Some foods are better suited to freezing than others. Casseroles, soups, stews, chili and meat loaf all freeze very well. When you are making one of these dishes, just make a large batch and you will not have to cook the dish again for a while.
To keep foods safe, cool freshly cooked dishes quickly before freezing. Place in a shallow, wide container and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool. To chill soup or stew even faster, pour it into a metal pot or bowl and set in an ice bath. (A larger bowl filled halfway with ice water). Stir the mixture occasionally to allow it to evenly cool.
For stews, braises, or other semi-liquid dishes with some fat content, chill completely, and then skim the fat from the top before freezing. Fat spoils over time in the freezer and shortens the frozen shelf life of the dish.
Avoid freezer burn by using moisture and vapor-proof zip-top plastic bags and wrap. Remove the air from bags before sealing. Store soups and stews in freezer bags, which can be placed flat and freeze quickly. Store foods in small servings; no more than 1 quart, to help them freeze quickly. This also allows you to defrost only what you need.
Use a permanent marker to label each container with the name of the dish, volume or weight if you have measured it, and the date.
The quicker food freezes, the better its quality once thawed.
Do not crowd your freezer. Arrange containers in a single layer in the freezer to allow enough room for air to circulate around them so food will freeze rapidly. Slowly frozen food forms large ice crystals that may rupture its cell structure and turn it mushy. Most cooked dishes will keep for 2 to 3 months in the freezer. Use a freezer thermometer to ensure that your unit remains at zero degrees or below.
When defrosting your foods , do so in the refrigerator or microwave. Allow enough time for the food to defrost in the refrigerator, which would be roughly five hours for most foods. Never defrost at room temperature, or you run the risk of food contamination.
There aren't many people who don't enjoy a piece of fresh made apple pie, or apple turnovers, etc. So...how about a freezer-friendly apple pie filling? Have it on hand to whip up a tasty apple treat any time, on the fly.
Freezer-Friendly Apple Pie Filling
5 pounds thinly sliced cooking apples
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 pounds white sugar
1 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1 or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 pints water
Toss apples in lemon juice to prevent browning. Heat water over medium heat, combine the sugar, cornflour, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg and add to the water. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring.
Add the apples and return to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the apples are tender, around 6 to 8 minutes. Turn the heat off and cool for 30 minutes. Ladle into serving-sized freezer containers (makes about about five), and label with the contents and date. Cool to room temperature, seal and freeze for up to 12 months.
To use, thaw contents of a container in the refrigerator, and use as normal with whatever pie shell, crust or crumble topping you desire. On the odd occasion, this filling may separate upon thawing, in which case, it might be better to use it with a crumble topping instead of in a pie.
Unfriendly Freezer Foods
Freezing is a great make-ahead strategy, but there are some foods that simply do not freeze well.
- Gravies and sauces thickened with cornstarch or flour will separate during the freezing process. You can freeze a non-thickened sauce, and then add thickeners after thawing.
- Fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as lettuce and watermelon, will become soggy and limp when thawed.
- Cooked potatoes develop a gritty texture when frozen.
- Fully cooked pasta may become mushy once reheated. Slightly undercook pasta when freezing.
- Some dairy products such as yogurt, sour cream, milk, and light cream will separate when frozen.
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