Monday, March 28, 2016

Blanching Greens: Easy Preserving for Those Without a Pressure Canner

Hello, greens. 
In preparation for the tomato bed, I needed to clear away the norabo. This Okutama leafy green goes by the name Kikuna out here, but my Tokyo farmers always called it norabo. It is cold tolerant and is reminiscent of kale in flavor and texture. Over the years it has become a staple in our household, so I gratefully accepted some seeds when they offered.

The four plants I started last spring went to seed in a glory of yellow flowers that turned to crisp brown pods that seemed to burst even when glanced at. I let them be, perhaps foolishly, but busied myself with other parts of the garden. I soon noticed small norabo seedlings sprouting everywhere, and let them come. They arrived in summer's heat, so I watered and nurtured them along and delayed topping up that section of the bed even though it would be more convenient. They'd worked so hard, I thought. They deserved a chance. And, to be honest, I wanted to eat them.

Come fall, they were big leaved and could be harvested almost daily. We ate them in soups, salads, and gave away the extra. It was glorious. However, spring is here again, and I really need to prepare for the season. It was time to say goodbye. I cut the leaves free of their stems and left the not so nice ones behind to compost in place. The rest went into bags that I hauled home with plans to blanche them.

Blanching is a means of quickly cooking, usually a green, that preserves much of the original flavor, texture, and nutrients. I use it to prepare my greens for freezing, which is my only option of preserving as I don't have a pressure canner or dehydrator. It turns them a brilliant shade of green and makes for a handy stash of deliciousness in the freezer for the future.

Keep that water for soup or the next round of blanching.
How to Blanche
1. Wash the greens. Give them a good plunge and drain.
2. Bring water to boil in a large pot.
3. Plop in the greens (be careful!) and immediately set the timer in this case to 1:10.
4. Remove from heat and drain, but be sure to catch the nutrient-rich water in a pot. You can reuse it for a second batch or for a soup later on. It will also freeze nicely.
5. Plunge the boiled and drained greens into cold water to stop the cooking process.
6. Drain again.
7. Pack into portion-size freezer bags and freeze for later.

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