100 Days of Useful Homesteading Skills: Day 54 – How to Freeze Vegetables, Meat, and Milk Products

Putting up food for the freezer is just as important as drying, smoking, curing, and canning. Its also one of the simplist ways to preserve it.

However, freezer mistakes can happen and there are some ways that are better than others to freeze food. Don’t let your hard work become food for your chickens and pigs.

Our number 1 tip is to make sure your freezers are working properly. Ensure that your freezer is staying at 0F or colder. We made early mistakes of purchasing used freezers and not checking their freezing temperatures before putting food into them. This resulted in less-than-optimal temperatures in one and way to cold temps in another. We lost two of our three freezers full of food.

Remember, freezing DOES NOT kill food-born bacteria! It only slows it down. So when you defrost and cook your food, any bacteria that was there will wake back up. Proper food handling techniques are required ALWAYS.

Most food doesn’t do well for more than 2-3 months in your freezer. Especially if you haven’t prepared it for the freezer properly.

If you can invest in a vacuum sealer, please do. Freezer bags can not remove every bit of air and your food will eventually get freezer burn.

VEGETABLES
Most vegetables must be blanched before being frozen. This means cutting them up into the size and shape that you will ultimately serve them. Then boiling them for 1-2 minutes, immediately transfering them to an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. After draining and drying the wet veggetables, spread them out on a flat baking sheet, freeze, then transfer to freezer bags or vaccum bags.

MEAT AND FISH
For meat or fish, wrapping it once or twice with plastic wrap or butcher paper before you place it in a vacuum sealer will help with insulating it against frost. Just make sure that it is VERY tightly wrapped. Trapped air can cause pockets of frost.

DAIRY
Gallons of milk from the store can be frozen unopened. There is a round area on the side that will pop out to accomodate the expansion. If you are freezing fresh milk from the farm, do not use glass containers, they can crack in the freezer. Zippered freezer bags work fine but leave space for expansion. The consistency will change and requires being shaken up to drink but it still works great for baking and cooking.

Cheese can be shredded and frozen, a little bit of cornstarch added to the shreds evenly will help prevent the cheese from sticking together. It can also be cubed and stored in the freezer. The consistency may change as a result of freezing, however, and it may be best for melting rather than fresh eating.

Sticks of butter can also be frozen but not creamed butter or margarine. Stock up when you see your favorite brand on sale or make your own.

Don’t forget to label and date your foods. Spoilage and freezer burn are an issue to be avoided. With proper labeling, you can determine what is good for your family and what you can give to the chickens and the hogs.

What do you like to stock up on and freeze? How do you prepare it for freezer storage?

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