Food Home-Freezing Tips
By Editorial Staff
by Catalogs.com Info Guru Angela Bushong
Home freezing is not quite as simple as throwing leftovers in the icebox.
Freezing food at home can be a great way to preserve the harvest, save money, and make your leftovers go further while lessening food waste. Here are some tips to do it right.
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10. Containers & Wraps
It’s important to get to know your freezer-safe containers and wraps before getting started. Make sure to choose good sturdy freezer-safe glass jars, freezer-safe ziplock bags, butcher paper (primarily used for meat, if it’s wrapped properly and thoroughly), or freezer plastic to avoid cracked jars and freezer-burned food.
9. To Blanch or Not to Blanch
Most fresh vegetables must be boiled in water for a few short minutes—a process called blanching—in order to kill the enzymes that would otherwise continue to break the veggies down after they are frozen. A few, however, don’t need this extra step, and are therefore a little easier to deal with. Know which produce must be blanched and prepare it accordingly.
8. Tray Freezing is Your Friend
This is a method of flash-freezing fruits and vegetables individually, so they can be stored without sticking together. Things like green beans and berries generally lend themselves well to being tray frozen as they do not have to be blanched first, but you can use this method with nearly anything you freeze. It saves a lot of headaches when all you want is a cup of blueberries, instead of thawing a whole pint.
7. What Not to Freeze
Foods like mayonnaise, custards, and milk do not freeze well as they tend to curdle or separate. Likewise, lettuces and watermelon are not good candidates for freezing because they tend to wilt or turn into a mushy mess. Before freezing any food for the first time, it’s best to look up instructions on how to prepare it for freezing. If you are warned not to freeze it, heed the advice and just eat it fresh.
Freezing leftovers is a great way to stretch your food budget and having quick, nutritious go-to meals for busy weeknights. Just be sure the items are cool before freezing (so as not to cause a dramatic rise in your freezer’s temperature, which could affect your other frozen foods), and wrapped or sealed properly.
It’s important to take into account how much of a given item you’re going to want to use at a time. If you’re freezing a lasagna to be used for future lunches, you don’t want to freeze the entire dish, making it impossible to cut out the portion you need for your lunch the next day. Instead, use small containers to freeze the food in individual portions so all you have to do is grab and go.
4. Head Space
Freezing foods in rigid containers almost always requires that you leave an inch or two of head space between the food and the lid. This is because, as food freezes, it expands. Not taking into account this need for expansion can result in burst containers and a mess in your freezer.
3. Label, label, label
Sure, you know that what you’re putting into the freezer right now is tonight’s tuna casserole. But, next week, when you look back at the several freezer bags and glass jars full of nondescript frozen globs of presumably edible food type things, how will you know if what you’re looking at is casserole, chicken stew, or the meat scraps you were saving for your neighbor’s dog? Labeling each container with its contents, approximate amount (is this two cups of chicken stock or three?), and the date it went into the freezer is essential if you ever hope to find that casserole again.
2. Know Your Frozen Foods’ Limits
No food can be frozen forever and still be edible once you’ve thawed it out. Many (but not all) vegetables can be frozen up to a year, while some fruit will only last half that long, and meat has a different freezer life still. Refer to a good chart when determining how long you want to freeze something, and make sure you use it up within that time frame if you want it to taste its very best.
1. Freezer Rotation
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Every well run restaurant knows the rule of First In, First Out in order to keep from losing inventory, and your kitchen should be no different. Keep a good inventory and constantly be putting your newly frozen items in the back while pulling older items to the front to avoid things getting lost in the deep dark recesses of your freezer, especially if you have a lot of the same item. It would be a shame to lose all that moose meat to the ravages of freezer time (refer to tip number 2).
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