Tag Archives: freezer

My Love Affair With the Freezer

9 Nov

I detested the freezer as a child.

My mother, that supreme model of economy and practicality, would freeze leftovers out of the refrigerator to resurrect them for later time-crunched weekday meals, and for as long as I can remember I would turn my nose up and sneer. I was convinced, convinced, I tell you, that the freezer was where good food went to die. As far as I was concerned, it contained only the diseased corpses of half-masticated lasagna preserved against the distant day that a cure for stale noodles was finally found.

In my defense, I was right more than once — my mother (reasonably enough) adhered to the “freeze it before it rots” method of food preservation, chucking things in foil and freezer bags before they’d reached the point of no return. This, my esteemed colleagues, is no way to freeze food. More on that later.

To be absolutely fair to my brilliant and beleaguered mother though, a great deal of my anti-freeze prejudice to the idea of re-constituted three-month-old beef-stew was simply that it was old. Some essential flash of vital deliciousness must surely have been frosted away forever — not to mention (I intelligently reasoned) that it was surely no longer as healthy as freshly-slaved-over-that-very-day food was like to be.

Right here, right now, in front of the entire world, I’d like to take a moment to say six very important words — words that I’m sure I will often find reason to repeat in my independent adult life: “I’m sorry, Mom. You were right.”

There.

You see, folks, as a chronically-poor-and-pressed-for-time college student, I have neither leisure nor money to afford freshly-prepared-by-me-or-professionals food on a daily basis. I don’t! I don’t even have the cash (or, thankfully, the taste or desire) for quick convenience foods like macaroni and cheese or frozen pizza.

But I do have a freezer. And I love him. (All inanimate objects have a personality. I imagine my freezer to be a six-foot-tall blonde  from frosty Scandinavian climes who desires nothing more than to pamper me in the manner I so obviously deserve. His name is Sven.)

With the assistance of Sven (you think I’m kidding?), I have healthy home-cooked meals on call 24 hours a day, including the wee small hours of dawn when I’m blearily packing a lunch box, or the dusky twilight hour when I finally return home too hungry and tired to stand in my kitchen longer than ten minutes. And while my adolescent self was right to the degree that there are some foods that don’t survive Sven’s icy embrace as well as others, there are just as many (if not more) that return from their journey as fresh and fantastic as the day they disappeared. 

I didn’t start out freezing food on purpose, you know. At first it was merely a gesture of defense against the creeping sense of frustration at my complete inability to cook food in single-person-appropriate-portions, and the all-encompassing guilt at the thought of tossing any of that lovingly-produced splendor away. So I funneled the soups and stews I made so abundantly into freezer-bags and hid them out of sight, never really intending to visit them again.

Then, as it so often does, necessity struck. One dark and dismal night I found myself faced with a fridge as howlingly empty as my stomach and my bank account at the end of a day comprised of a full load of collegiate classes and a particularly stressful evening of rehearsal. Rather begrudgingly, I plucked a bag of black bean soup from the dark recess of the freezer, peeled it open, and dropped it in a saucepan. 

And it tasted all right. Absolutely fine. I did not sicken, I did not die, I did not go hungry, and I did not look back.

***

The secret to freezer-food-success is this simple philosophy: put some aside in advance. Do not wait for it to show signs of distress a week after you cook it: not only will the flavor suffer, but thinking of the freezer as an intermediary quarantine between the refrigerator and the garbage can is not likely to instill feelings of excitement and appetite in you when you reach for that food later. Think of the freezer as a vital weapon in your food prep arsenal, your secret stash, your Swiss bank account of culinary riches. (Get it? Sven? Swiss? Anyone?)

Most recipes I find online are designed to prepare as many as 6-8 servings. On the night I cook, I only put about three servings in the fridge to serve for the week; the rest of it goes immediately into individually portioned containers. Individual portioning is key; that way you can simply thaw as you go, rather than thawing-and-refreezing-and-thawing-and-refreezing the whole quantity ad infinitum.

Initially I favored the quart-and-gallon freezer bag approach. The individual portions go in the quarts, the sealed quarts all go in one gallon, and the gallon is clearly labeled with contents and date, and I am left with one complete package. It has its advantages, and I still do this for solid foods like cake, banana bread, lasagna, and so forth. These days though, my soups, stews, and beans go into wide-mouthed pint-sized canning jars. They take up a little more space than the bags, but they are fully re-useable, do not retain odor or stains, and their same-day transit from the freezer to my lunch box to the microwave are a major part of their secret weapon status. (Seriously. It’s freakishly useful.)

Back in August, a month or so before classes started for the fall quarter, I entrusted six or seven jars apiece of chicken soup, turkey chile, and lentil soup to Sven. Between classes, auditions, callbacks, and a respiratory virus to beat all viruses (seriously, though, I think I’m dying) I have had one or more freezer meal per DAY this week alone. I am probably blowing this whole thing just the tiniest bit out of proportion, but the fact is that I tremble with self-superior glee every time I reach into my frozen safety-deposit box and remember how wise I was to save up for a rainy day. It’s like a letter of encouragement from month-ago-me. I like month-ago-me. And I really like Sven.

What are some of your favorite freezer-friendly foods? What’s your favorite freezer-safe container? Any particular stories of hail-mary-freezer-meal-rescue? Share below!

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