Freezing is an excellent way to preserve foods to retain their natural textures, flavors and colors. While not all foods are suitable for freezing, it is important to adhere to specific freezing guidelines in order to obtain optimum results for foods that are freezer-friendly. Some households have a small freezer as part of their refrigerator, while others have a separate freezer to freeze a larger number of items. For those people who buy in bulk, they might rent a freezer locker away from their house to store food.
Produce typically needs some sort of preparation prior to freezing. It is necessary to blanch vegetables to destroy the enzymes which can cause deterioration. Blanching involves submerging fresh vegetables in boiling water for 1 to 4 minutes. The blanching time will depend on the type of vegetable. Uncooked fruit can be frozen, yet thawed, puréed fruit retains its quality better than thawed whole fruit. Some vegetables such as lettuce or other salad greens cannot be frozen, regardless of the preparation. Other foods that don't freeze well include potatoes, soft cheeses, custards, egg-based sauces and hard-boiled eggs.
Before packaging, it is important to consider how the food will be used when thawed. Refreezing should be avoided; therefore, it is necessary to size packages according to how the food will be used. Once thawed, the food will spoil more rapidly than food that has not been frozen; therefore, it is important to use the food immediately after thawing. If you have a family of four, yet freeze steaks for eight in one package, you will need to thaw the entire package of steaks, which could result in a loss of food to spoilage or waste.
Wrap your food in packaging that is both moisture-proof and vapor-proof. If air gets to the food, it will cause a spoilage known as "freezer burn," which appears as a discolored and rough texture on the food. Food expands when frozen, so it is important to leave a little head room when freezing in freezer containers with lids. If you fail to leave sufficient head room, the lid will pop off of the container, or the container will split open. This can also happen with a freezer bag which you have packed too tightly. After frozen, the side of the bag can tear open.
Clearly label all freezer packages, including the name of the item and the date you are placing it in the freezer. While you may think you will remember what is in that freezer container, a few months down the road you will be guessing over the possible contents. A pencil or crayon works well, while a felt-tip or ink pen can fade and smudge. Some frozen foods should be used within 3 to 6 months, while others can keep up to a year.
When loading the freezer, do not overload with an abundance of unthawed food at one time. It will take approximately 24 hours for 3 lbs. of food per cubic feet space of freezer to freeze, according "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook." Don't block the air vents in the freezer, yet allow the food to touch cold shelves or the sides of the freezer, if possible, while freezing, to speed up the process. Allow room around the unfrozen packages to promote the circulation of the cold air. Once frozen, stack the packages together. A full freezer will be more energy-efficient than an empty freezer.