Monday, January 12, 2009

Notes on Freezing

When I lived in a co-op in college, there were a group of housemates who were really into fermentation. Making their own kim chee, lacto-fermented oats, pickled "dilly beans," wine and vinegar, beer, kombucha, mead, sourdough bread, yogurt, etc.

I did not share their passion. While I think dairy preservation is really cool and I'd love to start making my own cheese and yogurt, and I really want to learn to can things, a lot of the rest of it made my stomach turn. Mold is one of my biggest fears and fermenting seemed very close to that.

Freezing, though? THAT I could get behind. Freezing is like the opposite of mold, because it prevents it! And it's so technological! And you can save lots of odds and ends and label them and use up all your spare plastic containers. So I freeze a LOT of things--and I can often make whole meals from various things I'd frozen earlier. For example, tonight I made quiche with frozen pie crust (storebought...I was lazy and it was on sale last month), frozen cheese, and frozen vegetables...I just used fresh eggs. And here's what I've learned over the years.

1. Eggplant doesn't work. Don't bother. And I know everyone says you can store fresh herbs but I haven't been successful, except when blended up into pesto (leave out the cheese).

2. Butter, bread, and chocolate all store much better frozen than refrigerated. You can freeze milk or soymilk (just drink some first so that there's room for it to expand in the container) And cheese freezes really well. Just grate it first so you don't have to use it all at once. This is excellent for me because I try and buy only organic dairy products and when they go on sale I like to stock up.

3. A great way to determine whether something freezes well is to think about whether you can buy it frozen at the supermarket. This is how I reached my Burrito Epiphany, which made packing a lunch much easier.

4. If I ever wanted to try eating only local produce for a whole year while living in a climate like the Upper Midwest, I'd need to freeze a lot more tomato sauce and variations (plain, Minestrone, and Morrocan tomato soup; tomato-vegetable curry; tomato-basil sauce; shakshusa, a spicy middle eastern sauce you can cook eggs in), because I go through them pretty fast, and a TON more fruit. Eating apples all winter long, even with my innovations of apple butter and apple sauce, is BORING. I'm grateful that my grandma in Florida shipped me a box of oranges, am holding back on the peaches I froze in September, and am kicking myself for not freezing berries.

5. You can freeze dough (cookies, pizza, pie etc.) and cook it later, so that when guests come over you can offer them freshly-baked cookies and not have to get your whole kitchen dirty! You can also apparently make whole pies that way but I've never tried it.

Bonus 6. To save room in your freezer, boil liquidy things (stocks, soup, sauces) down a lot. You can always add water when you thaw them.

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