Not even in the freezer door.
I have some work to do before my frozen stock-pile (get it?) will have a home. First, I'm going to inventory everything in the freezer, to see if there is anything I can use or discard in order to create more room. Then, I'll better organize what's left. Won't that feel nice?
By the way, the pictures above show my freezer at relatively low capacity. Often, there are so many things stuffed in there that the door will barely close. I love to freeze all kinds of things — both raw and cooked — to 1) have easy meals on hand to pull out on busy days and 2) have a variety of ingredients on hand to spice up things I'm making. I'm continually surprised at what freezes well. Well, anything will freeze well, except maybe fire, but I'm continually surprised at how good so many things are after they've thawed. I've had thawed pasta dishes reheat to a consistency not much different from when they had just been cooked, and just last weekend, we enjoyed some leftover Indian chicken in dill sauce that tasted even more scrumptious after spending 2 weeks in the freezer.
In today's post and in the future, I'll tell you about some foods that did not benefit from going through an Ice Age, and would love to hear from you about freezing triumphs and failures you've experienced.
Back to my freezer inventory: I took everything out to assess its condition and in some cases determine its identity. The following list is in order of coming out of the freezer:
- 1 half-gallon container of raw milk. We get deliveries from an Amish farm in PA every 2 weeks through our raw-milk collective. We find that we need about 3 half-gallons of milk to get us through this length of time, but that the milk starts tasting a little gamey after 10 days or so, so we always freeze one container right after bringing it home. I don't know if freezing counteracts the health benefits of raw dairy, but it doesn't affect the flavor or the consistency at all. Surprisingly, the milk doesn't expand to pop the lid or break the container as it freezes, or else the plastic gives enough to accommodate any expansion that is taking place. (Yes, I was a little nervous the first time I tried this.)
- 1 stick of Kate's Sea-salted Butter. We keep a few days' worth of butter in the fridge and replace it from the freezer stock as it gets used up. We sometimes get tubs of raw-milk butter from the Amish, which is stronger-flavored, and is particularly pleasing in taste and bright yellow color during the spring when the cows return to a fresh-grass diet. I like to avail myself of all the delicious varieties of butter available to us, with Icelandic brands being among my favorites.
- Several bags of coffee beans. Most of these, apart from some Starbucks blends donated by my parents, are left over from the CSA season. Our CSA farm has developed a supportive relationship (guidance and funding) with an all-women-run plantation in Guatemala that grows organic, free-trade coffee. We started out with an order of a pound a month, but developed a backlog when we both decided to cut down on our caffeine consumption. (That's a whole story unto itself, which I may tell in a future post.) We consider that these Guatemalan beans make the best coffee we have ever brewed at home.
- 1 small plastic container of home-ground garam masala. This widely used Indian blend of spices, all of which are purported to have a warming effect — cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, black pepper, etc. — quickly loses its potency at room temperature, so I store it in the freezer.
- 2 big plastic boxes of extra spices. Indian markets sell plastic bags of spices in amounts too large for me to use before they go stale, so I keep small amounts in jars in my spice cabinet and store the remainder frozen.
- 3 lemons in a plastic bag. I had a surplus of lemons this past summer, so I stored some of them in the freezer. They get mushy when they thaw, but are nonetheless usable for juicing. However, you have to remember to take them out to thaw quite some time beforehand, and I never do, so the lemons remained unused. I figured that I may as well thaw them now, and I did, using the juice in a marinade for London Broil.
- 1 envelope containing sheets of vark layered between paper. Vark is edible silver foil used in India to decorate sweets and festive rice dishes. I keep mine in the freezer to slow down the oxidation process, since the pure silver tarnishes easily. It's not very festive to adorn your pilaf with a sheet of blackened metal.
- Fresh herbs. With its many random bags and plastic containers filled with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, my freezer could inspire a whole new hit by Simon and Garfunkel. The spoiled smell emanating from one of the dishes of parsley inspired me to toss it out. I used the other one to start up my stock-pile. Some strongly flavored herbs like dill and sage tend to survive the freezing process better than their more delicately flavored cousins. In particular, I have had no luck at all with preserving basil in the freezer. Cleaned and chopped, it thaws into a tasteless mulch. Cleaned, chopped, and frozen in ice cube trays with water to cover (as suggested on a website I consulted), it thaws into a tasteless mulch. I think I'll stick to preserving my basil in oil.
- 1 ziploc bag of blanched, slivered almonds. These were left over from my holiday chutney project, which turned out really good. Maybe I'll blog about next year's batch. Chutney is very satisfying to make and allows for a full measure of creativity. I tend to splurge on my chutney ingredients, making it a costly gift that nobody suspects was costly. (It's the thought that counts in gift-giving, isn't it, especially if someone thought that you dropped a load on it.)
- A cold pack. For first aid. To alleviate swelling, apply (with icepack wrapped in a t-shirt) 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off for as long as needed. Don't apply directly to your skin — it'll burn like frostbite.
- A bag of Naan breads from Trader Joe's. From the contents I'm listing, you'd think my freezer was in Mumbai.
- Muffins, banana cake, and cookies from Mom. In ziploc bags. Mom is generous when giving out these treats, so they go into the freezer to stay fresh for whenever I need a little maternal comforting. They thaw almost instantly, but I actually prefer them frozen anyway.
- 1 ziploc bag of CSA tomatoes. Ready to simulate summer sometime in the middle of February when my Seasonal Affective Disorder is peaking. Which could actually happen this week — today's HIGH temp is predicted to reach 22 degrees (F).
- 2 containers of the tomato sauce I recently cooked up for my eggplant bake. Some evening, when I am exhausted from a long day of teaching, I will reach for one of these containers with a huge sigh of relief.
- 1 bag of dried coconut shreds. From the Indian market, where unsweetened is easier to come by.
- A small container of chickpea flour. I forget why I own this. I think I used it sometime during the past year to thicken a sauce.
- Jalepeños. I freeze them whole during the growing season. They are mushy after thawing, so you need to use them in a dish in which that doesn't matter, but their hotness sure doesn't suffer!
- Squash seeds. I collect these in a container as I cook butternut and other squashes during the fall/winter months. When I accumulate enough, I cook them (250-300 degrees for 30 min in the convection oven) with a sprinkling of herbs & spices. Today, I decided I had enough collected, so I did them up with some flavorings that came in little plastic containers with take-out food — garlic powder, paprika — and some salt and pepper.
|BEFORE: You can see I don't bother to separate out the little bits of flesh. They cook up yummy and gummy!|
|AFTER: Peter sampling the seeds hot out of the oven|
- Fresh gnocchi from Whole Foods. Will go excellently with....
- Garlic-scape pesto I'd made last June. Next June, when the scapes are harvested, I'll show you how I make this easy and delicious pesto.
- A Delmonico steak from the Amish farm. Organic? Check. Grass-fed? Check. Local? Check. Delicious? Three checks!
- Wheat germ. Perhaps I should list it as "Wheat germ (?)" Anyway, there is a plastic container with some sort of ground, brown, grainy-looking stuff. I have to get better with labeling.
- Several mini-knishes. These were from a really good deli in Riverdale and were left over from a party thrown by Peter's mom in November. We also had leftover pigs-in-blankets and falafel, but they got et.
- 1 Container of sliced, cooked turkey breast. Once in a while, I tire of my regular breakfast of yogurt with fruits and nuts, so I look for alternatives. Lately, I felt as though I am eating too much fruit, so I decided to order a turkey breast from our Amish farm. I don't know what kind of exercise program these birds are on, but this breast looked like something Wilma Flintstone might have served up. After baking it (in my convection oven, naturally), I sliced it and put half away in the freezer. In the mornings, I serve myself a few slices, lightly salted, with a few nuts and half an apple, sliced. If I'm feeling particularly festive, I add a dollop of homemade chutney to the plate.
- I am guessing cooked beet greens in some sort of broth (about a cup in all), with accumulated ice crystals:
|I'm sure I had a plan in mind when I stuck this in the freezer.|
- Dog Meat. If you're dialing the ASPCA, please hang up. This is what we call meat that we feed to our dogs. In this case, it's a tube of "ground beef with all the organs" from the Amish farm. Our family is so green, even our dogs get organic, grass-fed, local meat. Don't think too closely about what constitutes "all the organs."
OK, that about sums up the current contents of my freezer. Perhaps over the coming weekend, I can reorganize and take some pics to show how I made room for my stock-pile. In the meantime, check out your own freezer — I mean really dig down and see what's in the very back, covered in thick layers of ice — and leave a comment describing what you discover. Maybe it will be an unidentifiable blob of something brownish. . .or maybe it will be just what tonight's dinner needs!