Monday, October 30, 2006

Frozen Assets

Not such an early start for me today as my Beloved has returned after a four week absence. I've discovered it's not much fun cooking for just me and more than once I ended up eating baked beans straight from the tin. Saves the washing up I told myself, uses no hot water, better for the environment. I am the queen of excuses.
Back to the topic of the day. Freezers. We bought one in 1989 which had a 14 c.ft. capacity. After about ten years the compressor went, but it was far, far cheaper to have a new compressor installed than to buy a new freezer. It kept going until my husband decided we could do with a large American style fridge freezer a year ago. So the freezer went and also our even older (c.1960) fridge, also still working - and such a part of my married life I gave it a cuddle and shed a tear when it went. Be warned, these large America style cabinets seem to be made for American style doors, as they just won't get through the British standard size. Luckily our house is Edwardian, the doors are wider, but even so, the kitchen door had to come off, also the doors from the fridge/freezer before it could be installed.. We had to choose the style that had no ice-cube dispenser in the door, for that would have needed to be sited by the incoming water pipe. Otherwise fine, the large fridge section is a boon, but with a smaller freezer capacity there is just not the space to store all the home-grown fruits, and oddments that would normally be kept 'to use up later'. In time it will become my friend and to this end we have named it 'Boris'.

With a large freezer we had room to store the unexpected: dried milk, instant potato, nuts, some rarely used flours, anything dry that had a shortish shelf life. Ice-cube trays were put to good use by freezing cubes of tomato puree, chicken/vegetable and beef stock, lemon and lime zest and juice, egg whites, chopped fresh herbs...
Meals made in bulk were frozen individually for later. Grated cheese stored, home-made pizza bases rolled out and covered with pizza sauce then frozen (add the topping after thawing). Quality home-made beefburgers, fish cakes, unfilled sponge cakes, bags of filled profiteroles, filo filled samosas, all were made when there was time to spare. With the various frozen vegetables fruits, fish and meats, we needed a large freezer.
Now I need to be very selective in what is kept frozen and I have still not got it quite right. Arguments are had with my husband who brings in several tubs of his favourite ice-cream and demands a shelf for all to himself. At least, with the long hot summer over, and his absence, I have filled that gap to capacity.
Space in the freezer will need to be found ready to prepare food for the festive season if only to save labour on the day. Breadcrumbs can be made, stuffing balls, uncooked mince pies, even the turkey can be cooked ahead, sliced and frozen in stock ready to re-heat. Trifles can freeze well if you use a quick jelly glaze instead of the standard jelly cubes, cartons or cans of instant custard freezes without splitting, also sweetened double cream also. But with any new products do experiment first on a mini-scale to find out.

If there is room in a freezer, it is worth bagging up and storing plenty of ice-cubes - some with slices of orange, lemon and lime. Especially if parties are planned. The type of job that can be done later, but worth reminding now. The more done in advance the easier it gets.

There are several experiments I'll be working on this week, hopefully one in particular will solve the greatest problem we have when freezing home-made meals. More on that later.
Tip: when making mince pies, cut out a shape in the pastry lid. This allows steam to escape when baking and prevents all that sticky stuff that often oozes out. Extend mincemeat by adding grated apple. Mince pies can be frozen cooked, but preferably freeze uncooked, remove from the tin and then pack in bags. Pop a few in the oven to cook when it is on for something else.