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Thursday, December 31, 2015

SUMMER KALE - FROM GARDEN TO FREEZER

With such a late growing season this year and another good crop of kale just harvested, I want to share with you my experience in preserving one of my favorite leafy crops.

Growing, preserving, and cooking kale is a brand new experience for me and I invite you to learn with me while I explain my process for freezing my summer harvest, which was abundant! I repeated these steps several times, like a small assembly line, in order to process all of the leaves. 

A bountiful harvest!


First, I washed the leaves by soaking them for about 15 minutes in a bath of filtered water and apple cider vinegar. I used a large bowl and a half cup of vinegar. The leaves kept trying to float so I placed a plate on top to hold them under.


Once the leaves were soaked and rinsed, I placed them in a large colander sitting on a towel to drain a bit for handling. From there I began removing the stems. I simply folded the leaves in two and cut along the stem's edge, slicing the stem out. I understand that with some varieties of kale, you can pull the stem and it will rip out cleanly. This technique did not work for my kale, which was okay because I enjoy using my cutlery and fiddling with the leaves.



Some folks like to use the kale stems in recipes such as grinding them up in smoothies, cooked in soups, sauteed with garlic, or even pickled. For now, mine met with the compost pile. 


Once the leaves were stem-free, into the boiling water they went. I blanched them for around five minutes, drained them in a colander, and let them cool a bit.  Once cool enough to handle, I grabbed them by handfuls, squeezing out the water and popping them into freezer bags in serving sizes that fit my meal plans.  Mine will be eaten soon, but if I were to keep them for a long period of time I would have used a vacuum sealer. 

Simmer for five minutes, more or less, depending the size of your kale
Allow to cool or rinse with cold water
I have already prepared one of my frozen batches as a side dish to sauteed venison medallions and baked sweet potatoes. I cooked them longer than the recipe called for; worrying that they would be tough, but they were a nice mildly chewy texture. I don't think that overcooking would be an issue with kale unless they are very young leaves. 

It seems there are a million ways to cook kale but I liked this recipe from Recipe.com. I used my frozen kale and it was a delicious compliment to the meat and potatoes.

I plan to make kale chips with my dehydrator and I will also be exploring some of the other preparation methods for the stems.  Here is a quick recipe from Laura Vitale with a kale chip recipe.

I hope that sharing this information has helped you.  Feel free to comment as I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences!

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