Monday, July 9, 2012

For the Love of Spinach

 The memory is still etched clearly into my mind. It was nearing 9 o'clock, well after bedtime. I was still sitting at the kitchen table. The dishes were washed, my father was sitting in his chair reading. In front of me was a now-cold, slimy, sloppy gelatinous green mass that my mother called "creamed spinach." I was sure this wasn't actually food. Who on earth could have actually concocted such a thing? Every so often, I tried to take a tiny taste, and I gagged. I cried. I begged for mercy. But no... I was to sit at that table until I ate that god-forsaken green slime.


I've grown spinach every year since I started gardening. Let me say now that it is definitely not because I like spinach. It is only because I feel compelled to grow it because I know it really is good for us. And to spite me, because I'm sure it knows how much I actually dislike it, every single year the spinach patch grows so bountifully and prolifically that I feel as though it might actually drown me.

And, since spinach has a tendency to sit in my refrigerator until it is an oozing mess, I learned quickly to preserve it. Because hey, whether I like it or not, I'm not about to spend time growing something and have it spoil.

Each year, I experiment a little bit with spinach freezing, trying to find the very easiest way to do it. Freezing spinach can be tedious work, between the rinsing and the chopping and the blanching and the packaging. I cut quite a few corners this year though, and it seems to have worked out beautifully.

Step 1: Fill your sink with water all the way to the tippy top. Dump in all the spinach that is cheerfully taking over your garden and swish it around a bunch.

Step 2: Walk away for awhile. Do a load of laundry, teach a math lesson, take a nap. Whatever. Just leave the spinach to sit for a bit. Then, repeat steps 1 and 2.

By this time, any dirt/debris/nastiness should be settled to the bottom of your sink, and your clean spinach leaves should be floating on top. (Because let me tell you, garden produce is dirty, dirty stuff.)

Step 3: Gently gather a small handful of spinach, being careful not to disturb the sludge at the bottom of the sink. Use a large knife to chop it roughly into 1/2" to 1" pieces. One year, I carefully chopped it into tiny little 1/4" squares. No more. Chopped roughly is fine. You can actually skip chopping altogether if you want, but it saves time later. If you need it chopped finer for a specific recipe, you can do that after you thaw it. Toss the chopped spinach in a big bowl, and do another handful. Keep on going til it's all done.

Step 4: Save the sink water and pour it on your garden.

Step 5: Fill your biggest pot with water and bring it to a boil. When it boils, dump the whole bowl of chopped spinach into it and start stirring. Have the Smallest Child in your house practice counting to thirty.

Step 6: At the end of the thirty seconds (or a minute, depending on how long it took her to count) pour the whole pot through a colander. Save this water, too, and use it on your tomato plants\ after it's cool. It's full of calcium, which prevents blossom end rot.

Step 7: Quickly spray your blanched spinach with cold water until it's cool. This stops the cooking process.

Step 8: Whimper for a moment when you realize that the gigantic heap of spinach that you washed and chopped has now been reduced to a few measly cups. (Or you can celebrate a little, since it seems like there's less spinach to force yourself to eat. Either way.)

Step 9: Divide your spinach into 1-cup portions, pack them into ziploc bags, squeeze out the air, label them, and freeze them.

It doesn't take nearly as long to actually do it as it sounds like it does. I can do five pounds of spinach in about half an hour.

When you're ready to use it, thaw it on the counter for a couple of hours. It thaws fast. One bag is a good addition to soup. One bag per person if you're forcing your children to eat serving steamed spinach as a side dish.

How to use frozen spinach? Add it to soups, stews, dips, quiche, frittata, casseroles, omelettes... pretty much anything.Chop it fine and add it to pasta dough to make spinach pasta, or mix it with cheese and use it to stuff ravioli or manicotti. If you mix it with enough other things, you can generally hide the taste. Just whatever you do, for heaven's sake don't cream it.

1 comment:

bammajan10 said...

This post cracked me up. My oldest daughter hates anything green. I remember being so fed up with her not eating her beans one night that I had her sit at the table for hours. Geez, what a rotten mom thing to do. She never did eat the beans and I've always felt bad about trying to make her.
Now, nice fresh (uncreamed) spinach is handy to have in the freezer. It also makes a tasty lasagna and even kids who don't eat green things will eat that!
Thanks for the laugh, you can now consider yourself untraumatized. :-)