Rethinking the Freezer

Posted on Apr 19, 2013

The freezer is an essential tool for any cook interested in seasonal, homemade food. As you may have guessed, you won’t find frozen fish sticks and chicken nuggets in my freezer.

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Below is a list of my ideal freezer. Granted, some summers are busier than others, and I don’t always have time to freeze things such as tomatoes, but when possible, this is list of everything I like to have on hand:

  1. Chili Peppers. I don’t even remember the last time I bought a jalapeno from a grocery store. In Ohio, at the end of the summer, peppers are in abundance. I always buy a whole bunch at the end of the summer and freeze them along with any unused ones from my own backyard. Perfect to have on hand for winter chilies, sauces, soups, etc. And it’s not limited to jalapenos. All chili peppers work.
  2. Bell Peppers. Whether frozen whole or in slices, they freeze surprisingly well. I do a combination of both. Slices are wonderful for stir fries and pastas during the winter. Whole peppers are good for stuffing. And as with the chili peppers, in Ohio, they are in abundance at the end of the summer.
  3. Chicken and/or Vegetable Stock. Boxed stock does not even come close to comparing with homemade. Whenever I make homemade, I like to try to freeze some so that I have it on hand for quick weeknight dinners and sick days. I freeze them in various size containers so that if I only need a small amount, I don’t have to defrost a huge jar. I’ve also heard that you can freeze it in ice cube trays but have yet to try it.
  4. Breadcrumbs. Why buy breadcrumbs? Instead process stale bread and stick it in the freezer to have on hand.
  5. Beans. Often, when I cook beans, I make extra and stick them in the freezer to add to weeknight meals.
  6. Local Meat. Finally, a typical freezer food! Usually when I buy meat at the market, it’s frozen. The only challenge is remembering to think ahead and to take it out in time to defrost.
  7. Flour. Any flours that I don’t use often, I stick in the freezer, if I have space. It prevents bugs from getting into them.
  8. Waffles and/of Pancakes. Not the boxed kind. I’m talking homemade. I almost always make double batches and freeze the extras. Makes for a nice snack or quick Sunday morning breakfast.
  9. Peas. I love frozen peas. I add them to soups, rice dishes, pastas, and so on. Sometimes I even just eat them with butter and salt and pepper. A must have.
  10. Tomatoes. Towards the end of the summer and early fall, I start stocking up on tomatoes at the farmers’ market, especially Romas. Freezing them is simple. Either you can boil them in water for a couple minutes, remove the skins and then freeze them whole on a tray (move them to a storage bag after a few hours), or you can remove the skins, puree them and store them in jars in the freezer. Either way, frozen tomatoes are perfect for winter soups and stews and have much more flavor than canned tomatoes.
  11. Berries and Fruit. I’ll be honest. I always try to buy extra fruit during the summer and freeze it. I key word is “try.” I usually eat it all before I can freeze it.
  12. Other Farmers’ Market Produce: Green Beans freeze well. Corn (on the cob and off). Asparagus stalks for stock/soups.
  13. Corn Tortillas. I sometimes crave enchiladas. Corn tortillas freeze really well and are excellent to have on hand if you crave Mexican food as I do. Also good to make homemade chips.
  14. Sweets. Every so often, a sweet thing, such as Jeni’s Ice Cream, appears in my freezer. I really don’t know how it gets there. Also, leftover homemade cookies. If there are leftovers. Which isn’t often.