It has always been a mystery to me why books on freezing foods are written. The pages of most of them are padded with recipes which, as far as I can discern, have no marked virtues that make them eminently suited for cold storage. The fact is that the vast majority of all prepared dishes—casseroles, soups, sauces, stews, meat loaves, and so on—can be frozen to advantage.
Common sense should dictate foods that do not freeze well. These would include:
Sauces such as hollandaise and béarnaise and other sauces thickened at the last minute with egg yolks may be frozen but this is not recommended. It requires an expert hand to reconstitute them without curdling.
With rare exceptions almost all cooked vegetables and vegetable casseroles freeze well. An exception would be boiled potatoes.
Very few raw vegetables and fruits freeze well but some of them may be frozen provided they are to be used later for cooking. This would apply to raw tomatoes, corn on the cob, and melon balls.
Almost all fresh herbs may be frozen, including tarragon, parsley, and thyme. To freeze them they should first be rinsed then wrapped tightly in plastic bags.
As a general rule it is best not to refreeze foods that have been completely defrosted. This is a cautionary measure, however. If the foods in question have been frozen and defrosted under the most sanitary, proper conditions, they would not be injurious if refrozen. Baked goods can always be defrosted and refrozen successfully.
No foods improve with long freezing and it is best to consume frozen foods within the shortest possible time after they are stored, within one or two months if possible. One year is recommended as the maximum time for holding any frozen food.
Freezing tends to diminish the strength of spices in various foods. Thus, when a frozen food is defrosted and reheated it is best to taste the food and season it once more to taste.
By all means, when freezing foods or liquids in glass jars or plastic containers, leave enough head space to allow for expansion once the food or liquid is frozen. For dry-pack foods such as cooked shrimp, ½ inch of head space would be sufficient. For liquid and semi-liquid foods, leave at least ½ inch for a pint container; at least 1 inch for quart containers.
The best freezer materials are those that are both moisture and vapor-proof. These include aluminum foil, plastic wraps, plastic jars and cartons, and glass jars.
When wrapping foods that do not require head room in sheets of foil, plastic, and so forth, you should wrap as closely as possible to exclude as much air as possible. Air pockets can yield to rancidity.
Improperly wrapped foods, those stored in materials that are not moisture- and air-proof, will develop freezer-burn—grayish-white spots which spoil the texture of the foods when defrosted.
It is extremely important to label all foods carefully both with the name of the contents and with the date of freezing. Various kinds of adhesive tapes, labels, and markers are available for this purpose.
Eggs freeze well if they are to be used later for cooking. Whole raw eggs and raw egg yolks require a bit of special treatment for freezing. To prepare whole raw eggs for freezing, break the eggs into a bowl and stir lightly with a fork to blend whites and yolks. For every cup of whole eggs, stir in ½ teaspoon of salt. Pour them into a container and freeze.
To freeze only the yolks, first stir them lightly with a fork and for each cup of yolks add 1 teaspoon of salt. Press them through a mesh sieve into a container for freezing.
Egg whites do not require special treatment for freezing. When the eggs are defrosted, you might follow this table of equivalents for measuring them:
3 tablespoons blended yolks with whites = 1 egg
2 tablespoons defrosted egg whites = 1 egg white
1½ tablespoons egg yolks = 1 egg yolk
Milk, cream, and butter freeze well. Make certain that there is head room in the plastic containers for milk and cream and they may be frozen directly in the carton. Butter may be frozen in the carton in which it is packaged. If the butter is to be stored for an extensive period, it is best to overwrap it in foil or other suitable freezer wrap.
Sour cream acquires a grainy texture when frozen, but, once defrosted, it may be whipped with a whisk until smooth.
If you are going to freeze noodle or spaghetti dishes, they should be slightly undercooked for best results because they will be reheated when defrosted.
© 1969 Craig Claiborne estate. All rights reserved.