I've been meaning to write a post about how I use my freezer for ages. As it is freezing outside I thought to day would be a good time.
I love my freezer and would never want to be without it. I have a big freezer. I can't remember its capacity but suffice to say it is big enough to store a body. If I needed to.
Our house has an integral garage with a door to the kitchen. This is extremely convenient and means I can use the garage for extra food storage. I have my preserves shelf in there, a big sack of potatoes, a basket of onions and apples and my freezer.
There are several ways you can use your freezer.
1). You can fill it with ready-made frozen meals, desserts and cakes. This option has never held much appeal for me, but then I like to cook.
2). You can fill it with meals you have cooked. I don't do this but would if I had a full-time job. Some people practise 'once a month cooking' where they spend a couple of days doing nothing but cooking multiple meals for their freezers. There are plenty of sites on the internet showing you exactly how to do this, although they do all seem to be North American.
An easier, less stressful way to fill a freezer with home made meals is to simply triple up a meal once a week, say on a Sunday when you have time to cook. It takes no more time to make chilli for 12 than it does to make it for 4. Portion up the extra two meals and freeze them. After a few weeks you will have a variety of home made ready meals in your freezer.
3). My preferred freezer-filling method is to fill it with ingredients and leftovers which I can use to build meals.
The following is a list of things I like to have in the freezer depending on budget and space.
peas and sweetcorn are always in my freezer.
berries -home grown in the summer
fruit purées- damson, apple and quince
black bananas - great for making banana cakes
chickpeas, kidney beans and other beans - I soak and cook a whole packet of dried beans at once and then freeze them on a baking sheet until hard enough to gather into a bag. I can then add them straight to stews and soups, no need to thaw. Cheaper than tins.
chicken -whole and breasts
all-butter puff pastry
bread -home made loaves and bought pittas
breadcrumbs and bread cubes which I make with the crusts of my home made loaves. I use the cubes to make croutons for soup.
stock - I make stock with the bones of all chickens and other birds I cook whole. If I boil a gammon joint I add a carrot and an onion to the water and then save it after the meat is cooked for stock.
pastry - although I don't often make pastry for the freezer I do freeze leftover raw pastry. When there's enough to make a pie or a tart I defrost it and bake.
crumble - I often make lots of crumble mix and freeze it in a bag for easy hot puds.
egg whites - I always seem to have a couple of egg whites in the freezer leftover from a recipe which required only yolks. Make sure you write the number of egg whites on the container then you can use them for meringues.
fresh herbs - If I have bought fresh herbs and not got round to using them I chop them up and freeze in an ice cube tray with water.
ginger - I keep peeled root ginger in a little bag in the freezer and grate it from frozen to use in a recipe.
lemon juice - spare lemon halves can be squeezed and the juice frozen in an ice cube tray. You can also freeze leftover wine but I never have leftover wine.
grated cheese - hard cheeses freeze well grated which is jolly useful if you want to keep cheese aside for cooking but find someone has eaten it all in their sandwiches.
vegetable hash - I find this extremely useful, details in this post
tomato sauce -I've just discovered a brilliant way of making this which I intend to write about sometime next week. Incredibly useful for all sorts of recipes.
single servings of leftover meals - good for my lunches or more often to feed constantly starving teenage boys.
cakes and muffins - most cakes and biscuits freeze really well. I like to bake in big batches and freeze the extras.
milk- for emergencies. It takes ages to defrost so I freeze the two pint size.
yogurt in 2 tablespoon amounts for starting off home made yogurt.
ice lollies -home made and usually only in the summer but I have elderberry lollies in the freezer at the moment.
ice cubes - for gin and tonics
A word on freezing and food safety.
I'm no expert but I do know this; food cannot go off in the freezer if your freezer is working correctly. Food can deteriorate in quality the longer it is left in the freezer but it will not become dangerous to eat.
You are not supposed to defrost food and then refreeze it without cooking it first. While I would never take a risk with meat or fish I do refreeze bread all the time.
In my freezer today.
2 pints of milk, 4 loaves of bread (in the blue bags), vegetable hash in the unlabelled tubs, leftover mashed potato, duck stock, bags of cooked beans (not visible), container of too-sweet leftover birthday cake, ice blocks, ice cream machine bowl (top right), little tubs of elderberry syrup and elderberry lollies
3 egg whites, cubes of mint, soya beans, broad beans, petits pois, sweetcorn (need to buy more peas and sweetcorn), breadcrumbs, ginger, tubs of apple and quince purée, blueberries, cranberries, pitta bread, black bananas, ice cubes (alas no gin nor tonic in the house), and there are also tubs of ham stock in there out of sight.
This morning there were two small lumps of pastry and a bag of cooked gammon. These will be made into a tart for dinner tonight.
What do you freeze? Any good ideas I've overlooked?