August 10, 2011 by Sara Kreidler
Originally posted on July 7, 2011; updated with additional photos and instructions.
Freezing kale and other dark leafy greens is really simple. If you’re like me and inundated with greens at the moment, this is a good way to save them for later in the summer (or even the fall or winter, as they will keep in the freezer for about 6 months). The process below works equally well for beet greens (which I froze using the same method last night) and chard. If you’re freezing spinach, which is more delicate, reduce the boiling time to 1 minute. If you’re freezing collard greens, which are tougher, increase the boiling time to 3 minutes.
First, remove the thick, woody stems from the kale. You can do this by cutting the leaf from the stem with a sharp knife, or you can hold the kale by its stem and pull the leaves off by hand.
Place the de-stemmed kale in a large strainer and wash thoroughly with cold water to remove any dirt.
Now it’s time to blanch the kale. Blanching is a two part process: boiling + shocking. First, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 large handfuls of kale to the pot and boil for 2 minutes. Use a spoon to make sure all of the leaves are submerged. If you are processing a large amount of kale, you will want to boil it in small batches (for example, I processed a total of 2 pounds of kale, which I boiled in 4 separate batches).
This is what the kale will look like after 2 minutes of boiling; beginning to wilt but still bright green.
Use a strainer to remove the kale from the boiling water. If you’re doing several batches of kale, it is easier to remove the kale from the pot using a handled strainer like the one seen above than dumping out the whole pot into the sink strainer; this way, you can reuse the boiling water that’s already in the pot for the next batch.
Transfer the kale to a large bowl of ice water for shocking. Let the leaves soak in the ice water for about two minutes, until very cold and bright green. Shocking the greens in ice water is an important step in blanching vegetables because it stops the cooking process; if you don’t shock the kale after the boiling step, the kale will get soft and mushy.
Next, use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the kale. Then transfer the squeezed-dry kale to a salad spinner and give it a couple of good whirls to knock off any excess liquid. If you don’t have a salad spinner, just give the kale a few more good squeezes to get rid of any remaining liquid.
Transfer the kale to freezer bags and squeeze out as much air as possible before freezing. I processed about 2 pounds of kale, which as you can see cooks down to rather small bags. Like frozen spinach, frozen kale when thawed will be wilted (but, because you blanched it, it should not be mushy); it will not be crunchy like it was when fresh. That said, it is perfect for use in soups and stews.