Making Food Last in the Freezer with Tina Lau (especially during Covid-19)
Hey, Tina is back with a post breaking down what foods to freeze and how best to freeze them. This post is pure gold to me as I often freeze things incorrectly. I also have only been doing 2 of her amazing freezing recommendations (the berries and pancakes) and need to incorporate many more. I will leave it with you to read below and hopefully learn to reduce food waste and maximize the freezer space you have. Most of us just have a small freezer attached to a fridge but I know I am not using our freezer to the best of it’s ability after reading this post.
Thanks again to Tina for the perfectly timed post as we all try to stay home as much as possible and limit our trips to the grocery store during this pandemic.
Below is in interview formate with Tina, who I’m not sure I mentioned last time has a BSc. in Nutritional Science and has worked in the food/restaurant industry in one aspect or another for over 15 years. Basically I’m saying she really knows what she’s talking about beyond being an excellent chef and wonderful friend.
What do you freeze things in?
We use a mixture of glass mason jars and plastic storage containers for liquids (you can also repurpose old sour cream/yogurt containers) and clear zip-top freezer bags. When freezing any liquid you want to leave room at the top because liquids expand when frozen (as an extra measure, if you freeze liquids in a glass mason jar you should leave headspace at the top, freeze overnight without the lid and then gently secure the lid on the next day). If you are using zip-top bags try to push out as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn.
A selection from Tina’s Freezer.
* Note about plastic: we try to limit our use of plastic and be mindful of packaging in our purchases, when possible we aim for plastic free packaging. Although we do use glass mason jars and reusable containers for some frozen items, we do also use various sizes of zip-top bags because they are easier for storage and for a quick visual. We are diligent in washing and re-using these bags as much as possible.
How do I freeze things?
As much as possible, try to freeze things individually before putting in a container/bag or portioned out in a size that makes sense for your family. For example, spread washed berries on a baking sheet and place in the freezer, once they’re frozen you can transfer to a bag. You can also freeze sauces like pesto in ice cube trays and transfer to a bag, that way it’s convenient to only have to use as much as you need. Anything that is cooked and hot needs to be fully cooled before freezing.
How long will frozen foods last?
Generally 2-5 months and although it may be fine longer, you don’t want to keep things in your freezer indefinitely because the quality will suffer over time. Look for freezer burn or ice crystals which is a sign that things haven’t been frozen properly or are getting old. A good practice is to label and date your items (trust me, I always think I will remember what I froze and we often have a mystery meal thawing).
What’s freezer burn and is it okay to eat?
Freezer burn is dehydration when your frozen food is exposed to air, it can cause discolouration and formation of ice crystals. Although it is safe to eat, your food might not taste its best because of the change in colour, consistency and texture.
What can I freeze?
Generally yes, although it’s better used in cooking or baking after it’s thawed because it can be grainy or separated. Milk, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, butter etc. Grate cheese before freezing rather than a large block of cheese which will be crumbly and have a different texture once thawed. Don’t forget to freeze parmesan rinds, they are perfect for adding to soups and stews.
Definitely. For bread you can freeze a whole loaf, halves (we freeze halves because that’s the right amount for our family for a week) or slices. You can also freeze pitas, english muffins, tortillas, buns etc.
I have never met a baked good that couldn’t be frozen and over time I’ve developed a fondness for eating frozen cookies, brownies and cakes directly out of the freezer. Some items might need to get freshened up in the oven before eating.
Blueberry muffins that you can apparently freeze.
A good practice is to remove the meat from the store packaging and wrap airtight before putting it in the freezer. Or layer parchment or wax paper in between cuts of meat so you can easily separate it.
BEANS/CHICKPEAS and WHOLE GRAINS
We batch cook beans/chickpeas and whole grains like farro or wheat berries on the weekend and portion them into containers for freezing. Once thawed, they can go into taco filling, soups, stews, salads etc.
It’s best to blanch or saute greens like kale or spinach first before freezing, otherwise whole leaves will be wilted and brown once thawed. For herbs, process them in a food processor with a little bit of oil and freeze them in an ice cube tray. Pop the cubes into a zip-top bag when they’re frozen.
What’s inside your freezer?
Chicken stock, meat (ground pork, ground beef, chicken thighs), cooked beans/chickpeas, dumplings, stuffed tortellini, grated cheddar cheese, basic tomato sauce, curry paste, soffritto, bread, bread crumbs, tortilla shells (I buy a big pack and divide them into small portions), frozen fruit, bananas (I peel overripe bananas and store them in a zip-top bag, they are great in smoothies or to make quick nice cream), vegetables (frozen peas are always an easy veg in a pinch and edamame for kids to snack on), curry leaves, lime leaves, cookies, pie dough.
A peek inside Tina’s Freezer.
A few of Tina’s favourite frozen things
- Jasmine rice for quick congee (recipe below)
- Whenever we eat pancakes we make a double batch and freeze the extras, they can go directly from frozen into the toaster like Eggo Waffles!
- Grated ginger (reduces cooking prep time and also easy to pop into smoothies)
- We keep a container of onion skins and carrot ends for making vegetable stock, once the container is full we make vegetable stock or add it to chicken stock
-Unbaked crumble topping to make a quick fruit crumble dessert
A Few of Tina’s Favourite Recipe’s that freeze well or come from frozen foods.
My own frozen pancakes à la Tina Lau