The freezer is one of today’s best and most useful inventions. Our grandparents had only the ice box but today most people can regulate the temperature of the freezer.
To freeze food properly, only cooled food should go in the freezer (room temperature or lower) and the freeze date should be written on each item we freeze. After a few weeks, or a few months (it depends on what you are freezing), the item will no longer be “edible” because it will have lost most of its quality and taste, so eating frozen food by the best before date is crucial.
The freezer is useful for storing home-made pastry shells, such as small empty tartlets that can be transferred directly from the freezer to the oven. Or diced vegetables that can be used to make fresh, tempting minestrone in a jiffy. For anything that you wish to freeze, the rules are as follows:
- Food should always be cool / at room temperature
- Food should be cut into small pieces (pre-measured and ready to go)
- Put the food in single-portion bags, and never in large bags
- Food should be thoroughly dried (avoid damp items)
How should you store food that is bought already frozen?
Stow it in your freezer as soon as possible after purchase (and, most important, before it thaws). In summer, it is a good idea to take a cooler bag along with you if you plan on buying a large quantity of frozen foods to ensure that they stay frozen longer without thawing. You can safely leave the food in the package it was purchased in since such containers are usually specially made and excellent for freezing.
On the other hand, if you want to freeze your food yourself, you should follow a number of recommendations on freezing particular foods.
- Fruits and vegetables must be washed and dried before being placed in freezer bags and appropriately labelled with the contents and expiration date.
- Green vegetables (asparagus, green beans and peas) may be blanched (plunged for 2 minutes into boiling salted water and then rinsed with ice-cold water). Dry thoroughly before stowing in the freezer once they’ve cooled to room temperature.
- Beef and chicken must be frozen in individual portions so they can be thawed quicker.
- The same is true of lasagne, stews and casseroles: the smaller the portion, the quicker it thaws.
- Cover meat thoroughly with sauce or it will dry out in the freezer.
- If you are freezing liquids (home-made broth, etc.) remember that liquids expand, so always leave extra room in the containers.
Tips for thawing frozen food
Thawing is just as important as freezing correctly. The first rule is to thaw slowly to keep the food you are thawing from losing its quality.
A few foods can be cooked as soon as you take them out of the freezer: small vegetables, sliced bread or little buns, short pastry shells, broth, etc. – these are all foods that can be easily transferred from the cold of the freezer to the heat of the oven or saucepan. Sliced bread can also be thawed directly in the toaster.
Meat and fish, just like other prepared foods, must be completely thawed before cooking, otherwise the final result will be done on the outside and frozen on the inside. You can thaw these foods by putting them in the refrigerator in the morning for consumption in the evening or the night before use. 6 – 8 hours are needed (based on size) and anything that has been thawed in the refrigerator must be cooked within 24 – 36 hours.
What not to freeze
Some foods cannot withstand the cold and so they can’t be frozen. Among these foods, the most common are: emulsions (like mayonnaise) because they would separate during thawing; yoghurt and milk; eggs with their shells (if you want to freeze eggs, separate the yolks and whites and beat slightly); gelatine, soufflés and mousses; strawberries, melons and tomatoes (after thawing, they become limp and watery).