By Katherine Chiu
One in 4 households in the City of Poughkeepsie are food insecure by USDA standards. That’s higher than the national average of 1 in 6. Through our Food Share program, Poughkeepsie Farm Project partners with local organizations to connect more of our neighbors with good food. Last year, PFP donated over 21,000 pounds of fresh farm produce to pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community organizations.
Our Food Share program partners love making use of the fresh produce that they receive from PFP, but with their skeleton kitchen crews and limited cooler space, we sometimes test their capacity with the amount of produce we send their way. So we decided to test out a new recipe:
Take one chef at a PFP Food Share partner organization, with a kitchen equipped to turn out hundreds of meals each day;
Add several PFP workshare members, with work hours to fulfill;
Throw in hundreds of pounds of collard greens, kale, and chard, harvested by PFP’s farm crew and workshare members and donated to our Food Share partners!
Several of PFP’s workshare members became new experts in greens preservation after participating in special workshare shifts in the kitchens of Hudson River Housing and The Lunch Box. Over the course of just a couple afternoons, we helped to blanch and freeze about 450 pounds of fresh greens donated by PFP, to be used in tasty and nutritious meals for our Poughkeepsie neighbors. Our Food Share program partners were thrilled to have the extra hands to help process and all the donated fresh produce, and our workshare members had a great time learning new kitchen skills while lending their time and energy out to the extended PFP community.
Need a quick lesson on how you can preserve the upcoming bounty of fall greens? Let PFP CSA shareholders show you how.
(After the success of these events, we will be offering a limited number of work shifts this fall at Hudson River Housing and The Lunch Box for those of our workshare members whose physical limitations prevent them from working in the field. We also encourage all our members to volunteer with these wonderful organizations on your own schedules! Please find more information on volunteering at the end of this story.)
Farm to Freezer: Step by Step
Step 2: Get the greens from the farm to the kitchen. Shout-out to PFP CSA member Pete for delivering these particular greens to Hudson River Housing!
PFP’s working CSA shareholders are the engine behind our Food Share produce deliveries. Every week, our workshare members make deliveries of fresh donated produce to several local organizations who help us to connect more of our Poughkeepsie neighbors with good food.
Step 3: Greens are in the kitchen, here we go! Set up your workspace: get a big pot of water (or two) boiling on the stove, clear counter space for a chopping board and a sharp knife, and set up a colander in the sink.
Hudson River Housing’s head chef Ritu Bedi gives us an orientation of his kitchen, where he and his staff cook and serve up to 300 meals a day, 365 days a year for Hudson River Housing’s residents--Poughkeepsie folks in need of emergency and transitional housing.
Step 4: If you want to de-stem your greens, you can. This step is recommended for kale and collards, and less crucial for the tender stems of Swiss chard.
Step 5: Chop, chop, chop. To speed up this task, try stacking the leaves, rolling them up, and slicing thin strips cross-wise across the roll before then doing a few rough chops lengthwise. The size of your cut pieces is up to you. We cut the rolls of greens into about 1-inch wide strips.
Step 6: Wash and drain your chopped greens, and then drop them into your pot of boiling water. This step is called “blanching”: scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time. This process stops enzyme activity in the greens, which would otherwise cause loss of flavor, color, texture, and nutrients in the greens even while they’re in the freezer. For thick greens like collards, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends 3 minutes of blanching time. For all other greens, 2 minutes is recommended.
Step 7: Remove greens from boiling water and rinse under cold running water to halt the cooking process.
PFP member Kate got so good at blanching greens quickly, she started working the stove two-handed.
Step 8: Squeeze as much moisture out of the greens as you can. Then, pack into a sealable freezer bag and compress as much of the air out as you can before sealing. Leave about a ½-inch of “headspace” at the top to allow for the water content in the greens to expand a bit as they freeze.
Step 9: Remember to date and label the contents. How long it will last depends on how consistently cold your freezer stays. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends using your blanched and frozen greens within 12 months.
Mom and daughter duo: Polly came to work in Hudson River Housing’s kitchen for her PFP work hours, and daughter Hilary was there too--as HRH’s volunteer coordinator!
Step 10: Step back and admire your work. Then, pop those greens into the freezer!
We started out with enough collards, kale and chard to fill that stack of orange bins. Afterward, the bagged processed greens fit neatly into 3 small crates like the one that Kate is holding inside the walk-in freezer--freeing up space in Hudson River Housing’s cooler to store more produce from PFP!
Defrost your greens overnight in the fridge when you’re ready to use them. Enjoy your local produce this winter in soups, casseroles, quiches...and if you want to help prepare and serve the same produce in warm, hearty meals to your Poughkeepsie neighbors, consider volunteering with PFP’s Food Share partner organizations!
To learn more about volunteering with The Lunch Box, call Dutchess Outreach at: 845.454.3792
To learn more about volunteering at Hudson River Housing, visit: http://www.hudsonriverhousing.org/volunteer.html
PFP workshare members also helped to process greens at The Lunch Box, where 500 meals are served daily, Monday through Friday, to anyone in Poughkeepsie who needs it.