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November 10, 2009 in canning and freezing, vegan, vegetarian13 comments

in which Facebook is vilified, and swiss chard is frozen

super mega fast chopping!

To skip the Facebook rant and get right to the recipe instructions, scroll down to “Let’s freeze some chard!”

Hola, amigos. How’s it going with you? I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. Okay, I’m channeling Jim Anchower, opinion columnist for the esteemed newspaper The Onion. I was confused as to why I wasn’t posting. Believe me, there are a few dozen recipes and pics piled up all ready to be tossed out into the intertubes, if only someone would write them up. After confusedly wondering for several days, but not actually making any attempt to figure out just what was going on, I actually focused my little pea brain on it.

And I figured it out. It all goes back to that bastion of evil, Facebook.

I hate Facebook. I loathe Facebook. I despise Facebook with the fiery passion of a thousand suns going supernova.

Now don’t begin unfriending me, friends and family types. It’s not personal. You’re all wonderful, beautiful people and I love you all.

But this medium you/we have chosen to “keep in touch” is the most personally invasive, confusingly organized, outright annoying site I have ever seen. (Also I hold a grudge against it because people forced me to sign up back in the day when you had to be a college student to use it, and my obviously fake name got purged at some point. Of course, Facebook is the Google of AOL these days, so fake names are perfectly fine now. But I digress.)

This thing you’re reading? I made it. All by myself. I made that picture up top. I coded the WordPress theme from scratch. I wrote the CSS. Which explains why, if you actually know how to code and you view source, the code is a mess and probably half-cudgeled. But it works. I like to think I know my way around a website. Yet even for me, some supposed expert type, Facebook is nigh on impossible to navigate. I can never find what I’m looking for. Hardly ever. I was agog when I figured out how to create an event. Unfortunately for the invitees, I’ll probably never be able to find the event again. I hope they know what to do.

I’ve been able to keep my facebook interaction to the bare minimum…until recently. It’s all my cousin’s fault. Try Mafia Wars, he said. It’s fun, he said.

Nothing on Facebook can be fun, I retorted.

but it’s pleasantly addictive

But it’s pleasantly addictive! he cajoled.

I patiently explained my pattern with these sorts of amusements. Not content to simply plod along, I analyze strategies, read up on the best equipment, and generally try to min-max everything in an annoying power-player sort of way.

Long story long, I made the mistake of “trying” Mafia Wars. On the bright side, it’s not a time sucker. It’s quite simplistic for a game of its genre and I quickly learned the best strategies.

The problem is, and this is what I realized when I put my pea brain to the task, I’ve been playing Mafia Wars at the exact same time I usually write posts. I had to pull myself away from it to write this. Sad.

So anyway, join my mafia. Ha ha.

the post is about swiss chard

Grandma planted chard every year. I never tried it, and she never forced me to. I don’t think I ever tasted it until a few years ago. It’s in the leafy green family — that’s the technical term, honest…okay, it’s not. I know now why she grew it. It’s a great substitute for spinach, but it’s easier to grow, much sturdier, and weathers a light frost with panache.

morning dew on swiss chard

Some people say chard tastes “almost as mild” as spinach, but I disagree. I think chard is milder than spinach. I dislike the squeaky coating raw spinach leaves in your mouth, that feeling that your tooth enamel is being stripped away while you chew. Spinach does that, and it’s quite unpleasant. Chard has no squeakiness, and while it cooks down like other greens do, it doesn’t go limp like spinach does. Cooked chard still is bright green and has a snap. I don’t think I’ve been able to make chard mushy.

11 bags of chard! that's it!

I realized I could swap chard out for spinach in lasagna and elsewhere, so the past couple years we’ve been freezing it up in the fall for kicks. Here’s how we do it, but be forewarned: it’s a lot of time for little reward. I mean, we basically each got about 5-6 bucks worth of frozen spinach in chard form for like, four hours work. That’s not very good wages. It being fresh, home grown, and virtually organic is a bonus though. I guess if we’d bought organic frozen spinach you could say we froze about 10-15 bucks worth apiece. Oh well; it’s still pretty fun to do.

let’s freeze some chard!

Equipment:
- 1 or 2 stock pots. They don’t have to be huge, but they should be at least as large as a pot you’d boil pasta in. We’re going to be blanching the chard before freezing it, and blanching must be done in small batches anyway. We found a 2-pot system to work very well, and it made the blanching go twice as quickly.

- Strainer basket for the pot(s) or a large slotted spoon, for transferring the blanched chard from the pot to the ice water.

- Speaking of ice water, get a bag of ice. Get two if you have room to store leftovers.

- A cutting board and quality chef’s knives for each person.

- A salad spinner for drying blanched chard (preferable) or a large strainer.

- Freezer bags or small freezer containers. A short length of straw helps when you suck the air out of freezer bags, if you don’t have those cool vacuum kind.

- A kitchen scale for measuring out chard by weight when freezing. We froze it in 10-ounce increments, so a bag of chard pulled out of the freezer would be roughly equivalent to a box of pre-packaged frozen spinach.

- Several big bowls for working and for scraps. A five-gallon bucket is awesome for scraps, or you could even use grocery bags. Just realize you’ll be dealing with detritus. ;-). I’m always, always wishing I had more large bowls.

1. Get someone to do it with you. Freezing should never be done alone, IMHO. There’s always enough to do to keep two people busy, and it goes twice as fast. Round up a friend, an aunt, or someone with a “Will Work For Food” sign you found on the street. Imagine their delight when they find out the food they are working for is frozen home-grown chard!

giant pot of chopped chard

2. Get a lot of chard. As you can see, it cooks down a lot. From that giant pot of fresh chard, we got eleven ten-ounce bags’ worth.

chard, after blanching

3. Chard has tasty stems, but they develop an unpleasant texture when frozen. Trim the stem end up to where the leaf begins, and if the leaf is large and has a prominent stem structure, cut the leaf from either side and discard the stem part, or save to cook up later.

4. Also inspect the leaves and cut out imperfect areas and, if you have chard like mine, bug snack holes.

5. Wash the trimmed chard leaves in a sink full of cool water. You could actually do this before the stem-trimming, but we don’t because we have so much stem to cut off. Either fill both sinks and do a double wash, or run a stream of cool water and hand-rinse the leaves. This isn’t as bad or time-consuming as it sounds.

linda's a happy chopper!

6. Chop the washed chard leaves into small pieces, about an inch square. I thought of using the food processor for this, but nixed the idea when I thought of the quantities involved — we would have been emptying and messing around with bowls so much that we decided to just chop it all by hand with our big santoku chef’s knives.

blanching the chard

7. You’re ready to blanch! Fill the pot(s) with water, and get them to boil. Fill one side of your sink partway with water, and dump a bunch of ice into it.

8. Once the water is boiling, drop a large handful of chopped chard into the pot, maybe a few cups’ worth. The only thing to watch for is to not put in too much — if the water isn’t back to a boil within 30 seconds, you’ve got too much chard in there.

yet ANOTHER food-in-a-sink picture

9. Blanch for 2 minutes. Remove the chard to an ice water bath to halt cooking. Leave in the ice water for 2 minutes (as long as you blanched it). It can remain there longer, but not shorter.

10. Drain cooled and blanched chard in a strainer or a salad spinner.

11. Package in freezer bags or freezer containers in 10-ounce increments.

12. Mix up a cuba libre and chill out.

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your comments

  1. rebecca says:

    I’m exhausted just by reading this! Amen sista, glad you have the talent to carry out the task! Now I am intrigued to try chard. Oh, I also scored a container of just sesame sticks, so no more sorting through the mix anymore. Just open container, and viola!

  2. Amy says:

    Hehe. You know what though, I’m over it now. That rant was totally cleansing!

    Mmmm…sesame sticks. We finished off the container throughout the week. I picked out all the sesame.

  3. You made me read…great lead in!

    I have a pretty picture of Swiss chard from the Botanic Garden, if you want to see what it looks like growing with a beautiful orange center spine.

    You’ve convinced me to try it in place of spinach….

    • Amy says:

      You should post it here! You can use img tags and such in comments. Unfortunately I just had the normal plain chard, as you can see from the pics.

  4. Debi says:

    I have blocked Mafia Wars from my FB! :)

    Love Chard, now that I know how to not cook the stems….

    • Amy says:

      Good plan! Unfortunately I’m nearing level 300. Fortunately it’s much easier to stay away from now – it’s not an incredibly interesting game.

      The stems thing works with kale too; in fact, it’s more necessary with kale. I just used the first of my frozen chard last week! Made black bean chilaquile from the Moosewood cookbook. I’d forgotten how yummy that is. :p

  5. Diana says:

    Thank you for this! Fantastic. I work at an organic farm, (www.greenbranchfarm.com) and occasionally take home excess produce. Wondering what to do with the chard, as we are currently eating squash, squash, and more squash. And peppers. And tomatoes. Now I know!

  6. cat says:

    Swiss Chard is my favorite greens to grow. Will grow all summer, endure frost & mild freezes, and tastes great. Pick outer leaves all summer. By doing this, the greens keep growing from the center, like lettuce. Pick large bag, freeze by blanching about 3 minutes or so (tear into peices), cut stems off and freeze them separate, as they will take longer to cook. Saute’ in butter, olive oil, or your choice. DELICIOUS!!! I also like to add crushed red pepper & minced garlic sometimes. Swiss Chard is also very nutritious. Try them. And a bonus…not bothered by insects like mustard & collards, etc.

  7. [...] How to freeze chard • Shiny CookingNov 10, 2009 … Learn how to preserve swiss chard by freezing it. Also: a Facebook rant. [...]

  8. Therri says:

    Thanks for this technique I always have too much chard in my garden and hate to see it wasted.

  9. MJ says:

    I truly thank you for the FBook rant! I have recently removed myself from it. Yes to all you said and I could add more but why, I ‘m over it!
    About to put up the chard from my garden now!

  10. Valerie says:

    Great info! I never realized them stems tasted crummy after freezing( which is why it wasn’t as good). Also loved the tip on using the salad spinner! Am Italian woman I know takes frozen s.c. and sates with garlic (which is discarded)and folds into roughly mashed potatoes! Doesn’t it sound great?! Enjoyed your info! Thanks!

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