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Freezer/OAMC tips and Techniques

When selecting recipes for freezing, especially dishes that contain several ingredients, it is more convenient to add all ingredients before placing the food in the freezer.

However, some spices and seasonings change during freezer storage. To avoid undesirable changes in your food product during freezer storage, season foods lightly before freezing. Add additional seasonings when reheating or serving. Note the following:

  • Pepper, cloves, garlic and synthetic vanilla tend to become strong and bitter;
  • Onion flavor changes, may become flatter or sharper depending on the type of onion and preparation;
  • Celery seasoning becomes strong;
  • Curry and similar spice blends may develop a musty off-flavor;
  • Salt loses flavor.
  • Salt tends to increase rancidity of any item containing fat.

Here are some successful foods:

  • Cooked chicken or turkey in casseroles freezes well.
  • Almost any type of cooked meat, stew, ragout, or goulash -- beef, lamb, pork, or veal -- can be frozen. Most vegetables used in these combination foods, such as peas, carrots, celery,or onions, also freeze well.
  • Add a rich, flaky pastry topping to a good meat and vegetable stew, and you have a delicious meat pie. The unbaked pastry topping may be added before freezing, or it may be made fresh and placed on the pie when it is heated for serving.
  • You can freeze meat loaf. Make enough for several meals and freeze the extra loaves. Meat loaf has better quality if frozen baked rather than unbaked.
  • Cooked dry beans freeze especially well, allowing you to have convenience without added salt. Because freezing softens beans somewhat, cook them until barely tender for the best quality frozen product. For great convenience, freeze some flat on a cookie sheet and shake loose into zippered freezer bag. You can add these quickly to salads and soups.

Certain foods show very undesirable flavor or texture changes during the freezing process. For example:

  • Cooked egg white toughens.
  • Salad greens lose their crispness and become soggy.
  • Raw tomatoes change in flavor and color and become limp and watery.
  • Raw apples, grapes, and blueberries become soft and mushy, though raw grapes eaten while still frozen are tasty and delightful! Blueberries can be used frozen for baking.
  • Fried foods tend to have a warmed-over taste when reheated.

Some foods may be successfully frozen with specific preparations:

  • New potatoes do better than mature potatoes in most frozen dishes. Bakers or mature potatoes tend to disintegrate or become watery when boiled and then frozen whole or in chunks. Mashed potatoes do freeze.
  • Gelatin-based mixtures should be made stiffer than usual to lessen the chance of separating. You will have to try gelatin recipes; some work and some don't.
  • Thoroughly combine the flour and fat in sauces and gravies. These foods may appear curdled while thawing but will usually recombine when reheated and stirred if they were well mixed to start with.

"Freezer burn" (which will leave your food dried out and tasting funky) occurs when the moisture on food's surface evaporates. Aluminum foil is a great freezer wrap as are heavy plastic freezer bags. Always try to get as much air out of the package as possible and wrap it well so that moisture can't get in. Foods that freeze faster will keep better. If your freezer isn't as cold as it should be (most home freezers should operate at about 0 F) your food will form larger ice crystals when freezing. Larger crystals mean poorer texture to your thawed foods. Cool baked goods thoroughly before freezing.

Eggs - Many people don't know you can freeze eggs. You can store whole eggs in plastic containers (cracked open and with the whites and yolks stirred together)or store egg whites and yolks separately. Raw egg yolks will need to be broken and stirred with either 1/4 teaspoon salt or 3/4 teaspoon sugar for each 1/2 cup of egg yolks or else they will turn to a "gummy" consistency. Cooked egg yolks, on the other hand, freeze beautifully. The reverse is true of egg whites: raw are just fine (freeze in ice cube trays, one per cube), but cooked egg whites will become so chewy they are inedible.

the amount of time meat will stay fresh in a freezer directly correlates to the amount of fat in it. Less fat equals longer freezer times. Also, the more saturated the fat (for instance beef has much higher saturated fat than fish) the longer meat will keep. Wrap meat air tight.

The higher the fat content in dairy products, the better they freeze. Cream cheese or cottage cheese, cream, milk, mayonnaise, custards, cream fillings or meringues will not freeze well because they will separate or curdle. Milk products that are under 40% butterfat will separate, but heavy cream does well. You can freeze butter with no texture changes, but remember, fat can go rancid even in a freezer, so never keep it for more than two months. Freezing does change the consistency of most cheeses, making them more mealy and crumbly, although the flavor remains intact. If you plan to grate or melt your cheese, this textural change won't matter much. If you plan to slice your cheese, it's best not to freeze it. Softer cheeses such as cream or cottage cheese do not freeze well at all (although most baked cheesecakes will do fine in the freezer). Blue cheese, Roquefort and gorgonzola are usually served crumbled so they freeze well and should keep for about six months (a little of these strong cheeses goes a long way, so they're handy to have in the freezer for quick "flavor pick ups" to recipes). Well wrapped firm cheeses (like cheddar, gouda, Swiss etc.) should keep for about six months in your freezer. Hard cheeses like parmesan and romano will keep for about a year.

If you have a large block of cheese to freeze, cut it into manageable chunks before freezing in order to cut down on thawing time. I like to freeze bags of shredded mozzarella (shredded cheddar or other firm cheeses are also handy) so that I can remove the amount I like at a moment's notice. It's also a lot cheaper to buy cheese in bulk.

Tomato sauces and the like do very well in the freezer. Mayonnaise and mayonnaise based sauces, however, will separate. Sauces, stews (or even custards) thickened with flour or cornstarch don't freeze very well, but those thickened with arrowroot or tapioca do.

APPROXIMATE COLD STORAGE LIFE OF FOODS

FoodRefrigerator 4C (40F)
slightly longer at 1C (34F)
Freezer -18C (0F)
Bacon 7 days 1 months
Bread, biscuits, rolls, muffins 14 days 5 - 6 months
Butter, margarine 7 - 30 days 6 - 8 months
Casseroles, frozen Keep frozen until ready to heat 4 months
Cheese, hard 3 - 9 months 1 - 2 years
Cheese, soft 7 - 14 days 12 months
Chicken, fresh - giblets 1 - 2 days 3 - 4 months
Chicken, fresh - parts 1 - 2 days 9 months
Chicken, fresh - whole 1 - 2 days 1 year
Chicken, fried 3 - 4 days 4 months
Chicken nuggets 1 - 2 days 1 - 3 months
Chicken patties 1 - 2 days 1 - 3 months
Chops 3 - 5 days 4 - 6 months
Corned beef in pouch with pickling juices 5 - 7 days Drained, 1 month
Deli and vacuum-packed products 3 - 5 days Do not freeze well
Eggs - fresh, in shell 3 weeks after pack date
if cold is continuous
Do not freeze
Eggs - raw yolks or whites
beaten with sugar or salt
2 - 4 days 1 year
Fish, cooked 3 - 4 days 12 months
Fish, fresh 1 - 2 days 12 months
Fruit, cooked 4 - 5 days 12 months
Fruit, frozen 7 days 12 months
Fruit, soft-skinned 13 - 14 days 12 months
Fruit, firm or hard-skinned 1 - 3 months 12 months
Gravy and meat broth 1 - 2 days 3 - 4 months
Ground lamb, pork, turkey, veal and mixtures of them 1 - 2 days 3 - 4 months
Ham, canned, opened 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, canned, unopened 6 - 9 months Do not freeze
Ham, fully cooked, half 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, fully cooked, slices 3 - 4 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, fully cooked, whole 7 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, fully cooked half 3 - 5 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, fully cooked slices 3 - 4 days 1 - 2 months
Ham, fully cooked whole 7 days 1 - 2 months
Hamburger 1 - 2 days 3 - 4 months
Hot dogs, opened package 1 week 1 - 2 months
Hot dogs, unopened package 2 weeks 1 - 2 months
Juices, fruit and vegetables, fresh, frozen 5 - 6 days 12 months
Lunch meat, opened package 1 week 1 - 2 months
Lunch meat, unopened package 2 weeks 1 - 2 months
Mayonnaise, commercial 2 months after opening Do not freeze
Poultry, cooked pieces, covered with broth or gravy 1 - 2 days 6 months
Poultry, cooked pieces, plain 3 - 4 days 4 months
Poultry dishes, cooked 3 - 4 days 4 - 6 months
Pre-stuffed pork or lamb chops, chicken breasts stuffed w/dressing 3 - 4 days Do not freeze well
Roasts 3 - 5 days 4 - 12 months
Sausage, raw from pork, beef, chicken or turkey 1 - 2 days 1 - 2 months
Smoked breakfast links, patties 7 days 1 - 2 months
Soups and stews - vegetable or meat 3 - 4 days 2 - 3 months
Steaks, fresh 3 - 5 days 6 - 12 months
Stew meats 1 - 2 days 3 - 4 months
Summer sausage, opened package 3 weeks 1 - 2 months
Summer sausage, unopened package 3 months 1 - 2 months
Turkey, fresh - giblets 1 - 2 days 3 - 4 months
Turkey, fresh - parts 1 - 2 days 9 months
Turkey, fresh - whole 1 - 2 days 1 year
TV dinners Keep frozen until ready to heat 4 months
Variety meats (tongue, kidneys, liver, heart, chitterlings) 1 - 2 days 3 - 4 months
Vegetables, cooked 4 - 5 days 12 months
Vegetables, frozen 7 days 12 months
Vegetables, soft-skinned 13 - 14 days 12 months
Vegetables, firm or hard-skinned 1 - 3 months 12 months