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How to Freeze and Store Foods

Proper food storage in the freezer saves money and time. The summer production of ripe fruits and vegetables is preserved in the freezer next to the meat products purchased at a discount. Prepared main dishes and baked goods wait in the freezer for a busy weeknight. Freezing is less work than canning and produces a superior product. For long-term storage, a freezer with a constant temperature of about zero degrees Fahrenheit is required. Each cubic foot of freezer space will hold approximately thirty-five pounds of frozen food. There are several factors to consider when using the freezer to store foods.

Packaging:

Good quality packing materials are required to successfully freeze fruits, vegetables, meats and other products. Select plastic bags designed for the freezer, sturdy freezer containers and freezer paper. Heavyweight plastic wrap and aluminum foil also make good wrapping material. The packaging must protect the stored food from cold air and retain moisture. If air reaches the food, freezer burn may develop and the quality of the food is lowered. Sufficient space must be left in freezer containers to allow for expansion during freezing.

Length of Storage:

The type of product determines the length of time it can be successfully stored in the freezer. Packages of fruit and vegetables may be stored for nine to twelve months. Steaks and roasts may be stored up to nine months while pork sausage should be stored for three months or less. Label each package with the content and the date of freezing. Rotate the items in the freezer so the products are used within the recommended storage time.

Food Preparation:

Pick fruit in prime condition and freeze promptly. Fruit may be packed in a sugar syrup, mixed with sugar, or stored in an unsweetened pack. To maintain fruit color, lemon juice or ascorbic acid may be added.

Fully ripe and top quality vegetables should be picked or purchased and frozen within a short period of time. To maintain quality, most vegetables are blanched before freezing. Blanching slows or stops the action of vegetable enzymes. Without blanching, the vegetables may develop off-flavors or off-colors. During blanching, vegetables are submerged in boiling water or steamed for an exact period of time, chilled quickly in cold or ice water and packaged.

Good quality meat should be wrapped carefully in freezer paper or aluminum foil and frozen. Meat may be left in supermarket wrapping but to store for longer periods of time, the package should be over wrapped with freezer paper, plastic wrap, aluminum foil or placed in a plastic freezer bag. Small fish may be frozen whole while larger fish are usually cut in to steaks or fillets.

Baked goods such as breads, cakes or cookies should be carefully wrapped when cool and frozen. Baked or unbaked fruit pies can be successfully frozen. Prepared casseroles, soups and some sandwiches can be stored for one to two months in the freezer.

Thawing:

Most frozen foods should be thawed in the refrigerator, the microwave or cold water. Spoilage may occur if the food is allowed to thaw at room temperature. If food is thawed in the microwave, it should be cooked immediately. To thaw in cold water, place the frozen food in a sealed plastic bag and submerge in cold water. Change the water every thirty minutes. Many casseroles and some cuts of meat may go directly from freezer to oven without thawing.

With proper preparation, produce, baked goods and meats can be frozen for an extended period of time. Money will be saved and a variety of delicious meals can be prepared.

A comprehensive source of information is found on the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service Freezing and Food Safety website.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets/Focus_On_Freezing/index.asp