Freezing is a quick, easy way of storing foods for future use. Taking some care in preparing foods for the cold can make the difference between dry unappetizing dishes and those that are as good as freshly made.
Cold air slows, but does not stop changes and deterioration in food. When wrapping foods for freezing, always try to get as much air out of the package as possible and wrap it well so that moisture can't get in. The dreaded "freezer burn," which will leave your food dried out and tasting funk, occurs when the moisture on food's surface evaporates. Aluminum foil is a great freezer wrap as are heavy plastic freezer bags.
Freezing can be a wonderful time saver. You can make all kinds of food in advance -- such as soups, casseroles, bread doughs and even lasagna -- and freeze them for future use. If you're going to the trouble to make one dish, why not make extra and freeze for a night when you're too busy to cook?
I also like to make huge batches of stock (chicken, beef, fish, vegetable) and freeze it in small containers so it's ready any time I need it. Another handy idea is to freeze stock in ice cube trays then keep the cubes in a zipper top food storage bag so that you have small amounts of stock at your fingertips any time you need it.
Ice cube trays work well for egg whites. If you're making a recipe that calls only for egg yolks, freeze the leftover whites (one per cube) in an ice cube tray. Transfer the frozen whites to a Ziplock® bag and they will be ready any time you have a recipe that uses only egg whites!
Foil containers are great for freezing foods you will want to re-heat in an oven, as are freezer safe glass baking dishes,just cover the tops well. Plastic containers work well for freezing liquids, but be sure to leave a 1/2 inch or so of space for expansion.
It's a good idea to put masking tape labels on your frozen foods, unless you like playing "dinner roulette" and are willing to take a chance on what might be behind the wrapping. Labels are also necessary for dating the food you freeze. While freezers will keep food for long periods, they won't keep forever.
Foods that freeze faster will keep better. If your freezer isn't as cold as it should be (most home freezers should operate at about 0° F) your food will form larger ice crystals when freezing. Larger crystals mean poorer texture to your thawed foods.
What To Freeze
Baked Goods - In general, the lower the moisture level in your baked goods, the more successfully they will freeze. Well wrapped bread will keep for about five months in a freezer. You can also freeze bread dough for a month or two before baking. The same goes for pizza or other yeast doughs. If you know you are making yeast dough to freeze, add a little extra yeast to your recipe.
Unbaked pie crusts freeze well as do unbaked fruit and meat filled pies, so you might want to stock up and get ahead when making these. Add a little extra thickening agent to fruit pies destined for the freezer.
Unfrosted cakes will keep for months -- again well wrapped is the key. You can freeze a butter cream frosted cake as well, although other types of icing tend to separate, especially those made with egg whites and/or brown sugar.
In all cases, cool baked goods completely before freezing or they will end up soggy.
Prepared Foods - Soups, stews, many sauces (spaghetti sauce comes immediately to mind), unbaked pies (see baked goods), casseroles, lasagna etc. freeze well. Freezing may affect some spices, so it's a good idea to check and re-season, if necessary, when cooking previously frozen food. As always, wrap and cover well before freezing.
Eggs - Many people don't know you can freeze eggs. You can store whole eggs in plastic containers (cracked open and with the whites and yolks stirred together) or store egg whites and yolks separately. Raw egg yolks will need to be broken and stirred with either 1/4 teaspoon salt or 3/4 teaspoon sugar for each 1/2 cup of egg yolks or else they will turn to a "gummy" consistency. Cooked egg yolks, on the other hand, freeze beautifully. The reverse is true of egg whites: raw are just fine (freeze in ice cube trays, one per cube), but cooked egg whites will change texture so much they will not be at all appealing.
Vegetables - Most vegetables will need to be blanched before freezing (putting the cut veggies in a pot of boiling water for about 1-2 minutes). After blanching, plunge the vegetables into cold water to stop the cooking process. Wrap and freeze when completely cool. Vegetables will keep in the freezer for about six months.
Fruits - While frozen fruits do retain their flavor, be aware that the texture of many frozen fruits will become softer --think of frozen strawberries as opposed to fresh. Add some sugar (to fruit that will be served uncooked after freezing) or simple syrup (for fruits that will be cooked after being thawed) as this helps to retain the fruit's texture when freezing. Fruit will keep in your freezer for about a year.