Saturday, November 13, 2010

Not So Approved Freezer Containers?

Years ago, when I was visiting my mother in Denver, she asked me to go downstairs and get some lasagna out of the freezer.  Down the stairs I went, and opened the lid on her little chest freezer.  It was full, and I mean FULL, of little yogurt containers, butter tubs, cottage cheese tubs, etc.  So I'm digging around (I hate chest freezers), looking for my preconceived notion of a frozen lasagna.  Nothing.

So back to the bottom of the stairs, and I holler up that I can't find the lasagna.  She hollers back, "The LASAGNA!"  Like saying it louder is going to help me find it.  Back to the freezer, more digging and no lasagna.  So, back to the stairs, and I ask (maybe not so politely), if she's sure she had a lasagna in that freezer.  "The LASAGNA!"  Even louder. 

Back to the freezer, and I took a closer look at the various plastic tubs.  Sure enough, there were a few that were neatly labeled 'lasagna' on the side in permanent marker.  Some weren't labeled at all, so I guess those were mystery meals, I don't know.

Now then, back to the present.  It's official.  I have turned into my mother.

I used to ladle cooked tomatoes into quart size plastic freezer bags, lay them on a big pizza pan until frozen, then try to stack them in the freezer.  They usually slid all around until I had the shelf fairly full.  Later I learned the hard way that you can not microwave-thaw them.  Trust me, I tried it twice and ended up throwing two bags away because of melted plastic.  Thawing was definitely better in a big bowl of water.  A couple of times I lost some of the tomato juice because the corners of the bag was poked by sharp, frozen edges.  That annoyed me, I want to wash that bag and use it again!  All in all, it was not an ideal situation.

I tried canning jars with limited success.  In the microwave, the outer layer of tomatoes would be boiling hot, while the inside was still too frozen to be able to pour out of the jar.  Planning ahead was important - put the jar in the frig the day before, put it on the counter to thaw in the morning, or plan on some time in the bowl of water... oh, or microwave s-l-o-w-l-y.  I also learned the hard way not to fill it above the shoulder of the jar. 

Go buy gobs of  'freezer approved' containers?  Perish the thought! 

But I did have bunches of quart size cottage cheese and yogurt containers.  Actually, they worked out the best.  I could sit it in a bowl of tap water (didn't have to be warm) and in a bit, it was thawed enough that the frozen tomatoes would slide right out and into the pot.

I originally labeled them in my low tech method (masking tape and a permanent marker), but eventually went to just the marker when I had the tomato overload.

Quart size plastic mayo jars and big peanut butter jars are the right size for soups and chicken broth.  (Gotta label those soups, they all look alike in the freezer after a while.)  They're also the right size for dry cake mixes when I make that in bulk.  I have a few gallon size plastic containers that I use for baking mix (like Bisquik or Jiffy) and self rising flour mix.  All the dry stuff goes in the freezer, too.

I had to go take a peek at what I had in the freezer.  I also have a couple containers of homemade mashed potatoes, a jar of instant potato flakes and a jar of instant rice that I acquired when our youngest son moved out of state.  I try to make everything from scratch, but having something that I can use quickly comes in handy.  There are several mayo jars of spaghetti sauce, some with meat, some without.

I still use freezer bags for potatoes, onions, garlic (I don't care what they say, you CAN freeze garlic and then chop it while it's still frozen - it doesn't freeze rock hard) carrots, green beans and peppers.  The garlic, peppers and onions just get chopped and into bags.  My carrots are embarassing, so I clean them and pop them whole into the bag.  A quick rinse in warm water thaws them enough to chop for soup (same with the garlic).

When the kids visit and I'm making soup, spaghetti or whatever?  If I need something from the freezer, I go get it myself.  I still hear my mother's voice yelling 'the LASAGNA!".