Ahead of the hurricane I heeded to my own advice, and cleaned out the freezer. I didn’t want to come home to thawed and possibly rotting meat because of the inevitable power failure. We were lucky enough to return to some downed tree branches, a yard full of leaves, and full power. We were amazed by our good luck.
Which leads me to think I have been given a second chance at freezer organization. It is harvest time at the framers’ markets, and a perfect time to start to stockpile for the winter. As I poked around the internet for some freezer guidance I found all sorts of curious nuggets and ideas for what to keep on hand as a resourceful cook.
Mark Bittman is someone whose cooking advice I respect. If he thinks I should save egg whites, then I am going to start saving egg whites. He also believes in using Baggies as a reliable storage unit – providing that you make a note in bold Sharpie letters about the contents and the date you tossed said Baggie in the freezer. One Baggie of crushed tomatoes looks a lot like another Baggie of cubed tomatoes. And this week’s leftover taco meat looks suspiciously like August 7th’s leftover taco meat. It will save a lot of money, and trips to the grocery store, if I pay a little more attention to what leftovers we have already generated. (Apologies for the New York Times paywall: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/dining/06mini.html)
In our fairly cavernous and nearly empty freezer at this exact minute – and I have trotted to the kitchen with a notebook in hand – are:
1 box Outshine Fruit Bars (Strawberry, Lime, Raspberry), my dessert on weeknights
1 Baggie diced tomatoes 9/24 – half of a 15-ounce can
1 Baggie chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce 9/24- half of a small can
1 large Rubbermaid container of Mr. Friday’s homemade spaghetti sauce, with meatballs and sausage (pre-hurricane, but kept frozen in evacuation cooler)
1 package hot dog buns 9/23
1 package hamburger buns 9/23
24 frozen chocolate chip cookie dough balls 9/23 (375°F for 12 minutes) because the geniuses at Food52 suggested freezing half of the dough, instead of cramming every last cookie in our greedy little maws. So we had some nice hot and fresh cookies on Sunday, and in a week or two, when we get the hankering again, all we have to do is slide the dough balls out of the freezer and into the pre-heated oven. I told you they are geniuses! https://food52.com/recipes/25558-chocolate-chip-cookies
And now it is time to get serious about what to stash in the freezer – it’s not just for leftovers and the occasional sweet treat. Get some freezer Baggies, and a Sharpie, and get ready to make informed decisions about taking charge of your freezer. And double bag so you avoid freezer burn. A lot of money can be wasted if you can’t eat your stash. Here are some scientific tips: https://food.unl.edu/freezing-cooked-food-future-meals-freezer-bag-tips
Make some soup stock, chicken, beef or vegan. Put it in manageable containers, and label with contents and date.
If you cook grains or beans, cook extra for the freezer, so you can whip out a serving of rice in a couple of weeks, without waiting half an hour to cook some for a quick pre-PTA chicken meal.
Freeze dough, bread and pasta. Well-wrapped and clearly labeled. If you bake a cake, or some bread, freeze half. The birthday party doesn’t need to ever end! Make pancakes ahead. Fill up some tortillas for easy breakfast burritos and lunches.
Tomatoes. Tomato sauce.
Bacon. I love bacon. You love bacon. Wouldn’t we eat it more if we didn’t have to cook it every single time? Imagine wandering into the kitchen, longing for a BLT. Oh, look! There is a Baggie o’bacon in the freezer. You can feel so virtuous on the Sunday morning when you cooked 12 slices, and froze 6. You, too, can be a genius.
Fresh herbs. I have a pesto farm in the back yard: basil by the bushel. I am going to freeze it all so I don’t have to resort to flavorless dried basil, or worse, basil that costs $2 per fresh sprig in winter and driven across the country from California. Nope. I am going to be self-reliant. I will also freeze some thyme, and resolve to grow more herbs next summer.
Fresh fruit. Heavens. I looked at blueberries in the freezer at the grocery store the other day – $7 for about a pound of fruit. Mr. Friday likes blueberries on his cereal in the morning. I am going to freeze some fresh, on a cookie sheet, and see how he likes them on the dark winter mornings.
Also coffee. I understand that persnickety people say frozen coffee beans aren’t as tasty, but I don’t drink coffee, so I’ll never know. And I doubt any of my gentle guests would dare comment.
I had to laugh when Mark Bittman suggested freezing leftover wine. How amusing. But if you are interested in adding flavor to the sauce, consider freezing some wine.
Some more scientific tips on what to freeze and what not to freeze: https://www.laurengreutman.com/83-foods-to-freeze-or-foods-not-to-freeze/
Get thee to the farmers’ market this weekend, and join me in stocking the freezer with easy peasy ingredients and meals. Not that ridiculous wine idea, but perhaps a meatloaf or two. https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/how-to/article/how-to-freeze-vegetables-soup-meat-fruit
“’If you are careful,’ Garp wrote, ‘if you use good ingredients, and you don’t take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane.’”
― John Irving