The Freezing Process
“Freezing is an indefinite form of storage.” We say that on most every page, but occasionally you may find something in the bottom of your freezer that you can barely identify! So, what exactly is an indefinite form of storage, what does it really mean? In reality, many things do “go bad” while stored in your freezer. The quality may be deteriorated to a point where you will not want to consume the product. The majority of Eat By Date pages contain products that “expire” somewhere around 6 to 12 months in the freezer. Let’s talk a little more about what freezing really does.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), foods kept at a constant temperature of 0° F are safe . But in reality, most home freezers do not keep a constant temperature below 0° F. Freezing at or below 0° F inactivates bacteria, mold and yeast. Molecules stop moving when frozen and thus micro organisms can no longer grow. But remember, once thawed they again become active. Another important point to realize is that home freezers do not get cold enough to destroy parasites. So, when freezing foods begin with good food so that the freshness, nutrients and quality will be preserved.
Most foods can be frozen, but with varying degrees of success. Canned goods and eggs still in the shell are the exception… You may remove the food from the can or shell and then freeze it, but never freeze foods in cans or shells. Some foods, for instance creams, mayonnaise and certain fresh vegetables like lettuce drastically change when frozen and become undesirable (although safe). These products are noted within the Eat By Date pages.
It is also important to note that enzyme activity is slowed by the freezer, but is not completely stopped. Since the ripening process involves such activity, vegetables need to be partially cooked (blanched) before freezing but fruits may be frozen fresh because they contain enough acid to prevent the chemical reaction. Raw meats freeze especially well due to all the moisture contained within.
The best way to freeze foods is as quickly as possible in order to prevent the formation of ice crystals. Ice crystals will damage cells during the thawing process and thus make foods like meats dry out. If you have several items to freeze at once, place them between other already frozen items, not stacked together, deep in the freezer so they will freeze faster.
How To Freeze Dried Fruit
Check out these dried apricots that have been in my freezer for at least 18 years:
Another thing we say a lot in our pages is “when properly stored”. We have been using a FoodSaver Vacuum Food Sealer with SmartSeal Technology to vacuum seal foods for the freezer for several years and, although we never seem to have enough apricots to freeze for very long, it keeps our meats and leftovers looking great for time periods often greater than the our charts suggest. And we don’t have to bother defrosting many of the items because the bags can be boiled from frozen in a pot of water and then served.
Basic Freezer Storage Tips
To help with making your freezer an “indefinite form of storage” here are some basic tips:
1) Always use “freezer safe containers”, these should be labeled by the manufacturer if they truly are.
2) Food items should be brought to room temperature before packaging for freezing, otherwise they may continue to cook in the closed container turning items like macaroni into mush.
3) If you are using plastic bags, they must be labeled “freezer bags” which are much thicker than normal storage bags. After filling your container or freezer bag, try to “burp” it by closing the container and then holding one end tightly closed while slightly opening the other end to force out as much air as possible before re-sealing. This is the step that the vacuum sealer does for you, better than you can possibly do yourself and with a tighter seal than you can possibly get.
4) Items bagged for the freezer should be labeled with a permanent marker stating the date that they were prepared for freezing and the contents. That way, you can use the Eat By Date charts and you can look at the food item to be sure it looks like it did when it entered the freezer. Whenever I clean my freezer, things that I forgot to label sometimes remain a mystery.
5) Always throw away any food that has developed an odor or is unrecognizable due to changes or freezer burn.
Defrosting – How To Thaw Foods
There are 3 ways to safely thaw foods after freezing: refrigeration, submersion in cold water, or micro-waving.
DO NOT just leave foods on the counter (or anywhere else for that matter) to thaw. Food will thaw in the refrigerator in a few hours to a few days, depending upon the size.
If wrapped in a waterproof bag or container and submerged in cold water, the water should be changed every 30 minutes or so until the food is thawed. Micro-waving is according to your microwave cookbook.
Check here to find information on freezing with dry ice.
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