Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let the freezing begin!

It is finally really winter here in Michigan even though we have a few more days before that long, grey season technically begins. Yesterday I harvested what I now believe will truly be the last kale of the season (although I think I said that at least once before!). I posted a winter photo at the top of my blog of some of our kale as it looked yesterday in our community garden, and that photo is already out of date with the fresh snow we are receiving tonight. I knew winter had really come when harvesting my kale yesterday by how frozen solid the garden dirt had become, and the straw that is covering our garlic and some kale was a frozen web that I could not easily disrupt to harvest kale underneath.

I picked kale and filled a huge canvas garden/shopping bag. Actually, I did not pick the kale but rather, I snapped off frozen leaves and stalks like I was shattering fragile glass stems. When I got home from our community garden, I quickly rinsed about half the bag full of stiff kale leaves under cold water, then very simply braised all of the rinsed kale by heating a small amount of olive oil in a huge soup pot, adding the rinsed kale leaves to the pot, stirring the kale constantly in the oil until the kale warmed up and reduced in size. Then I added a bit more of water to the pot, covered it, and let the kale steam away for just few minutes until it was thoroughly heated through, wilted, but still completely bright green in color. At this point, I usually would have added a splash of balsamic vinegar, but instead I wanted to use up the remainder of the bruschetta/red pepper sauce that I made earlier this week to serve with kale balls. Admittedly, although I happen to love eating plain kale, most people would probably want a complementary flavor such as some type of vinegar or the scrumptious bruschetta sauce to be tasting along with the hefty flavor of kale (even sweetened from the cold weather).

I kept the rest of my frozen fresh kale right in the canvas bag and put it out in our "winter refrigerator", i.e., the garage, to use later in the week.

To freeze kale, you can try what I have already done when we had so much kale to harvest that even knowing fresh kale seems to keep forever, I decided
to "let the freezing begin."
Here is what I did:
• Put on a big pot of water to boil.
• Wash kale.
• Tear or cut into 2 inch strips or manageable sizes (I did not freeze the big thick stems from the curly kale).
• Fill sink with cold water, including as many ice cubes as you have on hand.
• Place the cut kale in boiling water and boil for 3 minutes.
• Take kale out of pot with tongs, a colander, and/or slotted spoon.
• Put hot kale in cold water and swish around.
• Take kale out of water. Measure either 2 cups or 4 cups and place into freezer bags.
• Mark freezer bag with date and type of greens.
• Drain any excess water off greens (save for future soup broth!)and bag.
• Press any excess air out of bag and freeze.

I also did this exact procedure to freeze lamb's quarters (a very healthy and delicious weed!) in the spring. You can see from these photos that a huge bowl of cut or torn kale turns into 2 full quart bags of frozen kale. I expect to use this kale later this winter, either as yummy braised kale with many variety of seasonings or as an addition to soups, stews, stir-fry, filling for quesadillas, adding to frittatas, toppings for baked potatoes, etc, etc.

One of my "tricks" as a long-term cancer survivor has been to always have future events to plan and/or look forward to. Now I am looking forward to spring to see which of our kale plants make it through a Michigan winter to give us an early gift of spring food without the work of planting and waiting and then the ultimate gift of free seeds to start all over again!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Jen said...

We've got a LOT of Kale frozen in our fridge. And spinach, and whatever other greens Tantre bestowed on us.

Here's to your kale! And to you, Diana!

Anonymous said...

I was soooo disappointed this week when I my little patch of Tuscan kale finally froze after a a deep cold spell and freezing rain. I erroneously thought it would survive here in Eastern Washington as it did in my winter garden in Seattle.

Do you think a cold frame would work to grow kale in the winter? Organic kale is sooo expensive in my local grocery store!

Diana Dyer said...

I have friends in Michigan who do grow kale and other greens throughout the winter in both cold frames and hoop houses, which can be large or small. Give it a try!