The freezer’s convenience outweighs its energy use for storing food. Here are some ways to re-think and approach freezer food storage of fall food in winter.
Although a freezer is much less energy efficient than a root cellar or a pantry, it is the most convenient. It keeps a wider variety of foods, you can stock up on frozen goods at the supermarket, and you can make meals ahead and freeze them for busy days.
When I say stock up on frozen goods, I don’t mean tv dinners, breakfast burritos, and other highly processed foods full of additives! I mean good, healthy, whole food, such as frozen fruits and vegetables. Eating whole food is part of a simple lifestyle, is good for your body and mind, and lowers your carbon footprint.
One main advantage of a freezer over a pantry or root cellar is the ability to store meat. You can buy meat on sale, and freeze it for later, or go in on the purchase of a cow, bison, or pig. Consider getting whole chickens from a local farmer. A friend of mine just went hunting for an elk to fill his freezer.
Carne seca (dried meat or jerky) was always the traditional way to save a fresh kill. Thank the Industrial Revolution for electricity and the freezer!
Go to the butcher, ask them to package your meat in sizes you will use at a time. Maybe a pound of ground beef, or a couple of steaks, or whatever you will use for a meal. They will wrap each meal separately, and the packages can go right into the freezer.
Another advantage of a freezer is being able to make a main dish and freeze it. Soups, stews, and casseroles will last a few months in the freezer, and come in handy on days when you don’t want to get creative in the kitchen.
Bake a casserole in a pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving enough at the edges to cover the whole dish. Let it cool a bit, and put it in the freezer. When it is solid, lift it out of the pan, cover it with the extra foil, label it, and put it back in the freezer. You can stack meals this way, which saves space and keeps you organized.
I make soup stock from the tops of carrots, kale and chard stalks, onion ends and tops, and any other vegetable parts that are clean. I more than cover them with water, boil them until they are almost overcooked, strain the plant matter out and compost it, let the broth cool, and pour it into recycled quart yogurt containers.
Fruits and vegetables
I buy organic fruit in bulk from farmers, growers, or a reliable market. I don’t like to make jam, because I can’t eat that much sugar. I cook down apples to make chunky apple sauce, add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and freeze it in quart containers.
I blanch whole peaches and dunk them in ice water, to get the skins to peel off easily. Then I cut them in half and freeze them flat in quart freezer bags. I just read this year that you do not need to peel them, so I’ll try that next year. What a timesaver that would be!
You can also freeze the halves on a cookie sheet, then put the completely frozen food in a container. This is what I do with cherry tomatoes, raspberries and strawberries – freeze them whole, and put them in jars. This is fresh food in mid-winter without added sugar!
Tips for freezing
Freeze food at its peak. You are preserving the quality, so use the best.
Use containers that make the most of the space.
Label, label, label! Write the contents and the date it was frozen. If you want soup one night, and you end up with a half dozen peaches, you won’t be very happy.
Organize the freezer in categories so you don’t keep it open while you look for something. Make a list of the freezer’s contents, and tape it on the door.
Keep the freezer full. It’s more energy efficient to cool a full freezer than one that’s half full. Make sure there is a little space between items for air circulation.
Check the temperature regularly. It should be 0º.
Rotate your stock. Use up the oldest foods first.
The main drawback to a freezer is a power outage. If you have no electricity, do not open the freezer. It will stay cold for 48 hours if it’s full. If the power will be out longer than that, get some dry ice to put inside. The Federal Food Safety Information website has good info on what to do. They also have a chart on how to deal with the frozen food that has thawed.
My freezer is stuffed full, and I’ll take the chance of a blizzard knocking the power out. It’s a trade-off for having the freshest and best quality food I could acquire. I can’t wait to eat whole raspberries in my yogurt in January!
As you plan your 2016 garden over the next few months, include the food you’d like to put up for winter. Plan for extra seeds and starts, and the additional space they need to grow. Then start planning your strategies for storing it through winter. You won’t be sorry!