Freezing Foods for Later

Chicken stock, ready to freeze.

As I write this, I have a big pot of Bolognese sauce simmering on the stove. It smells incredible. Normally, this isn’t a sauce I’d make in the middle of summer, but I had a large number of tomatoes ripen while we were out of town. I believe they wanted to be turned into sauce.

I have two plans for this sauce. First, a mid-week lasagna. Since I use no-cook gluten-free noodles, I can throw it together pretty quickly. Dinner will take about an hour total (including time to let the lasagna sit after baking). Having the sauce made in advance means the hard part is done.

The second plan I have for this sauce is to freeze half of it. I usually make my Bolognese sauce with cream, but if I omit the cream and pop meal-sized containers of sauce into the freezer, I’m good to go the next time I crave pasta with a meaty tomato-y sauce. I’ll just stir in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream as I reheat the sauce.

In addition to freezing foods I’ve cooked, I also make a quarterly trip to Costco to stock up on staples, including meats. I love storing them in meal-sized portions…and I love knowing I have food ready for meals any day of the week. And, as evidenced by the photo above, I am always making and freezing chicken stock. I go through so much of it, buying it at the store would be very expensive.

This is so important when you’re gluten-free!

Tips for Freezing Foods

  • Let the food cool to room temperature before putting in the freezer. If necessary, you can cool the dish by placing the pan in a larger container of ice water. Once the food has cooled, put into individual containers and freeze.
  • Always label and date your frozen food. It makes it easier to manage items.
  • Try to remove as much air as possible from items being frozen. Air can cause freezer burn. And, if you’re freezing liquids, leave a bit of room at the top to accommodate expanding liquids.
  • Use containers that have tight-fitting caps that don’t allow moisture into the container. Freezer bags are also appropriate for storing foods.
  • Freeze foods in the portion size you’ll need for later. Sometimes, that means single servings/cups, sometimes that means an entire meal. Remember that the larger the frozen portion, the long it takes to thaw.
  • A good “depth” for frozen foods is two inches.
  • When possible, thaw items in the refrigerator. If time doesn’t permit the refrigerator method, place the container of food in a bowl of water. This will accelerate thawing. Using the defrost setting on a microwave will thaw foods quickly, but they may not be pretty or tasty.
  • To freeze fresh vegetables, blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then, using a slotted spoon, move the vegetables to a bowl of ice water. Drain and freeze on a tray. After their frozen, move to labeled plastic bags. To use, add frozen vegetables to boiling water or stir fries. Microwaving makes them mushy.
  • Regular cheese and butter can be frozen for three months.
  • As you know, freezing gluten-free bread is the best way to keep it fresh.
  • Don’t freeze milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese. Some fruits, such as watermelon, don’t freeze well — any fruits and vegetables with high water content will get mushy. Potatoes don’t freeze well either.
  • Don’t refreeze foods after thawed. They won’t do well.
  • Freezing won’t kill bacteria, so throw away anything that has been mishandled or looks wrong.

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