You know, as you get older, how you occasionally catch yourself saying or doing something you heard or saw your parents do, and you have that sinking feeling? That “I’m doing that thing that I swore I’d never do. I’m turning into my parents” moment? Well, I think with the purchase of our last refrigerator, I’ve officially careened off the edge of that cliff.
My parents owned a ridiculous number of refrigerators and freezers. There were two full-sized refrigerators in the kitchen and one in the “tank house”. There were at least three additional full-sized stand up freezers in the “shop”. And all of them were full. Sometimes with food that was more than 5 years old.
I now own two large refrigerators (one I use for produce during market season). Both have small freezers attached. I now also own one half sized fridge for my farm eggs (at the insistence of the state of Washington, which says they must be kept in a separate location, isolated, if you want to sell them at market or anywhere else but direct off the property), one dorm fridge we keep beer in for poker nights, one chest freezer (now half full of goat, rabbit and chicken meat) and one upright freezer full of last season’s garden produce. Yup, that’s six refrigeration units. The power company loves me, and I live in fear of extended power outages.
While I’m all about home preservation in non-refrigerated ways; things like canning, fermenting, root cellaring and drying, there are just some things that are better preserved in a freezer. A canned green bean doesn’t hold a candle to a frozen one. I prefer frozen strawberries rather than strawberry jam, and I’m just not up for trying to dry cure rabbit just yet.
I do make a concerted effort to stay up with the contents, and dinner decisions are often based on what I have the most of in a freezer, or what is about to age out and get freezer burned if I don’t get it eaten. Or what is coming into season again soon. I try to keep nothing past a year except for the endless “too hot to eat a lot of” roasted green chiles from Colorado, which are holding up surprisingly well, given their 2009 packaging date.
Because I hate to throw food out, I also have an odd assortment of things that I would have otherwise thrown out, but that freeze well for later use. Some of these are huge time savers. Maybe this odd list will inspire you. What’s our favorite thing to preserve by freezing?
Tomato paste, frozen into 1 tbsp blobs and then tossed into a zip top bag, for those annoying recipes that call for 1 tbsp of tomato paste when you have a newly opened 6 oz can.
The rind ends of higher quality parmesan cheese, for throwing into Italian soups like minestrone. It’s basically an umami bomb. You fish it out at the end.
Frozen left over canned Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce, because lets face it, you can’t use a whole can at a time if you want people to actually be able to eat your food without a fire extinguisher and a gallon of milk to cool the burn.
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Basil Pesto and Parsley Pesto, for those “I need dinner in 15 minutes” nights. Make a batch of your favorite pesto when ingredients are at their most abundant in summer. Then freeze in ice cube trays, and toss into zip top bags. One cube, along with some extra parmesan, serves two in our house.
Frozen cleaned Chopped Cilantro, because who actually uses up the whole bunch when you buy it at the store? Cilantro does not dry well. It loses all of its flavor. Frozen is not as good as fresh, but a reasonable substitute when a soup or guacamole calls for cilantro and you don’t have any fresh on hand. It helps to run it through a salad spinner before chopping and freezing, so it doesn’t freeze into a big block.
Egg whites. Seems I have way more recipes that call for only an egg yolk than I have recipes that call for only an egg white. I freeze them in a small glass bowl, then thaw just enough to remove and, you guessed it, toss into a zip top bag. When I get to about 12 oz, I make an angle food cake.
Grated fresh ginger (because who uses that whole chunk before it dries out or gets moldy in the fridge?) I grate it, roll it into a log with waxed paper and freeze. It’s pretty easy to break off a chunk when needed in a stir fry or other recipe, and saves a ton of time.
Grated cheese. Bags of grated parmesan and mozzarella are always in my freezer. If I have a whole block of fresh cheese, but only need a 1/4 of it, I grate the rest (thank goodness for food processors) and freeze it. It’s ready, with no mess, when we want to make homemade pizza or top up some pasta. No more throwing out moldy cheese (which makes the dogs sad – because they were usually the beneficiaries). Pack it in loosely so you can remove only what you need.
Nuts. I keep Cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds and peanuts on hand. Nuts are high in good healthy fats. But that makes them go rancid quickly. And rancid nuts are, well, gross. If you freeze them, they last pretty much forever. I take out a handful and toast them on the tray of my toaster oven (I literally hit “toast”) to thaw them out and toast them a bit, and they are ready to go into granola, oatmeal, salads or what have you.
Butter. I buy it on sale and throw all but one stick at a time in the freezer. It stays fresh for a really long time this way.
Left over coconut milk. Seems I always have some whenever I make a curry or soup.
Roasted garlic. I grow a lot of garlic and store it for as long as I can. But come about February, it’s all starting to sprout. Sprouted garlic tastes bitter. So I separate the cloves and peel them, wrap the naked cloves in a piece of tinfoil with a bit of olive oil and roast until soft (toaster oven again), then throw it all in a food processor and turn it into a paste. This then gets dished out by the teaspoon (or so) onto a cookie sheet and frozen. Then, into a zip top bag (Ziplock should send me a coupon) it goes. And until its gone, most any recipe that calls for a fresh clove of garlic, I substitute a blob of roasted garlic instead. SO much easier then peeling and mincing fresh, and the roasted flavor is a nice mellow change of pace. Some years, I never buy garlic from the store for the entire year.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2013, where were starting to stress about all of the projects that need to get done this spring (irrigation lines, commercial kitchen plumbing, rabbit tractors, green houses, quonset building for the chickens/ducks/turkeys/rabbits) and so are writing blog posts about what’s in our freezer instead. At least we won’t go hungry with all of the work ahead of us. Our freezers are still full.