When it comes to eating, there are many, many ways that you can go about preserving the foods that you want to eat later on in the day or week. Some types of food are perfectly fine to keep on the countertop or in the pantry, while other types of food require refrigeration if you want to keep them in the best condition.
If you are planning on eating the food sometime later, then you will often want to resort to freezing the food so that you can halt the decomposition process entirely.
However, it is rarely as straightforward as it might seem to figure out what types of food need to be stored in which manner. Some foods that you may think require refrigeration should not be placed in the fridge, and other foods do not do that well when placed in the freezer. Take potatoes as an example.
Potatoes are a vegetable, so one might think that they should go in the fridge to be preserved as with other vegetables, but it is often recommended that you only put potatoes in the fridge when they are a part of a dish.
With as many different ways to store and preserve food as there are, it can be hard to decide what you want to do with your food. Some foods are very hard to tell how you should store them, and what you would have to do if you wanted to make sure that you were storing them properly.
A good example of this is going to be the swiss chard.
What Is Swiss Chard?
Swiss chard is not the name of something that is well-known throughout the United States, rather, this leafy green is far more prevalent in the Mediterranean region where it originates from.
Naturally, many Mediterranean dishes make use of it, so if you are someone who enjoys that type of food, then you may find yourself purchasing a fair amount of this plant.
This would then lead to you wanting to make sure that you preserve it properly so that you do not have to spend too much of your time and money trying to find it again if it goes bad.
Swiss chard is considerably similar to spinach, though not entirely the same. In fact, in South Africa, swiss chard is known as spinach.
The good news about swiss chard is that even though it is not as big of a part of a regular diet as it is in other parts of the world, it’s actually pretty easy to grow.
If you are someone who plans on growing swiss chard and making use of it from your own garden, it is incredibly easy to end up with more leafy greens than you know what to do with, giving you all the more reason to learn how to properly freeze them when you know that they won’t last too long in the fridge.
Unfortunately, swiss chard has a reputation for going bad noticeably fast, even when you purchase underripe swiss chard to try and give it a little bit more time.
Typically, when you go searching for this leafy green, you will always want to look for firm stalks and deep green leaves to ensure that you aren’t getting swiss chard that was harvested while it was too young.
When storing swiss chard in the fridge normally, it will last anywhere from a few days to a full week before it begins to wilt. A rule of thumb for trying to determine how long it will last in your fridge is that younger, smaller leaves tend to wilt faster than full-grown leaves.
So, considering that swiss chard will not last that long when it is in the fridge, and it will certainly wilt within a day if you leave it out on the countertop, this means that the only way to preserve it for the long-term is going to be to put it in the freezer.
This may be somewhat different for you, as you may not know how to safely preserve leafy greens inside a freezer without damaging them. The trick to freezing swiss chard is to blanch it.
Freezing Your Swiss Chard
Freezing swiss chard, when you are expecting to blanch it, is a straightforward and simple process. If you have never blanched vegetables before freezing them before, then you may feel a little bit out of your element, but you can rest confidently knowing that it is an incredibly easy process and will be worth it when you can keep your swiss chard in good condition for up to a year at a time.
You won’t need that many materials to freeze and prepare swiss chard either. Of course, you are going to want to have a freezer-safe and airtight bag for storing the swiss chard in, and you will want multiple bags if you are sectioning off the chard into portion sizes.
You will want to prepare a pot of water large enough to hold the stalks in and you will want to prepare a bowl of ice that is a similar size for the swiss chard.
For the first step, you are going to prepare the swiss chard to cook, just as you would with any other vegetable. You are going to want to briefly look it over for signs of wilt or sickness and then you are going to want to wash it well so that there is no dirt on it.
You may also want to consider separating the stalks of the swiss chard from the leaves so that you can make things easier for yourself when you prepare to cook it, but this is completely optional.
Stalks tend to take longer to cook than the leaves, and some recipes call for only the leaves or only the stalks and not the other part of the swiss chard, so it is often recommended to split them up, but if you are only focusing on freezing and storage, then you are not going to want to worry about it all that much and you can begin preparing a pot of water.
You will want to take a pot that is at least large enough to fit the stalks into and fill it with hot water. From here, you will want to then place the pot of water onto the stovetop and bring it all to a boil.
While you are waiting for that pot of water to boil, you can begin preparing your second pot. This time, you are going to fill the pot with a fair amount of ice in it. If your kitchen is notably hot, you may want to wait until the chard is cooking to prepare the ice.
Speaking of cooking the swiss chard, once the water has reached a boiling point, you will then want to place the swiss chard into the water to let it cook for a little bit. You are only going to want to let the swiss chard boil for about two minutes for the stalks and for about one minute with the leaves so that you do not end up overcooking the chard.
Immediately after this time has passed, you will want to pick up the swiss chard and put it directly onto the ice to complete the “blanch” of it. You should leave it on the ice for a little bit of time to ensure that the cooking process has completely stopped and that you are ready to begin with the final steps of preparing the swiss chard to go into the freezer.
Once you are certain that the cooking process has stopped, you will want to drain the swiss chard well, shaking off any and as much excess water as you can. You can now begin bagging the swiss chard to go into the freezer.
You should try and separate the leaves and the stalks and have them in their own containers or bags. You can use airtight freezer bags or you can consider an airtight freezer safe container, the specifics do not matter as much as making sure that the storage method is both safe for the freezer and airtight.
Now you can simply place the bags of swiss chard into the freezer. Here, depending on all different kinds of variants, you can expect the swiss chard to last between six months to a full year before it begins to go bad and become freezer burned.
Always remember to put a date on the container that you are putting into the freezer so that you have a good sense of how long it has been.
What Is Blanching?
The blanching process helps to preserve the quality of various vegetables and fruits when preparing them to go into the freezer for long periods of time. Making sure to blanch properly ensures that the food in question will keep its taste, texture, and appearance much better than it otherwise would.
The nature of blanching is going to be to essentially cook the food so that it will function much like leftovers in the freezer, being less sensitive to the harsh climate, while still being functionally fresh and new food.
By boiling the food in question for a short amount of time, you can just barely begin to initiate the cooking process.
The reason you put the food onto the ice afterward is because the cooking process for vegetables and fruits doesn’t stop when you take it out of the heat. Instead, the heated water that is inside of the fruit or vegetable will continue to cook it from the inside out, leading to an unwanted level of cooking when you are trying to freeze something to preserve a fresh taste.
Placing it onto the ice helps to forcibly stop that cooking process so that you can safely freeze your favorite vegetables.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.