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We all know meats, fruits and veggies can be housed in the freezer for quite some time. But what about all those other grocery staples? Whether the market is having a big sale on grapes or you have a bumper crop of parsley you can’t give away, you’ll be delighted to know these common food items can be popped into the freezer for long-term storage.
Now, does everything freeze? No. Foods with a high moisture content such as cucumbers, watermelon and oranges don’t freeze well. But with the proper preparation, your freezer can prolong the lives of the following foods:
Yep, tastes just like fresh when you pull it from the freezer. Store in an airtight container (remember to leave headspace) for up to 12 months.
Wash and halve the fruits before peeling. Freeze as halves or puree with lime or lemon juice. Frozen avocados tend to become mushy, so they’re fine for sauces or dips but not good for eating by the slice.
For handy serving portions, divide two to four slices between pieces of waxed paper and store in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge and it’ll be all set to cook in the morning. Or, to defrost in a couple of hours, place freezer bag in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
Freeze with or without skin, but know that the bananas will be mushy, which is fine for adding to banana bread, baked goods or smoothies, but not for munching whole.
Butter can be frozen right in its wrapper and placed in a freezer bag or wrapped in foil. Grate frozen butter directly into dough for flaky baked goods, or use these methods to soften butter quickly.
Casseroles (without the dish!)
Want the convenience of make-ahead freezer casseroles but need to use the dish? Line a casserole dish with freezer paper. Add the ingredients, then freeze. When the dish is frozen solid, remove the contents by lifting out with the paper, then remove the paper, rewrap the food and put back in the freezer. The day before you want to eat it, unwrap the contents and put them in the original dish to thaw in the fridge overnight.
Hard and semi-hard cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella freeze better than soft cheeses. Grate the cheese and place it in an airtight bag (portion into 1- or 2-cup servings for convenience). If desired, add a tablespoon of cornstarch to help prevent clumping and shake to combine. Thaw in the fridge, and use for casseroles, soups, quiche or pizza. The texture of frozen block cheese is generally too crumbly to use in sandwiches.
For chocolate to freeze properly, the temperature must be lowered gradually. Wrap tightly, place in an airtight container or freezer bag and pop in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Then place in the freezer. To thaw, reverse the process by first placing the chocolate in the fridge. Make sure the temperature rises slowly to avoid condensation. Once out of the fridge, allow chocolate to come to room temperature before unwrapping.
Cream Cheese/Sour Cream
If you plan to spread it on a bagel, forget freezing it because the texture will change. But if you’re using that cream cheese or sour cream for cheesecake, casseroles or other baked goods, they most certainly can be frozen. Thaw in the fridge overnight, reheat slowly and stir constantly so it doesn’t separate, become crumbly or curdle.
Note: Whipping cream can also be frozen, but it will be broken and thus unable to be whipped. (It can still be used for sauces.)
Do not freeze eggs in the shell! You can freeze eggs, however, either gently whisked and stored in a freezer-friendly container or separated and poured into ice cube trays. Keep in mind that thawed egg whites may not whip up to a foam as well as fresh eggs, so avoid using them for things like angel food cake or meringue.
Frozen ginger is much easier to grate than the fresh stuff, so it makes sense to keep it in the freezer. Wrap it in plastic (either whole or separately, in 1-inch pieces, if desired) and place in a freezer bag. Pop it out, grate the amount you need, and place back in freezer. You can also freeze chopped or sliced ginger. Wrap tightly and store in an airtight bag.
Have you ever had a frozen grape? They’re delicious! Wash and dry them thoroughly and spread them on a baking sheet to freeze overnight. Plop them into an airtight bag, and when you crave a snack, grab a handful and start snacking.
Don’t let that bumper crop of parsley go to waste. Chop herbs finely, place in ice cube trays, cover with water or olive oil and freeze. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag. Take out cubes as needed to add to stews, soups and casseroles. Frozen herbs will be too limp to use as a garnish.
Add a thin layer of olive oil to the top of hummus that’s been placed in an airtight container, then seal and freeze. To use, thaw in the fridge for a day and mix thoroughly.
The zest of lemons and limes can be frozen in an airtight container. Squeeze the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop cubes into a freezer bag and take out as needed. Use the lemon cubes to keep lemonade cool on a hot summer day without diluting the flavor.
Yes, milk can be frozen, but it may become grainy so it’s best for cooking and baking rather than drinking. Freeze in a glass container or ice cube tray, always leaving room for expansion. Thaw in the fridge and shake well before using.
Storing nuts in the freezer helps keep their natural oils from going bad. Wrap well in plastic and store in a freezer bag.
Rice, particularly long-cooking varieties like brown or wild, can be frozen, but it’s better for adding to a dish than eating on its own. Slightly undercook rice and freeze on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Portion it out for convenience and store in the freezer in airtight containers.
Used 1 tablespoon and have the rest of the can left over? Portion it onto a plastic-lined cookie sheet by tablespoons and freeze. Once frozen, wrap in plastic and place in a freezer bag. (Do not freeze tomato paste in the can.)
Now that you know which foods you can freeze, follow these extra-handy tips for safe storage:
Tip 1: Avoid freezer burn
If food hasn’t been properly cooled prior to freezing, moisture content builds up from steam that collects inside the packaging and turns into ice crystals. Make sure you cool foods completely before freezing.
Tip 2: Keep it airtight
It’s important to squeeze as much air out of freezer bags as possible before storing in the freezer. This also helps condense the bag and save storage space. Always leave 1/2 to 1 inch of headspace in your bag or container so liquids have room to expand.
Tip 3: Defrost diligently
It’s best to take frozen food out of the freezer the day before use and thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid thawing food on the counter-this can cause it to reach a temperature where harmful bacteria likes to grow. You can submerge freezer bags in cold tap water to defrost, but you must be vigilant: Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure it stays at the proper temperature. Food thawed this way should be cooked immediately.