What's the best way to freeze food you need for cooking?
Freezing Food Staples
Using a Freezer Effectively
Avoiding Freezer Burn
What Foods Don't Freeze
Freezing Food for Long-Term Storage
We recently have been given a new-to-us upright freezer. I'm very excited about putting it to good use, especially as our current freezer is small and overflowing.
There have been several posts lately asking about how specific foods can be frozen for long-term storage. Does anyone know of a post or a website that has an extensive list of foods that are good for freezing and directions for freezing them? I would really love to look at a resource that talks extensively about freezing foods for storage.
Does anyone have information on freezing dried beans, rice and grains, flours, pastas, potatoes, yeast bricks? I try very hard to buy "ingredients" instead of insta-food. If possible, these are some things I'd like to freeze and start keeping on hand. My understanding is that potatoes freeze poorly, so how do frozen hashbrowns and frozen fries get made?
A Great Resource for Freezing Food
A great resource on freezing food safely is the USDA. It offers a lot of help with instructions and which containers to use for freezing and canning.
Talk to Local Extension Service About Freezing Food
Every state with a land grant university has an Extension Service. They have very useful information on a whole range of topics. Check the phone book under local county offices or search for their website. A great website is extension.org. This is a compilation of Extension information from all across the country.
Food that Freezes Well
Depending on the climate in your area, humidity, insects, etc., it should not be necessary to freeze dried beans, peas, pasta or rice. Yeast in any form can be frozen and thawed before use. Flour and grains may be frozen if insects or mold are a problem. Mashed potatoes freeze well, but home-freezing of hash browns or French fries may not produce good results. Commercially frozen food generally has preservatives added to retard spoilage.
Packaging Makes All the Difference When Freezing Food
Dried beans, rice, grains and uncooked pasta all freeze great. I freeze yeast bricks, opened with the yeast poured into jars. Freezing not only keeps any pantry critters away, but it also keeps the food fresh. Cooked pasta is another thing. It does tend to soften in the freezer, but we don't seem to mind. Pasta works best in a combo dish like lasagna or mixed with a lot of sauce.
We freeze a variety of soups and stews with potatoes. The potatoes do get soft and a bit watery, but in the soup, that's not such a problem. Hash browns and French fries are usually partially pre-cooked and coated with a fat of some sort to preserve their freshness. There are many websites on freezing foods. Just do a search for "freezing food" and you will get thousands of hits. Some sites focus on freezing fruits or vegetables and some are more specific to freezing convenience food. University extension publications (both online and in print) offer a wealth of information as well.
No matter what you freeze, packaging makes all the difference. Use containers designed specifically for the freezer and remove as much air as possible. I like to suck excess air out of bags with a straw.
Good Book About Freezing Food
The best place to find how to freeze (or can or dry) food items is a current Ball Blue Book of Preserving. It's about $8 and well worth the price. Here's the description from a website selling the book (kitchenkrafts.com): "A classic American guide that offers fresh solutions for modern-day, busy lifestyles. Both beginners and seasoned canners alike should have this book on-hand for ready reference for just that reason. Includes instructions for preserving food by canning, freezing and dehydration. Provides easy-to-follow canning instructions, instructional graphics, helpful hints, beautiful photographs, and over 450 recipes. Softcover, 124 pages."
Cheryl in Oakland, MD
Preparing Potatoes for the Freezer
I can give information on freezing potatoes. When my potatoes start having spuds on them, I cut them into French fries. I fry them until they just start to brown and then cool them off on a cookie tray. When cool, I transfer them into a resealable bag. The same is true with hashbrowns except that you cut them the size that you want and then add seasonings like onion and bell pepper. Just before they brown take them out and cool off on a cookie tray. Bag the same way.
Mashed Potatoes Straight from the Freezer
I recently discovered that you can mash potatoes ahead of time and then put mounds of them in muffin cups. After freezing them, pop them out and into a freezer bag. They taste great and are a big time saver when we need to eat supper on the run. (I added a bit of milk in mine when I mashed them before freezing.)
Since I haven't mastered canning, I also make freezer jam. You can freeze gallons of milk, but you better pour a bit out for head space as it expands once frozen. You can do loaves of bread too, but I would double wrap them in another bag before freezing.
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