Tuesday, January 17, 2012

JOT #26: Freezing

No, that's not how I feel about the temperature outside (ok, yes, it is), it's about how you can preserve food in a fairly simple way.

Sure there are lots of websites about how to do it and ways to do it, but let me make it simple for you:

  1. Cut or prepare the food the way you want it to be served (eg: slice carrots, or cook up soup)
  2. Put it in a container (a ziplock or tupperware or stainless steel or freezer-safe glass)
  3. Label it with a sharpie - what it is and date
  4. Stick it in the freezer

To remove from the freezer, simply remove, defrost on the counter or microwave or in the fridge, and cook to desired cooked-ness.

There are a few other tips that will help you make the most of frozen things, but it can't get simpler than this. People have been freezing foods since cave-man times when Og (or more likely Mrs.Og!) stuck the leftover raw meat into the snow. It's been commercialized only this last century, but it has lots of benefits, like

  • No preservatives necessary
  • Keeps food fresh for eating later (months at least)
  • Inhibits most bacteria
  • Keeps nutrients in (aside from vitamin C, which is most easily lost in freezing)

I have a habit at home of freezing leftovers, of course, but also extra things I get in my CSA box - I can rinse a bag of grapes and throw it in the freezer for a treat later. Carrot greens become pesto and spooned into ice trays - then into bags or boxes to be thawed as needed. Here are some of the things you might not have thought about freezing:

  • Dairy products - milk, yogurt, butter can all be frozen
  • Breads - dough and sliced breads can be frozen. Thaw dough in the fridge and then let rise before baking.
  • Baked goods - muffins, cookies, cookie dough, bagels
  • Veggies - some do better after blanching, but if you'll use them soon, go ahead and freeze. I've been known to put a whole bag of spinach in - it's fine. Tomatoes can be sliced and frozen on trays then popped into bags. Corn cut from the cob, even bits of veggies - radish greens and cilantro bits and lemon peels make it in there.
  • Fruits - whole grapes, bananas (use later in smoothies), barries, even whole plums make delicious treats when it's hot, or blend them up for a sorbet or smoothie.
  • Starters - for yogurt and cheese, even bread.
  • Compost - freezing food scraps kills off any pathogens and fruit fly eggs that might find their way into  your compost bin.
  • Spreads and sauces - jams, chutneys, pestos, tomato paste (I never need a whole can!), applesauce (makes great kiddie popsicles) - these do best in ice cube trays first, as do baby foods.
  • Flours and powders - I store curry powders and flour for later use.
  • Nuts and coconut

Avoid freezing: food that's already been thawed from the freezer, rice dishes (they often have little luck), cream inside pastries, mayo/jello/custard/pudding/gravy.

When in doubt, don't throw it out! Freeze it.

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