Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

October 9, 2012
Learn to freeze fresh foods properly

Many people in this area get involved in putting away food for long-term storage. Those who are fortunate enough to own a chest or upright freezer have a great option to tuck away food that will taste a lot like its fresh counterpart when its taken out to use.

Freezing preserves more nutrients than bottled food for months. The texture will be closer to the fresh product as well.

Using a freezer means people can purchase fresh foods on sale and store them for long periods. A freezer is especially useful for long-term storage of meats. It is possible and even reasonable to bottle meats for storage, but the process is time-consuming and limits the possible uses of the meat later.

People who raise their own garden crops find a freezer useful because food can be prepared for freezer storage much more easily and quickly than for canning. It is also a safe way to store foods — particularly when the foods are prepared using a creative rather than a strictly scientific recipe. For example, many people have a favorite salsa recipe that they like to make in the fall. It can be preserved by pressure-cooking methods, but freezing is quicker and easier.

While frozen foods may retain flavor, texture and nearly all their nutrients for months, if they are not stored properly, they may lose quality rapidly. Several variables contribute to high frozen food quality.

At freezing temperatures, food quality still deteriorates. The lower the temperature, the more slowly that occurs. At 15 degrees Fahrenheit, food is frozen hard, but it is not as solid as that frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. As time passes, food frozen at the lower temperature will maintain better color, texture, flavor and sometimes, nutritive value.

Freezing compartments of refrigerators may not be cold enough to hold food for long periods of time. Check the temperature with a freezer thermometer. It should maintain a temperature below 5 degrees for long-term frozen storage.

Store food in airtight packaging. Use only moisture and vapor resistant materials such as aluminum foil, polyethylene bags, freezer film wraps and plastic and metal containers. Wrap foods tightly enough to omit air from the package.  Shrink film wrap used on meats at grocery stores is not heavy enough for freezer storage beyond two weeks. Rewrap or overwrap such packages with a moisture and vapor resistant material to prevent freezer burn. Zip-type sandwich bags are also too thin for long-term freezer storage. Freezer bags are made of a thicker gauge plastic and will hold food for longer.

Thaw foods properly to discourage bacterial growth. Meat, fish and poultry are especially susceptible to bacteria. Thaw these foods in the refrigerator so that they remain at a safe temperature throughout the thawing time. When food is thawed at room temperature, the outside of the food thaws first and may become warm enough to encourage microbe growth even though the center is still frozen.

Slower thawing also reduces moisture loss. Use a microwave for rapid thawing. Meat, fish and poultry can be cooked without thawing first. Allow for one third to half more time for cooking. Foods that are partially thawed but still contain ice crystals can be refrozen. Their quality will be reduced, however.

Immediately use perishable foods that have been completely defrosted. A fully stocked freezer is more economical to run than a partially full one. Turn over the stock once every six months to reduce the operating cost per pound of food. Pick up commercially frozen foods just before going to the checkout counter and put them in your home freezer as quickly as possible.

Home-prepared foods can be successfully frozen. Add flavorings to casseroles and other foods just before using when possible. Freezing increases the flavor of black pepper, cloves, onion and garlic, while the flavor of other seasonings weakens. Stews keep better than fried or broiled meat.

Some foods, like mayonnaise, don’t freeze satisfactorily. If you choose to make sandwiches in advance, spread mayonnaise on them when you remove them from the freezer.

The optimum times for frozen storage vary according to the product. Mark the date on packages when you place them in the freezer so you can keep track of how long they have been frozen.

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