I live in a city where I can get my hands on fresh spinach all year round. I don’t freeze spinach because it’s seasonal or expensive (I save this for berries and mangoes!) I freeze because it’s convenient and readily available—in my fridge. Would you run down to your corner store to pick up a bunch of spinach because you want some in your smoothie or stir-fry? I’m assuming not. And even if you legged it and brought some back, cleaning, de-stemming, it’s all pretty time consuming. The frozen stuff comes in handy for times like these. (Which is all the damn time if you ask me, and this, coming from a rabid meal-prepper.)
Bulk-buying essentials: goes without saying but buy produce at its freshest – scout markets, befriend your local green grocer anna who will save those fresh radish tops for you, pick, prod, do what you need to. Although I haven’t found the prices of spinach to fluctuate too wildly, it might still make sense as a general rule of thumb to take cost into the equation. [I’m a complete strawberry fiend so I go through the same motion every year waiting for the time that they’re at their freshest—and therefore also their cheapest—to stock up and freeze. My personal record is 14 punnets (about 4 kilos). Worth mentioning here that we’re a family of two and I’m the only one that eats strawberries.]
There are a few different methods for freezing spinach. 1) clean, blanch, and freeze—my preferred method 2) clean and freeze 3) clean, blend and freeze (either raw or blanched). All these methods work but I vastly prefer blanching to freezing them raw. Blanching does two things: your spinach is technically cooked, so I find comfort in knowing that that errant bug that might have stuck to one of the leaves has not been cryogenically preserved in my freezer compartment. I also recommend in this recipe (instructions below) that plunging the spinach in a bowl of water with a few ice cubes thrown in stops the spinach from cooking further. What this also does is retains that vibrant green colour. Another big plus for why I prefer this method. Freezing raw spinach also has another big downside – the leaves tend to oxidize. Although safe to eat, I’m not particularly a fan.
I freeze spinach in a muffin tin. Once frozen hard, the individual pucks are transferred to a zip-lock bag and stashed away. I find this to be a good size to use in smoothies, curries and soups. I even throw them straight into the pan to make say, palak paneer, a poriyal, or stir-fry. No thawing necessary. If you want smaller portions, freeze in ice cube trays or handfuls of them, as is, in zip-lock bags or containers.
HOW TO FREEZE SPINACH
- Spinach, about 750 grams
- 1 tray of ice cubes
- If your spinach comes out of a packet and contains just the leaves, use as is. If the stems are intact, remove and discard the harder thicker stems at the bottom. Retain the thinner, more delicate stems close to the leaf. Rinse and set aside.
- Fill water in a medium-sized bowl and add the ice cubes into it. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add large handfuls of the spinach to the pot and tamp them down with tongs or a ladle until completely submerged. Turn them a few times in the water. Blanch for 2 minutes, then remove the spinach and add to the bowl with ice cubes. Repeat in batches.
- Take handfuls of the wilted spinach from the bowl and squeeze out as much of the water as you can with your hands. Transfer to a kitchen towel and pat dry. Repeat in batches.
- Divide the scraggly bits of spinach into a muffin tray and press down with your fingers. Alternatively freeze them in ice cube trays if you want smaller portions, or in a container.
- If using a muffin tray/ice cube tray, transfer the tray to the freezer and let it sit for a few hours until the spinach is completely frozen. To remove the pucks, flip the tray onto a table or counter and tap down a few times until they fall out.
- Transfer the frozen pucks straight away into a zip-lock bag and freeze. If there’s still a bit of moisture in the spinach, they might stick to each other a little upon freezing. But a gentle pull will get them apart just fine.
- Once you take them out and thaw, don’t refreeze. Keeps well in the freezer for up to 2 months.