Filling the Freezer

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A rather dull post about practical matters.

A couple of weeks ago I succeeded in almost emptying my big chest freezer in order to defrost it.
An almost empty freezer (some ice blocks, my ice cream machine bowl, half a bag of peas, a loaf of bread and a chunk of ginger) demands to be filled. Just the sort of project I enjoy.
As I said on this post my preferred freezer-filling method is to stock it with meal building blocks rather than ready made meals.


First I made pizza bases.
To do this I used this recipe which I doubled. Once it had risen I divided into 15 portions which I rolled out to into discs about ten inches in diameter. I then par-baked them for 6 minutes at 220°c (200°c fan oven). Once they were cool I stacked them in fives, interleaving with baking paper and wrapping well with foil before consigning them to the freezer.


Next I made a huge batch of simple tomato sauce and tossed that in the freezer along with a big bag of grated mozzarella.
The bases can be topped and cooked from frozen, the sauce defrosts quickly in the microwave.
There are usually other ingredients suitable for pizza toppings in the fridge -olives, mushrooms, peppers, ham.
Pizza night is just moments away.


The next thing I made was this big bag of oaty crumble ready to sprinkle over fruit and be baked for weekend puds.


I also stocked up on beans. I soaked and cooked a packet each (500g) of chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans. After they were drained and cooled I spread them on reusable baking liners on large baking trays and froze until hard. Then I gathered them up into bags so that I had free-flowing beans ready to add to a dish straight from the freezer.


I found a large plastic box to store my breadcrumbs in and made sure I got those crusts blitzed into crumbs before they went mouldy.


I can't do without my vegetable hash in the freezer. I needed the tubs I had frozen it in for other things so I popped the hash out of the tubs into plastic bags.


There was a good deal on small chickens, very small chickens -less than 3lbs each. I bought twelve.
I jointed nine of them keeping the leg joints whole as they were so tiny. I froze the joints on trays until hard then bagged them up.


I put the wings of all twelve chickens in a bag to use in one meal (there are only six in the bag in the photo because I didn't process all of the chickens on the same day).


I kept all the trim, carcases and wing tips. These I put into bags to make into stock later. Because the backs still have quite a bit of meat on them when I cook them up for stock I will salvage the meat before it gets cooked to rags.


The three chickens I didn't joint I poached so that I could freeze the cooked meat.
To do this I put them in a large pot (minus their wings) with a couple of carrots, an onion, some lemon and herbs. I brought it to the boil then put a lid on the pot and turned off the heat. I left them in the poaching water for an hour by which time they were perfectly cooked.


They look ghastly don't they?
I pulled off all the meat and threw away the skin and bones.


I then strained the poaching liquid and put it in the fridge so that the fat could rise to the top and be scraped off later. Then I poured it into tubs in 1 pint portions.


I shredded the cooked chicken and found I had just three lbs from those three chickens. Not much.
I bagged it in 12 oz portions to use in pasta dishes, on pizzas or salads.

The next thing I did  was to cook a small gammon* joint with the intention of slicing it for sandwich meat.
I have always believed that this is the cheapest way of buying quality ham. I dislike wet, slimy, gristly ham. A 2kg joint cost me about £13 from Waitrose (bound to be cheaper elsewhere) . This makes it about £6.50 a kg whereas the packets of sliced ham I usually buy are about £12 a kg. 
Thing was, once my joint was cooked and the fat stripped off it weighed 1 kg not 2 kg making it the same price as the packet ham.
Also, I cannot slice it as thinly as the packet ham, in fact quite often it won't slice at all disintegrating into bits.


I divided it into sandwich-sized portions by laying pieces out in the shape of a slice of bread. It took about 70g to fill one sandwich. A slice of packet ham is about 30g. I could have made 32 sandwiches by buying a kg of packet ham. My kg of ham has yielded 14 sandwiches worth of meat.


I have, however, got about ten pints of ham stock to add to my freezer stash. I put an onion and carrot in the cooking water .If you leave the last layer of skin on the onion your stock will have a good colour.

My freezer is now full to bursting and that is a very satisfying feeling.
By the way, I didn't do all of the above in one day. I've been working at it for about a week.


* Gammon is ham before it is cooked - I think.

37 comments:

  1. Good grief. I am so pleased you added the last sentence as I was suddenly feeling very inadequate about how I spent my day off today! Even in a week you have got an impressive (and inspiring) amount done. I ordered the Jill Dupleix book you recommended recently and I have to say thank you-I am so impressed, and have been making lots of tasty but healthy recipes. In fact the spinach dhal is currently on the worktop cooling down ready to be frozen to take camping this weekend!Thanks for the continued inspiration x

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    1. Thanks, but I don't think that was me. Could it have been Coffee Lady?

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  2. Bah-just realised that myself, well even so-it's a great book, you would really like it (I think!) and all my other comments stand!May need a glass of wine now...x

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  3. Wow you have been a busy bee - ooh I'll be able to take some hints/tips away - not confident about what can and cant be frozen must have missed those lessons in home economics, and my mum wasnt one for batch cooking and freezing so had no one to pick up ideas from x

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  4. I think that post was anything but "dull". Please consider hiring yourself out as Mrs Fit Fridge and Even Fitter Freezer, transforming the contents of Britain's white goods (well you can certainly start on mine)I feel a Channel 4 series coming on...

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  5. This is the most fabulous post, thank you.

    I regularly try, in vain, to cook bigger meals than we need so that I might freeze a portion or two. It never works - we always end up eating the lot. Your idea of stocking it with 'building blocks' is inspired.

    Thank you!

    Heather x

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  6. I find it helps to wrap the ham joint in foil and put a big weight on the top - it seems to slice better that way when it is cold. Might be worth a try? You still get some shreddy bits but they are good in pasta carbonara

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    1. Thanks Mary. The shreddy bits can be used in all sorts of things can't they? In fact there's no reason why they can't go in a sandwich.

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  7. My word - I am in awe of your industry and the size of your freezer. I had to jettison all the ice packs and thaw a couple of pannini just to squeeze a teeny tub of ice cream into mine today.

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  8. I'm so impressed - and will take away lots of good ideas. Thank you.

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  9. Wow, you put most of us to shame. You have had such a productive time with such delicious results.

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  10. Your post is the sort of think they should teach in home economics class!!! I am pinning this post to share with my daughters. Thanks for making the time to share your ideas, Sue :)
    Gracie <3

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  11. ooops...I meant to type *thing* sorry :)

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  12. Sue, this is my kind of post. I'm waiting for the summer hols to do my giant freezer (we call it the Ark Royal) and am looking forward to spending the week filling it. Will pinch some of your fab ideas if that's ok? Loved this!

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  13. I loved the thought of cooking chickpeas and beans and then freezing them. That would never have entered my head! I have recently defrosted our freezer and made a promise to never, EVER, E.V.E.R let it get so iced up again........ (we'll see how long that resolve lasts).

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  14. When I've made chicken stock and taken the chicken off the bones, I often put the bones back in the slow cooker on low overnight. I'm really surprised at how much flavour the stock has after this second cooking. As a chicken keeper, I feel obliged to get the optimum amount of nutrition and flavour out of any bird - never mind economy.

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  15. Love it when you do a post like this. It's my kinda cooking, and there you have a freezer full of life-savers.I already do the chicken thing, but perhaps not with so many birds! You got a bargain there. And have been blitzing bread into crumbs and preparing vegetable hash since starting to read your blog last year.

    Some really good tips here, Sue, it would make the kind of cookery book I love, even though I don't cook from books any more. I love the organisiation, with pictures. I am feeling very calm and organised picturing myself when the family go back to NZ, getting tidy again and preparing the freezers for Autumn.........hopefully after a stonking summer!

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  16. Phew! - I thought for a minute you really were superwoman - that last sentence saved me from slitting my wrists.

    Mrs Inadequate

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  17. You really do have a voracious freezer! My problem when I attempt anything like this is that I forget what I've got frozen. Do you keep a notebook or something?

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    1. Not really Annie. I take something out of the freezer every day so I'm always aware of what is in there.

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  18. Just my kind of freezer feeding, I'm all for an easier life. Lovely post, thanks. Mel

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  19. I was just thinking about your fit fridge (again - it's never far from my mind, it seems, mine being quite the opposite) whilst clearing out the larder and now, whilst taking a bit of a break, I find myself staring at your fit freezer. Like everyone else, VERY relieved to discover it took a week not a day!

    How long do you keep your bread crumbs in the freezer? I often save them, usually with a plan in mind, but recently when I needed some I lost my nerve about a batch as I couldn't remember how long they'd been frozen. Searching online just made it worse as there was so much conflicting information.

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    1. I have keep breadcrumbs for quite a long time -several months. They can't go bed in the freezer. The quality might deteriorate and if they get too much frost on them they will of course be soggy. It depends what you want to use them for.

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  20. bloody hell, makes my effort of freezing sausages singly look a bit pathetic really. And last night I defrosted something of unknown origin and was quite taken aback at what it acutally turned out to be once it was cooked and being eaten ha ha.

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    1. I once defrosted gravy only to discover it was butterscotch sauce.

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  21. My word Sue, you can certainly give Good Housekeeping a Very Good Run for your money(sorry i shouldn't advertise that on your blog)But you know what i mean....I hope you do,Smashing post
    Thanks for sharing
    Best Wishes
    Sue

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  22. Far from dull. I think there should be a Quince Tree app. http://ibuildapp.com/ipad_self_publishing/

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  23. Totally inspired my inner orgnaisation godess with this post - I never thoguth I could have freezer envy!!

    I have now made a lst fo all the building blocks I want in my freezer and bought some boxes - I suspect thats as far as my ornagising skills will get but its a start....

    Where are your bags with the blue zip locks from - they look good and sturdy?

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    1. All from Lakeland. The ordinary bags are excellent. I'm not so sure about the zip ones. The zip came away on first one I used.

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  24. You really must write a book. Such useful information and not dull at all. I love your plastic boxes with the colourful tops. Are they Lakeland?

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    1. They are Deb, but they no longer sell that particular design. They have some very similar though.

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  25. Sue, I want to be you, when I'm a grown-up...
    Jo x

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  26. Anne-Marie8:18 am BST

    This was great. I'd like some more detail of how to cook the stuff when it comes out - I'm always a bit nervous about cooking from frozen. How long do you cook the pizza bases, crumble and pulses for?
    Anne-Marie

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    1. Cook the pizzas plus their toppings for 15-20 mins at 220°c (200°c fan oven). If they don't looked cooked enough for you leave them a bit longer. Crumble -simply sprinkle on prepared fruit and bake for about 35 mins at 180°c (160°c fan). The beans are already cooked so they just need to heat through in what ever dish you are making. If you want you could defrost them first. I wouldn't worry much about cooking foods that aren't meat of fish from frozen.

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    2. Anne-Marie10:06 am BST

      Thank you!
      My husband writes at Guyropegourmet.com - I'm trying to get him to take on meal planning/cooking as he works at home and I work out -I'm going to get him reading your blog for inspiration.

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  27. Pati from London8:31 pm BST

    Wow Sue, you are definitely prepared for a nuclear blast!! That's impressive! Pati x

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