I think a lot of people don't really use their freezers to their fullest potential. I know I used to be scared of freezing stuff, and I thought that things that were frozen didn't taste as good. Turns out, I was wrong. You just have to know what you're doing. My freezer and I don't have a perfect relationship. Don't get me wrong. It's horribly unorganized. Nothing's really boxed, so it has to fit in where it can, and sometimes I end up with a 4-pound frozen chicken hitting me in the head while I'm getting frozen veggies out of the lower drawer. And don't even get me started on the day last summer when the seal lost it's sealing power and I lost half of what was inside. It felt like a small part of me died that day. Maybe I get a little overly emotional about food. But, for the most part, I love my freezer, and it's become pretty essential to my family's eating.
This time of year, as winter winds down into spring, I start dreaming about summer. And gardening. And the CSA. And I start to realize that I'm really going to need to clear out my freezer to make room for the bounty that I'll want to preserve from next summer's harvest. And I freak out a little, because long-term meal planning is just not my thing.
So, for a little challenge, I'm going to try to keep up on this blog, or at least on the Facebook page with how I'm trucking through everything in there. Hopefully, it will help others see what a great resource your freezer can be!
So, let me give you a quick rundown of what's hiding in there. I'm going to try to break it down into sub-sets of food, because listing everything in there would mean that I'd have to go out there and go through everything, and especially considering it's about 20 degrees out in my garage not now, that just would make me really crabby. And nobody wants to see me crabby.
1. Beef. I'll blog about it someday, but we buy our beef by the half steer and split it with our awesome next door neighbor. Grass-fed steers raised with organic methods, and less than half the price that I could find grass-fed ground beef anywhere else on sale. Beef is probably half of my outdoor freezer's contents. Everything from rib roasts to ground beef to Porterhouses to bones for making stock.
2. Other meats. Most frequently from Amy's Organics. Right now, that includes fish, pork, chicken, buffalo, and a guinea fowl. I also have a whole turkey in there (my family lives for turkey and turkey gumbo), some shrimp, some bacon, meatballs, and some sausage. Most of this is also from small farms or local producers, except for the shrimp. Not much native shrimp here in the Midwest.
3. Frozen veggies. Zucchini was crazy for me this summer, so I have bags of it grated, julienned, and sliced into rounds or half rounds. Summer squash as well. I also have plenty of tomatoes (yes, technically a fruit, I know) frozen: whole cherry tomatoes, roasted cherry tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Tons of corn as well, because I made the crazy move of buying a bushel of corn, close to 6 dozen ears, from a local farm last year. I husked, blanched, cut and froze it, and we're still enjoying that "fresh summer corn" taste. There's lots of Swiss chard, kale, collards, and other greens in there as well. Pumpkin puree, winter squash puree, and beet puree, all bagged into 1-cup bags. And peas, which are probably the only store-bought veggies in there, because it's just so much work to grow and get tons of peas ready to freeze. Oh, and okra...see above turkey gumbo obsession.
4. Frozen fruit. My family picked 20 pounds of blueberries from an organic blueberry farm in Indiana this past summer. Then I bought another 20 pounds. About 30 pounds of that made it to the freezer, so that we can enjoy them year-round. And yes, my family did eat 10 pounds of blueberries in about a week's time. Hey, that's only like 2 pounds each person... Strawberries as well, from a different farm, also in Indiana. Some are frozen with a little sugar in with them and some are just straight strawberries. The ones with the sugar in them make a quick and easy syrupy topping for shortcakes, waffles, or ice cream. So yummy! I also have a bunch of chopped rhubarb, great for rhubarb bread or muffins or crumbles. We also have homemade applesauce frozen, but not as much as usual, because the weather really screwed with the apple trees this year, and yields were low to non-existent. Sometimes there are cherries, peaches, or raspberries in there too. And this past year, I froze jars of some jams that I made.
5. Pestos and herbs. An easy, yummy way to freeze more delicate greens and herbs is to make it into pestos. Right now, I have a tiny bit of much-sought-over garlic scape pesto, some basil pesto, a concoction I like to call Asian pesto (Asian greens, peanuts, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, etc.), arugula pesto, and an interesting mint pesto that I picked up at the farmer's market a few weeks ago. I have herbs that I just picked from my garden and threw into bags in the freezer (rosemary, thyme, mint), and I also have little cubed frozen herbs that you can get at Trader Joe's or sometimes Costco (cilantro, basil, garlic, parsley) that are super-convenient to toss into sauces and such. I also have some whole ginger roots. Freezing them makes them very easy to grate into whatever I feel needs gingering up.
6. Breads and grains. If I have extra muffins, bagels, pancakes, waffles, etc., those usually go into my freezer for a quick grab another day. There's a great brand of premade baguettes at our local Costcos that go from frozen to table in about 15-20 minutes, and I try to have those on hand. I also have loaves of things like gingered zucchini carrot bread, rhubarb coffee cake, and basil polenta cake in there to thaw on a day when I don't feel like baking. I have some rolled oats and cornmeal from a local farm that are so fresh that they keep better frozen, as well as some store-bought flaxseed and almond flour. Pre-made piecrusts, puff pastry dough, and phyllo. Once in a while, I'll freeze homemade dough as well, but that can be tricky. I'm not as confident with that yet.
7. Prepackaged foods. Most of these are from Trader Joe's. They have some cool, appetizer-y type foods in their freezer section that I like to have on hand for if people come over or for a family living-room picnic dinner. Also some pierogis, because they take a whole lot of time and effort (that I just don't usually have) to make them from scratch...but I adore those little pockets of cheesy oniony potatoey ravioli imposters.
8. Homemade stocks, soups, stews, and gumbo. Perfect for quickie meals. Even straight from the freezer, I can usually throw them in a pot and get them heated in about 15 minutes.
9. Sweets. Ice cream is a must, in my eyes. Frozen natural yogurt tubes are great for snacks on the go or with lunches. We also have several boxes of Girl Scout cookies, because I have a Brownie and a Daisy in my house. Excessive candy, like from Halloween and parties, gets thrown in the freezer too. And usually forgotten until I'm in a bad spot and need an emotionally-charged sugar fix.
I think that's about it...
It's kind of a jungle in there. And now, it's time for me to wield the machete of spring and clear the way for future goodies to fit in there.
So, here's what's going out of the freezer today:
2 cups of shredded zucchini
1 cup of corn
Dinner is the meatballs. Then, I made a boxed natural cornbread mix but added the corn, zucchini and rosemary into the mix. We haven't eaten it yet, but the cornbread smell is making me drool on my keyboard right now, and I keep having to bat the kiddos away from the hot pan. I'm guessing it's going to be pretty decent. Now, to decide what to thaw for tomorrow...