinach and blanching removes some of them.

Fill your sink half full with spinach, then cover with tepid water and swish the leaves around.  The warm water will encourage any dirt on the leaves to fall away.  As you swish, remove any leaves that are brown, yellow, or decayed.  Let the leaves sit in the water undisturbed for about 10 minutes so the dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink.

Some days there will be LOTS of dirt, other days only a little:

Lots of dirt!

Some but not much dirt

Lift the leaves out of the sink leaving the dirt on the bottom.

Drain the water but don't let the dirt go down the drain.  You don't want the dirt in your septic system because it doesn't decompose.  I remove it with paper towels and throw it in the trash or compost.

Start filling the sink with fresh tepid water.  Put the spinach back into the sink one leaf at a time, rinsing it under the running water and removing any unsavory leaves that you missed earlier.  Swish them around and let them sit for 10 minutes.  

Lift the leaves out of the sink leaving any dirt on the bottom.  For me, there was almost no dirt in the second rinse, so I used the water as the first rinse for the next batch. 

No dirt in second rinse

As you can see, I do NOT remove the large stems.  I keep them for two reasons:  one is that they add bulk to the cooked spinach so I get more spinach out of each batch, two is that the stems have a lot of nutrition because they are closest to the soil.  If the soil is contaminated, then you don't want to keep the stems, but our farm's soil is clean and vibrant with much nutrition so I keep the stems! 

Bring 8 quarts of water to boil in a large stock pot.  I used a 16-quart pot and filled it half full of water.  If you don't have a pot big enough, use the largest one you have.  It will take longer because you can't blanch as much at one time, and you will need to periodically replace the water with fresh.  

Set a large colander over a dinner plate or bowl.  Add the spinach to the boiling water - as much as the pot will hold - and stir to submerge.  Blanch for 2-3 minutes. 

Blanch 2-3 minutes

Remove with a skimmer to the colander.  

Remove to colander with skimmer.

Repeat with another batch until all the cleaned spinach has been blanched.  Turn the heat off under the water while you clean another batch, then blanch that batch.   Repeat until all the spinach is clean and blanched.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze out most of the water. The harder you squeeze, the more you will damage the leaves, so I try to do this gently.

Squeezed spinach

At this point, I either vacuum seal the spinach and then freeze it, or I transfer it to a glass container and  refrigerate it.  It keeps for about 10 days in glass.  

Vacuum sealed spinach ready for freezer

When I use the blanched spinach without freezing, I pull the stems together and chop them first, before chopping the leaves.

Chop the stems first

Stems and leaves chopped.

You can use a food processor to chop the spinach but it will create a very fine mince:

Spinach chopped in food processor

One crate holds about 5-6 pounds of raw spinach, which will blanch down to about 2-3 pounds, depending on how much water you squeeze out.  

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