Freezing food is both time-saving and economical. There’s nothing better than coming home from work and having a delicious dinner just waiting to be heated up. Here are some tips to help your frozen food taste fresh along the way.
The optimal temperature of your home freezer is 0 degrees to negative 10. Turn the temperature down to the lowest setting for the quickest freeze. The rear center is found to be the coldest spot in a home freezer. Setting your casseroles there will ensure a fast freeze. To improve air circulation and to keep a low temperature, remove unwanted clutter in your freezer by clearing out old food. This will help things stay frozen and prevent freezer burn. Also keeping food away from freezer vents will help with the circulation.
FREEZING WHOLE INGREDIENTS:
It’s important to freeze vegetables when they’re at their peak of flavor. Wash the vegetables well and trim or cut into the desired size. Blanch them in a large pot of boiling water until bright green or slightly tender, depending on the vegetable. Shock the blanched vegetables in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Remove from ice water and dry thoroughly. Freeze in labeled freezer bags or freezer safe containers. Enjoy your summer harvest all winter long.
Completely cool casseroles and sauces for at least 2 hours before putting them in the freezer. Any residual heat will cause condensation and a layer of frost to form on the top. The flavor will fall flat after reheating. Also, the temperature will quickly rise if you add anything warm to the freezer, causing other foods to thaw and freezer burn to form.
Wrap baking dishes tightly with foil and plastic wrap before freezing. Use airtight, small containers, leaving very little air between the packaging and the food. Using small containers guarantee that the food will freeze faster. Liquids, like thin soups and stocks, will need an inch of room since they expand when they freeze. Use freezer quality products, which will help your food from absorbing other smells in your freezer. Wrap baked goods, like muffins, in aluminum foil and then into freezer bags. Let pancakes cool completely then stack between layers of parchment and place in a freezer bag. For the best quality, store poultry for 6-9 months, beef 3-4 months, fish between 3-6, and fruits and vegetables for 8-12 months.
For casseroles, let defrost in the refrigerator the night before you want to reheat it. Unwrap and loosely cover with foil. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake until the center of the casserole reaches 160 degrees. For large 13x9 casseroles, this should take about 35 minutes. Paula’s “Lots O’ Meat Lasagna” is a perfect freezer recipe.
For soups, stews, and sauces, defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat in a saucepan on the stovetop. You can also defrost in the microwave. Just check every minute or so to make sure you aren’t overcooking and to give it a stir.
Capture some summertime in your freezer with “Chef Jack’s Corn Chowder”.
Or for something to warm you up in the winter, try “Paula’s White Bean Chili”. Just remember to add the herbs after freezing and defrosting for a fresher flavor.
For baked goods, like muffins, let defrost for one hour at room temperature then toast, for best quality.
For pancakes, pop into your toaster oven still frozen to enjoy a quick breakfast.