Yesterday I regaled you with tales of my love for freezing food. I covered the necessary tools and methods for freezing meat. Today I focus on bread, sauces, and herbs. I’ll also give you a list of freezer storage times and tell you what not to freeze. Then you, too, might join me in my ode to the freezer.
Freezing Bread and Cookies
Freezing bread is easy – and a great way to keep it fresh. I find that refrigerating bread dries out, but the freezer maintains the moisture. If you freeze a lot of grocery store bakery bread, Consumerist recommends buying it frozen from the store because they receive it frozen, not fresh. That might explain why it always seems to be hard at my store.
When I buy fresh bread, or bake bread, I freeze it in the original bags, foil and plastic wrap, or freezer bags, depending on the size and how long I’ll be storing it.
For a homemade pizza crust, I wait for it to cool and then wrap it in plastic wrap. Then I wrap foil around it, too. It keeps this way for about six weeks or so. To defrost it, just take it out of the freezer and remove the wrapping. It should be defrosted in less than an hour, depending on the thickness of the crust.
Buns and rolls also defrost quickly – less than thirty minutes on the counter. You can defrost them faster by wrapping them in a paper towel and microwaving them on defrost for a few minutes. Defrost one minute at a time to ensure they don’t start to cook. I usually just use the manufacturer or store bags because we use them quickly.
One caveat for freezing loaves of bread – if you plan to use it a few slices at a time, slice it before you freeze it. If you’re not sure, slice it into smaller chunks so you can defrost it a little at a time. Sawing slices off a frozen loaf is no easy task.
I only eat one cookie a day, but I make them in big batches. I toss them in a big freezer bag when they’re cool, and take them out a week at a time. It takes me about 6 weeks to go through a batch. I know other people who flash freeze balls of dough and cook it fresh, but I don’t want to deal with cookie sheets and the oven every week.
Freezing Fresh Herbs and Fruit
The top shelf of my freezer is for herbs, sauces, frozen fruit, and stock. You can easily freeze all of the above and have them on hand for later. In fact, Trader Joe’s now sells small packs of frozen fresh herbs you can drop right into your dish. I use their basil and oregano. I also freeze herbs myself.
When I get fresh herbs from a friend or when I buy it fresh from the store (I don’t have a garden), I freeze the excess. Those little packs are pricey – there’s no reason to waste them. Simply clean them, chop them, and then place them in an ice cube tray. Add a little water to lock them in place, and then freeze for a couple hours. When you’re done, you’ll have perfect little cubes you can stick in a Ziploc bag. They’ll keep for a few months, too. The best way to defrost them is straight into the dish you’re cooking, you could also defrost them in a bowl, strain out the water, and then pat them dry with a paper towel.
If you like fresh produce and want to freeze it yourself lay it out on a sheet pan and then freeze it. You may not want to eat them by themselves later, because freezing robs some fruits of their texture, but they’re great in sauces, toppings, shakes, and desserts. No one will know the difference!
Freezing Sauces and Stocks
I also have frozen cubes of homemade marinara, chicken stock, beef stock, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste in the freezer. Again, I just fill ice cube trays and freeze them. Then I transfer them to labeled freezer bags. Each cube is 2 tablespoons, so 2 cubes equal one quarter cup. I just place them in the pan while cooking to defrost them whenever I need them.
How Long Frozen Food Keeps
The USDA provides the following chart of freezer storage times:
Although you can push it, try to stay within the guidelines to avoid freezer burn. Freezer burn doesn’t poison the food, but it does ruin taste and texture.
What Not to Freeze
You can freeze just about anything, except eggs, mayo, and a few other dairy products. Butter freezes well, but cream doesn’t. The Egg Board says egg yolks and whites can be frozen, but you have to take a few extra steps that don’t seem worth it. I’ll stick to fresh eggs in shells. Very watery produce also doesn’t freeze well, like lettuce. It’s best to use that fresh.
Once you’ve got the hang of the freezer, you’ll become a freezer addict like me. It’s so nice to be able to whip open the freezer and grab just the right amount of stock or herbs. No mixing, no measuring, no fuss. Oh freezer, I do love thee.