>> Wednesday, November 2, 2011

After we posted about our goal to freeze meals before Baby A is born, we got a lot of email/comment questions regarding our methods -- especially related to our use of glass containers. We're new to freezing, so our tips aren't our own, and -- at this point -- they aren't even well tested.

H.O.W.E.V.E.R. I bought a book a couple months ago called Put 'Em Up: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling. We've followed the guidelines they prescribe and also added some of our own along the way.

Here's the process:

We first gather our quart-sized glass jars (our favorite are wide-mouth, but we've used all of those already) and rinse them with super-hot water. Let air dry.

While the jars dry, we prepare whatever we want to fill the jars with. So far, we've made Pumpkin Chili, 15-Minute Applesauce, and Thai Jambalaya.

Then, we fill the jars. It isn't absolutely necessary, but we purchased one of those canning funnels to aid with transporting our food to the jars. It was less than two dollars, and I'd say well worth it. Far less mess to clean up afterward.

This part is important: We leave 2 to 3 inches of space for expansion from the top of the food to the top of the jar. The reason glass jars explode in the freezer is because, as with anytime a liquid freezes, the liquid WILL expand. If there isn't any place for it to go: BOOM.

Also important: We let everything cool to room temperature before putting on the lids. To speed up the process, I've placed the jars in the refrigerator for an hour or two with good success.

To be extra safe . . . we then take a square of plastic wrap and fold it into a smaller square (that's either double or quadrupled over) to serve as a temporary lid. We secure the plastic wrap with the medal jar top, but not too tightly. This way, if something expands like CRAZY, it'll have at least some room to escape.

We gather all the jars and head to our lovely basement where our new upright freezer is located.

Note: You don't need a fancy upright freezer to freeze foods. We bought one because we're participating in a frozen farm share program this winter and wanted more space for storage. The thing set us back around $300.

If you don't have a dedicated freezer or you have a chest freezer, simply stack your jars inside and let chill overnight. You can then replace the tops of the jars with the metal inserts the following day, once everything is solid.

If you do have a freezer, chances are it may have coiled shelves that are incredibly cold. We never set our to-be frozen jars on these coils. Instead, we stack 'em in the door shelves to avoid the bottom freezing much faster than the top. Again, it's one of our weird, made-up methods . . . but we feel safer doing it this way.

We wait a good 24 hours before returning to the jars to replace the temporary tops with the metal lids. And at that point, we move the jars to the coiled shelves.

Oh, and don't forget to use a Sharpie to write the date on the top of your food! Most frozen items last 6 full months. It's glorious. So far, we have 12 quarts of chili/jambalaya (which, for us, equals 12 meals) and 4 quarts of applesauce (so about 4 weeks' worth).

What should we freeze next?!

Veteran food-freezers: Are we missing anything? Any tips to add to this process? And do you have other methods you prefer over freezing in glass? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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