>> Thursday, April 19, 2012
I think the best thing I did while I was pregnant was make a MONDO-batch of pumpkin chili and freeze it. Seven months later, we're still slurping the stuff on nights when we simply have no time to cook. What a life-saver!
We outlined our process in a post back in November. But we received quite a number of questions related to the whole thing. Too many to answer at the time, when we were caring for a newborn. But it's been almost 6 months. Time to revisit.
Are glass jars the best choice for freezing?
I don't know if I'd consider them the absolutely best choice ever for freezing. However, I don't know what would be. We try to stay away from too much plastic in our household (BPA), and wide-mouth canning jars are much less expensive than freezer-specific glass containers sold. They save space, too! Overall, breakage is the most noted concern of folks who wrote to me.
We haven't experienced any breakage, which we attribute to: 1.) Waiting to fill until the filler (in our case, the chili) cooled to room temperature (and then some in the refrigerator). 2.) Making sure to leave a good portion of empty space at the top of the jar to account for expansion. (We may have left even a bit too much room, but better safe than sorry!)
Does the food taste the same after being frozen for so long?
No. It actually does taste somewhat different. But we expected that. Not different in a bad way. But somehow the flavors have mingled in a new way. And the composition of the veggies/beans changed ever-so slightly. Like they were, well, frozen. A bit bloated is the only way I can think to describe it.
How long does frozen soup/etc. stay good once frozen?
We have a dedicated freezer in our basement set at a low, low temperature. I've read that our chili will stay good for up to a year. In a regular refrigerator/freezer combo, I have read anywhere from 3 to 6 months.
How do you keep track/label your jars?
Simple. We just use a Sharpie marker to write on the top of the jar.
What -- besides chili -- have you frozen?
Applesauce, mainly. And a few other types of soups. Now that we're running low on our supply, I'd like to make more soups, of course, but also stocks, cooked dried beans, pizza sauce, and purees in bulk.
One of our readers (Jodie) wrote that she freezes pancakes, cookies, and muffins. We don't have the right equipment right now, but I would LOVE to make up waffles and have homemade toaster waffles in the house. Need to get on that!
How did you choose the size of the jars?
We have a variety of glass Ball jars. We went with the large (I believe 32-ounce) because we realized that it would contain one complete meal for the two of us. We split it between us and have enough soup to feel full. With other items, like the sauce and purees I mention above, we will likely use the standard 16-ounce variety.
Another reader (Shady) suggests making up family-sized meals and freezing individual portions in muffin tins. I think that's a fantastic idea -- especially for foods we might want to munch on at lunch, when we often don't eat together.
What's the best way to thaw frozen food in jars?
If we have enough foresight, we try to get a jar from the freezer and let it slowly defrost in the refrigerator for a day or two. More often than not, however, we're rushing around in the evenings and make a last-minute decision to eat chili for dinner. On these nights, I put a large stock pot in the sink and fill it with warm -- not hot -- water and set the frozen jar inside. I change out the water a few times until the chili is loosened up and, when it can plop out of the jar, put it on the stove over medium heat and cook until warmed again.
For our entire process, you can check out the original FREEZE post -- the comments are especially helpful, full of tips from our readers. And if you have other questions, we'd be happy to answer them. We're not experts, but we've been through an entire round of freezing and eating now, so we feel like we're getting in a good groove.
Now it's just time to make some bulk meals again and reap the rewards later.
If you follow our home life on Writing Chapter Three, you have two posts to catch up on. The first is all about our new dinnertime routine (plus a tasty dinner idea!) now that we have a baby. And the second is about Ada's new love for momsicles. Yeah. That's right. Breastmilk popsicles.
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