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Tips for Freezing Food

berries

Have you ever wanted to freeze food for future use, but been a little intimidated? Have no fear, we have all the tips you need to be a professional "freezer".

Especially this time of year, things are "in season" for a short period of time, and I want to preserve them to enjoy later. Year round, I keep on the look-out for good deals at my grocery store. Buying the "family pack" of meat even if it is too much for a meal allows me to get a better deal and stock the freezer up by using some now and freezing some for future use.

I know there are many ways to preserve food long range … dehydrating and canning come to mind. We will cover those topics in future blogs. But I wanted to talk today about freezing different types of foods. Freezing is an excellent way of putting up food that you think you are going to eat in the next six to twelve months.

 

Freezing food is pretty straightforward - there are no secret or complicated formulas. But there are some tips that can help you keep that food as close to fresh as possible when you thaw it for use.

 

Freeze in the portions that are most probable for use.

My wife and I are “empty-nesters,” so most of the time, we are cooking for only two people. So when I look to freeze some of our food, I try to portion it out into what we could use in one meal (plus maybe a few leftovers). When I buy a package of chicken thighs, I freeze them in portions of three. When I freeze pork loin, I freeze them in portions of two. Those are the right amounts for one meal for us. If we are going to have company, I can thaw the appropriate number of bags.

Freeze in portions that won’t go bad before they can be used.

Our favorite bacon comes in 24 ounce portions. I have found that if I store all 24 ounces in the refrigerator, some of it will go bad before we have had a chance to use it all (we only eat bacon once or twice a week). So, I take the 24 ounces, divide it into thirds, and freeze two of the three portions (the third goes into the refrigerator). When one portion is gone, it is easy to go to the freezer and pull another out. And I don’t waste food by having it go bad before we eat it.

 

Take a little extra time with foods that need special care.

We love to freeze fruit for use during the “off season”. But if we put fruit straight into a bag and froze it, chances are it would freeze in one large clump. This renders the fruit unusable when it is time to take it out of the freezer. Think through how you would like to utilize your frozen fruit, and then prepare it accordingly.

 

For example, blueberries take special care in preserving, but are SO worth it. There are two methods for freezing blueberries, one washes prior to freezing, the other washes at the time of use.

 

I personally prefer washing the berries at time of use. When we pick blueberries in the summer, we spread them out on cookie sheets or other flat surfaces to let them dry completely before portioning them into freezer bags for freezing. Because we do not wash the blueberries ahead of time, this only takes about 24 hours. Then the dry berries will freeze individually without clumping together. We then wash the frozen berries before we use them.

 

One of my co-workers prefers washing blueberries prior to freezing. To do so, she washes and places them in a strainer to drip dry for a few minutes before laying them out on clean, old towels. As long as there is good air flow, the berries are able to be dumped into freezer bags and frozen within a few hours. If you want to speed up the process, put a fan blowing on the drying fruit. Experiment with each method and see which works best for you.

 

For the types of fruit that I wash ahead of time (pitted cherries, raspberries), or for fruits that are naturally very moist (avocado slices), it often works best to spread them out on a cookie sheet and then place that cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the individual berries or slices are frozen, they can be placed into a freezer bag for further storage, and they will not freeze into clumps.

 

Use a vacuum sealer.

One of the problems with food that is packaged with a lot of air around it is that it is prone to freezer burn. So one of the best ways to prevent freezer burn is to remove as much air as possible from the bag being frozen. You can do this by manipulating the freezer bag to force out as much air as possible before freezing. But if you are going to be freezing a lot of food, I would recommend the purchase of a vacuum sealer. These remove all the air around your food and can make a big difference in the quality of your food when you thaw and use it.

Use quality freezer bags. 

This may seem like a trivial tip, but the thickness of your zippered bag makes a difference in how long your food can be frozen prior to the quality deteriorating. Never use "storage" bags, but pay the few pennies more for bags that are designed for use as a "freezer" bag. 

Remember food safety when you are thawing foods, especially meat.

Having certain foods sit at room temperature for too long can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause health problems. The safest way to thaw meat is in the refrigerator. It may take longer to thaw, but the food never gets to a temperature that would allow harmful bacteria growth.

 

Do you have other tips for successfully freezing food? Let me hear from you. My email address is robby@kneadedkitchens.com.


By Robby Richardson

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