How and what to freeze
I freeze whatever I can as I hate waste! It also saves an enormous amount of time in shopping if I have most things in our kitchen, fridge or freezer. Of course nothing beats freshly picked vegetables, fresh fish or meat, but well frozen food can be cheaper than buying it fresh and can also be more nutritious. This is because food often travels for several days before reaching shops and then every day that we keep them in our fridges, food deteriorates. Freshly picked food frozen can lock in the vitamins and nutrients. This is particularly the case for vegetables.
The ideal temperature of a freezer is -18°C. As a rule of thumb, meat, fish and cooked food keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months, bread and cakes up to 6 months. It is good to freeze things as soon as you buy them. Check on the packaging if it is suitable for freezing as some things, such as fish or shellfish have been previously frozen and cannot be frozen again. If you cook to freeze or want to freeze any leftovers, make sure it has cooled completely or you will lower the temperature of your freezer. I usually leave food out to cool, then put them in the fridge to cool to a low temperature before wrapping them well and putting in the freezer.
Food with a higher fat content generally freezes well. So double cream and full fat milk over low fat or skimmed. The lower fat foods tend to separate on thawing.
Always date and label anything you freeze (get a waterproof pen to write on bags). I have so often thought I would know exactly what is inside a bag when I pop it in the freezer but it’s amazing how different they look when they are completely frozen. Numbers of pieces of meat are also difficult to distinguish so write it on the bag.
Organise your freezer like your fridge, in different categories and areas or drawers e.g. raw meat and fish, cooked food, vegetables and fruit, ice cream and puddings etc.
Always make sure food is completely thawed before cooking, then heat through at a high temperature to kill off any bacteria. Try to thaw meat in the fridge rather than leaving it out. This will take longer but will ensure it doesn’t end up sitting around in room temperature for too long. Just be organized and plan ahead, take out the meat from freezer and put in the fridge before you go to bed in order to be able to cook it the next day. If your kitchen is a cool one, you could leave something like a whole chicken out overnight but remember to put it back in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.
Essential things I have in the freezer are;
Bacon & bacon/lardon pieces – a quick way to defrost is to put them in a bowl of hot (not quite boiling) water or in a microwave although I do find defrosting meat in the microwave tricky and often end up with half boiled meat!
Bread – sliced bread is perfect, the slices you can separate easily by hand or with a knife when needed, can be toasted just like that or thaw for ½ hour to have fresh bread.
Whole loaves can be frozen on the day they are bought too, they just take a while longer to thaw or you can put it in the oven for bread which tastes freshly baked.
Butter – I always have several packets of butter in the freezer, both salted and unsalted.
Fish – all fresh fish freezes well. Put portions or a couple of portions in separate bags before freezing and label them. Its quicker to thaw and cook with. You can also chop pieces of salmon or cod loins into squares if you think you may use the in a curry or fish soup.
Ginger – you never use a whole piece of ginger in a recipe so pop it in a bag and into the freezer peeled, ready to use next time.
Grated cheese – a variety of grated cheese e.g. cheddar, gruyere, grated mozzarella.
Herbs – chop any leftover herbs, put in an ice cube tray with water and freeze.
Meat – collect up any leftover meat from roasts, chicken and beef are best for freezing. Put them in bags and label. Raw meat should also be put in bags in portions so you don’t waste thawing meat you don’t want to use.
Peas – bag of petite pois, I prefer these to regular sized peas but any will do. A bag of broad beans or beans are good to have too.
Prawns – bag of decent king prawns, easy and quick to thaw.
Other things which can be frozen
Cakes – If you have any leftover cake, don’t waste it or feel guilty eating it all – put it in the freezer! Most cakes freeze well either whole (or half) or cut into pieces. I often make a tray bake and freeze half.
Cooked casseroles etc. – Cooking double the quantity of a recipe or just halving it and freezing half is a time saver. Put a casserole or batch of mince in a plastic bag and freeze. A pie can be frozen in a ceramic dish, just cover well with cling film when completely cool and freeze. Always remember to label it.
Eggs – whites can be collected up in a plastic container and a number of them can be made into a meringue or roulade. Just put a sticky label on the lid and change the number as you add whites. Yolks don’t freeze well as they become rather rubbery when thawed.
Fish – All fresh fish freezes well and great to have as it thaws quickly. If you make a batch of fishcakes they freeze well too. Packets of smoked mackerel, hot smoked salmon or even smoked salmon are useful to have in the freezer.
Fruit – berries, raspberries blackberries, gooseberries are good to freeze although not strawberries which become mushy when thawed. If you have any leftover berries, put then on a tray not touching each other and put in the freezer. When they have frozen, put in sealable bags, this stops them sticking together. Packets of frozen berries from supermarkets are cheap and are perfect for making smoothies and using in puddings. I also freeze a lot of plums when we have a glut late summer. I halve them, take out the stone and freeze them in bags. Rhubarb I chop into pieces, approximately 2 cm and freeze in bags. Apples only when made into stew or pureed. Lemons, limes and oranges can be frozen sliced and in a bag.
Meat – All fresh meat freeze well. Think how you will use it. I separate say chicken breasts into pairs or even singles and freeze in bags. You may not want to cook all what you buy at once and prevents waste.
Soup – Most soups can be frozen in bags. I turn all my surplus vegetables in to soups of various kind. To thaw quickly either put them in a microwave or sit the bag in a bowl of hot water.
Stock – I make batches of stock, mostly vegetable but always use a chicken carcass from a roast or lamb/beef bone. Put them in 1 litre sealable bags, label and freeze when completely cool.
Vegetables – most small vegetables or larger ones cut up will freeze well e.g. peas, broad beans, beans cut up, broccoli florets, butternut squash cubed etc. Beetroot freezes well roasted and whole. Mashed potato can be frozen, mix with a bit more milk when thawed out. Vegetables with high water content like tomatoes (if you call them vegetables) or cucumber do not freeze well. Nor do salad leaves.