Home freezing of food is one of the quickest, easiest and most effective methods of preserving it in modern times. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be frozen to make them available for use right through the off season, meat can be bought in bulk or hunted and stored in handy individual or family portion sizes, while even certain types of fish can be frozen, perhaps in the wake of a successful fishing trip. In order to ensure that the food you freeze remains in the best possible condition for later use, there are a number of points which should be considered, often varying dependant upon the type of food being prepared.
Firm fleshed root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips are perfect for home freezing. They should be washed, peeled and chopped to what will be the required eating size before being lightly blanched for a couple of minutes in boiling water. Drain them well, submerge in cold water for a minute to stop them cooking and drain again. Cover and leave to cool before adding to a plastic freezer container and the deep freeze. A good tip here is to wait a couple of hours and then gently shake the carton. This will help to ensure the pieces freeze individually, rather than in to one hard lump that may prove awkward to separate at a later time.
Broccoli and cauliflower should have the outer leaves removed and be broken in to small florets for blanching and freezing. Peas and similar legumes should be removed from their pods or skins.
When cooking vegetables which have been frozen, they should not be defrosted first. Simply bring a pan of water to a boil, add a little salt if desired and add the vegetables straight from the freezer to simmer until cooked and softened.
Berries should have their leaves, stems and any husks removed before being washed, thoroughly drained and added to the freezing container. Fruits such as apples and pears should be peeled, cored and chopped. It is again a good idea to cook fruit straight from the freezer by your chosen method.
Red meat and poultry
The potential dangers of home freezing are never more evident than when dealing with meat and poultry, both prior to and after the freezing process. Flesh not prepared properly prior to freezing or even perhaps not defrosted properly prior to being cooked can cause severe food poisoning. It is vital always to exercise due care and never take any chances.
When freezing raw cuts of meat, or perhaps whole chickens or turkeys, the meat or the bird should be fully prepared as though it were to be cooked at the time. This means basically that all innards, feathers or the likes should be removed and discarded. Wash the meat and pat it carefully dry. Meat can then be prepared for freezing by vacuum packing it, wrapping it very well and securely in plastic or including it in a freezer proof container.
When it comes to using raw meat or poultry which has been frozen, it is important to know how long each piece will take to defrost. This can amount to days rather than hours, particularly with large turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The meat should be placed in a deep container to hold the defrosting liquid, covered and placed in the very bottom of the refrigerator to defrost. It should be removed a few hours prior to being cooked to reach room temperature and washed again thoroughly in cold water prior to cooking.
Cooked meat can also be frozen. This is particularly useful when making large batches of chili or curries and freezing them in individual portions for later meals. Be sure to let the food cool completely before packaging and freezing and to ensure that it is fully reheated before it is subsequently consumed.
Certain types of raw fish freeze well and others not so well. As a rule of thumb, firm fleshed white fish will freeze far better than soft fleshed, oily fish. The fish should be scaled (if appropriate), gutted and ideally skinned and filleted prior to freezing, exactly as if it were to be cooked immediately. The fish should be defrosted fully prior to being cooked.
Although freezing is very useful and can also be cost effective by reducing waste and making harvests go further, it is important not to take any risks. If ever in any doubt whether a particular food item can be frozen, how it should be frozen, or how it should be treated after it has been frozen, research in full prior to undertaking the procedure and never take unnecessary risks. The enjoyment of the food and the health of those who eat it can often depend on getting all the above factors just right.