Every time I go to my grandmother's house, I sneak away to do one thing -- I look in her freezer. Yes, that probably sounds rather unusual, but my grandmother, now in her 80s, still holds firm in her belief that no food should be wasted, especially that which she can preserve. Yet is it healthy to use one's freezer as storage for all kinds of foods to be eaten at a later date? This article will explore what foods can and cannot be frozen, from the perspective of health and food quality, in an attempt to save money and minimize waste.
Below is a list of foods that are ideal and maybe less than ideal for storing this way, as well as a brief guide accompanied on how to begin.
Warning: Follow safe food handling procedures to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are ideal types of foods to store in a freezer. When properly prepared, most can last up to a year while still maintaining zest and flavor when later eaten. Though it can alter texture (the crisp or crunch so often sought after can be lost in the process), the convenience of having ones very own natural foods available at will may be worth the sacrifice.
Produce that Freezes Well
Apples: Wash thoroughly and peel all skins before placing in a storage bag. To prevent browning, try soaking the fruit in simple salt water before freezing.
Bananas: Bananas do not require washing in preparation for storage. Before freezing, peel and place in a storage bag.
Pineapple: Yes, even pineapples can be stored in the freezer, though simply throwing the fruit whole into the icebox will not be effective. To freeze, core and skin the pineapple, cutting it into bite-sized pieces or slices.
Berries: To preserve these fruits, simply wash a bushel and dry thoroughly. This prevents them from clumping in your freezer.
Broccoli: This and many vegetables require a process call “blanching” before freezing, which entails quickly boiling the food for a set number of minutes. To prepare broccoli, simply cut into small, manageable pieces, and blanch for two minutes. Once cooled and dried, store in a sealed bag or container in the freezer.
Peppers: To freeze peppers, wash and slice, being sure to remove all seeds. This vegetable does not require blanching before being bagged and frozen.
Asparagus: Trim any excess pieces that one wouldn’t want to eat and wash the remains thoroughly. Slice each stalk evenly and blanch for two to three minutes. Next, drop the veggies in ice water to quickly cool their temperatures before draining and placing on waxed paper. Stack the waxed paper in layers, in a sealable plastic bag for freezing.
Produce That Doesn't Freeze Well
Watermelon: This fruit can be frozen, (to do so one must simply slice and stack on wax paper before bagging) though it does not hold up as well as many other fruits. The traditional crisp texture had when biting into the food is lost during freezing as the water inside crystallizes. In other words, it gets mushy when thawing.
Celery: To freeze, wash and cut into one-inch pieces and briefly blanch. Let cool, dry, and store. This technique is ideal for using the vegetable in recipes as the texture changes when frozen.
Salad Greens: When stored in extremely cold temperatures, this delicious plant looses its flavor fast. Further, the excess moisture created in the thawing phase is so profound for the notoriously sensitive green it actually makes it wilt.
Potatoes: Freezing a raw potato is a difficult task. Many experts suggest boiling the vegetable before attempting to preserve it, though the process may negatively affect the taste.
Dairy That Freezes Well
Butter: Butter is a wonderful food to freeze, as it tends to last for a very long time. Brands that feature pasteurized cream hold the best, though the lifespan of unsalted varieties commonly loose flavor. Simply leave in store-bought wrapping and place in the freezer.
Cream Cheese: Similar to butter, store-bought cream cheese is made to withstand the deepest of cold temperatures. Leave it in its wrapping and keep frozen until needed.
Cream: When freezing, the higher the fat content the better. Simply place the whole, unopened carton in the icebox for storage, though avoid re-freezing. Cream-based products that lack fat will not freeze well.
Dairy That Doesn't Freeze Well
Cheese: In theory, cheeses can be frozen, but when thawed they should only be used for the purposes of cooking. It's safe to eat on its own, but the taste will have changed.
Yogurt: This dairy product commonly loses its smooth texture during the chilling and thawing process.
Egg Whites and Egg Yolks Can Be Frozen
Eggs are wonderful frozen. For storage, whites and yolks can be mixed or separated, though if mixed, extra air added from beating should be avoided. You can add a large pinch of salt or sugar to yolks for every three to five egg yolks to prevent them from gelling. Shells must not be present at time of freezing or else the change in temperature that causes expansion will make the eggs break. Allow frozen eggs to thaw in the refrigerator only, and use immediately.