When and Why to Freeze Kale
When would you want to freeze kale? That’s actually a good question to ask, because fresh kale will keep for a long time — two to three weeks when stored properly in the refrigerator. It only really makes sense to freeze kale if you have an overwhelming bounty of it. For instance, if your garden has just had its first freeze in the fall and you wish to get all of the kale out of the garden, or if you find a lot of kale inexpensively at the farmer’s market, then that would be a good time to consider freezing kale for you to eat at your leisure.
Late fall or winter is the best time to freeze kale. Kale needs a hard frost in order to reach its peak of flavor. The freeze alters the sugars in the kale, making it sweeter and less bitter.
You should obtain your kale from a farmer’s market or your own garden, because that way you’ll know that it has underwent your local frost. Supermarket kale likely hasn’t been through a frost and won’t be as flavorful. And when it comes to putting up vegetables, it’s important to select them at their peak of flavor.
Chose kale that is fresh looking and free of blemishes. If it has curly leaves, the curls should be crisp and not wilted. It’s okay to select kale that has mild blemishes or a few holes in it. The holes are from caterpillars or other little critters chewing on the leaves for a snack. Just be sure to trim away any holes or blemishes before freezing the kale.
Preparing Kale for Freezing
Now let’s go through the actual process of freezing kale step-by-step. This begins assuming you’ve selected all of the kale you’re going to freeze and washed it thoroughly.
Large pot (6 quart or larger is great) for blanching. If it’s equipped with a pasta strainer insert, all the better.
Freezer bags or freezer containers — pint size is good.
A straining spider or large slotted spoon to get blanched kale out of the pot, if you don’t have a pasta strainer insert.
A clean sink filled with ice water.
A salad spinner is handy.
Spare kitchen towels.
- The stems of kale are tough and won’t hold up well to freezing. Cut the leaves from the stems.
- Chop leaves however you like. I prefer to cut them in approximately 1-inch squares.
- Heat water to boiling in the pot. Prepare sink with ice water.
- When water boils, you’re ready to begin blanching.
Blanch, Pack and Freeze!
Drop a large handful of kale into the pot and boil for two minutes. Remove the kale and plunge immediately into ice water. This is known as “shocking” the leaves — it stops their cooking, leaving them in the ideal state for freezing. Leave the kale in the ice water for two minutes, then remove it from the water and dry in a salad spinner or gently squeeze dry. You can get a rhythm going with this system, especially with a second person to help with the blanching and shocking.
When all of the kale is blanched, shocked, and dried, measure it out into freezer bags or freezer containers; I prefer freezer bags. I like to freeze kale and other leafy greens in ten-ounce increments. That way when a recipe calls for “a ten-ounce package of frozen spinach,” I can substitute kale in its place just by pulling a bag out of the freezer.
Squeeze as much air as possible out of the bags when freezing. Seal the bag nearly complete, and then suck the rest of the air out with a straw. Alternatively, the mini vacuum-seal hand pump systems word well, too. The frozen kale will keep for up to a year in your freezer.
And that’s about all you need to know about freezing kale. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below.
Preserving Food: Freezing Vegetables: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy719
YES - Kentucky Greens: https://www.ca.uky.edu/HES/fcs/FACTSHTS/KY_Recipe_Cards_27.pdf