Yesterday I cleaned out the refrigerator, including the freezer. Especially the freezer. It was definitely time for a spring cleaning. A while back I had organized the shelves by food type. Seems I am the only member of this family who reads labels. Nothing was where it should have been. Plus, I had a UFO (unidentified frozen object) with no identification on it whatsoever and little to distinguish it by sight alone (My first mistake.) There was only one option.
I placed the bag in the sink to thaw (my second mistake) and went about my business. It felt a bit like choosing a grab bag at a carnival.
Hours later, when the hoarfrost had melted away and the contents of the bag were visible, I still had no clue. I gingerly opened the bag and sniffed. Nothing. A finger poke led to the “aha” moment.
Roasted bell pepper strips. Late in the season when we were dismantling the garden, and the remaining peppers had all been green. I roasted them in the oven, then preserved them for future use by freezing. 6 months had gone by. I googled a freezer storage chart to discover that frozen cooked vegetables are best within 2 to 3 months. Should I use them or throw them away? Such a dilemma.
I haven’t mastered the art of canning yet; the freezer is still the best way for me to preserve food. I decided it was time to learn how to use the freezer safely and more efficiently.
A few helpful tips:
1. Obviously, it’s important to label and date all freezer bags and containers even if you think you’ll be using them soon–as I must have done when I chucked those peppers into cold storage.
2. Leave as little air as possible in all freezer containers. Push extra air out of bags before sealing and always use freezer safe containers that fit the amount of food being frozen. I’m guilty, guilty, guilty.
3. Cool hot foods quickly before freezing them by placing the pan of hot food in a large container filled with ice or cold water, stirring to keep the cold circulating. The sink works well for this purpose.
4. Place food items in the coldest part of the freezer. Keep them away from the door until they’re completely frozen.
5. The best and safest way to thaw foods is in the refrigerator. Foods can also be defrosted in the microwave. Only muffins, breads, and other baked goods can safely be thawed at room temperature. Oops. I’ve been living dangerously it appears.
So, let’s see. I baked the cookies. Sam will let me know if they’re past their prime. Hey, it won’t kill him, and it’s worth a shot. And we’ll see what I can come up with for those peppers. Got any ideas for me?