Freezing is the most recent, simplest, and one of the best methods of preserving food. The kind of freezer you buy will be determined by the size of your family and the space at your disposal. In addition, most refrigerators have a freezing compartment which will keep frozen food for one to three months, according to the star markings shown.
Packaging Food must be good quality and carefully wrapped as cold air inside a freezer dries out food. Heavy duty polythene, aluminium foil or purpose-made cardboard containers with lids are ideal. If you are packaging food in a polythene bag, suck out any air with a straw or squeeze the pack before securing. Label with freezing and ‘use-by’ dates, type of food and weight. Pack carefully: bad packaging will cause cross-flavouring and ‘freezer burn’.
Freeze food quickly by setting the ‘fast freeze’ switch a few hours beforehand to avoid the food having a poor appearance and poor texture on thawing. Once food has been frozen on the coldest shelves, it can be transferred to storage compartments and the dial reset, Make an inventory of all foods in stock.
Thawing Food taken from the freezer should be thawed slowly in a refrigerator or a cool place. Foods containing a high proportion of liquid must be heated slowly. Thawed foods should never be re-frozen.
In a power failure, do not open the door; the food will keep cold up to 24 hours.
Preparation Remove excess fat. Wrap in aluminium foil, then overwrap in thick polythene bags. Interleave chops, steaks and hamburgers with greaseproof or waxed paper.
Thawing times For steaks, chops and stewing steak, five to six hours in the refrigerator; two to four hours at room temperature. For a joint under 1.5 kg (3 lb 4 oz), six to seven hours per 450 g (1 lb) in the refrigerator; two to three hours at room temperature. For a joint over 1.5 kg (3 lb 4 oz), six to seven hours per 450 g (1 lb) in the refrigerator; two to four hours at room temperature.
POULTRY AND GAME Preparation Remove the giblets from poultry and game birds. Wrap in foil, then in heavy-duty polythene.
Storage life Chicken, one year; game birds, six to eight months; turkey, six months; duck and goose, four to six months.
Thawing times For a whole bird, eight hours per 450 g (1 lb) in the refrigerator. For joints, two to three hours per 450 g (1 lb). Thaw completely before cooking.
FISH AND SHELLFISH Preparation Clean and fillet. Small fish can be frozen whole. Use greaseproof or waxed paper between individual portions. Pack in thick polythene bags or foil.
Storage life White fish, six to eight months; oily fish, three to four months; shellfish, two to three months.
Thawing times Large fish in the refrigerator for six hours; fillets and steaks for three hours. Cook thawed fish immediately. Small fish can be cooked from frozen.
Most vegetables must be blanched in boiling water before freezing, to destroy enzymes and preserve colour. Vegetables should be young and tender: freeze as quickly as possible after picking.
Most vegetables will keep for 10-12 months and can be cooked from frozen.
Soft fruits, such as raspberries and strawberries, black and red currants, plums, damsons and gooseberries may be open frozen. Clean, place on a baking sheet and leave to freeze until quite solid. Then pack into a freezer bag.
To pack fruit in dry sugar, roll fruit in 225 g-350 g (8 oz-12 oz) sugar for each 1 kg (2 lb) fruit. Either open freeze, rolled in sugar, or layer. In either case, place in a polythene bag.
To freeze fruit in a sugar syrup, use 225-350 g (8-12 oz) sugar to each 600 ml (1 pint) water. Make syrup, cool, then place fruit and syrup in a container leaving about 2.5 cm (1 in) headroom. Cover, label, freeze.
Freeze in cartons and plastic bottles, then wrap in thick polythene bags.
Storage life Milk tends to separate after freezing unless it is homogenised. This will freeze in plastic containers for one month. Fresh cream must have a minimum fat content of 35 per cent to prevent separation on thawing. For best results, whip until just softly stiff and freeze in plastic containers. Whipped cream is ideal to freeze in rosettes and can be used from frozen. Hard cheeses freeze well for up to three months in 225 g (8 oz) quantities. Wrap in foil or cling film. Grated
cheese is ideal for freezing and can be used from frozen.
Thawing time Thaw all dairy products slowly in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
PREPARED FOODS Cakes, bread, pastry and dough freeze well. Wrap in heavy polythene or freeze in rigid containers. Cakes and baked pastry will keep for up to six months; bread, bread dough and uncooked pastry for two to three months. Thaw at room temperature.
Stews, soups and stocks can be frozen in rigid containers. Allow a headspace to allow for expansion. Thaw at room temperature and heat through thoroughly. Once thawed, do not refreeze.