Coronavirus: Unexpected things you can freeze
Freezers are great for leftovers, but did you know that you can use them to store your basic foods and spices. Here's how...
Milk can be frozen in its plastic cartons, or you can decant it into smaller re-useable pots. However milk does expand when it freezes, so don't over fill the pots. To defrost the cartons, pop them in the fridge overnight and then give them a good shake before you use them.
If you really want to eek the milk out, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and then you can defrost just enough for a well earned cup of tea.
Cream can be stored in just the same way as milk, or you can make it into butter and freeze it too – see my previous posting about how to make butter.
It's surprisingly quick and easy, and you don't need any fancy equipment.
Butter and Cheese
Homemade butter and brie
Butter can be frozen in blocks or cut it into smaller handier chunks wrapped in cling film. If you are in a hurry you can defrost it in the microwave, but watch it carefully because if it is on too long, it will spoil.
Cheese can also be frozen in blocks, or you can grate it and store it in a ziplock bag or plastic box and use it for delicious things like cheese on toast, as and when you need it.
Most cheeses will freeze – even parmesan and mozzarella – but I haven't had much success with cottage cheese. Having said that cheeses like parmesan, halloumi and feta last for such a long time in the fridge, I never find it necessary to freeze them.
Yoghurt is perfect to freeze and actually is delicious to eat straight from the freezer. You can also pop soft fruits in it and ice lolly sticks to give the kids a healthy sweet treat.
It's best to slice bread or separate out the slices because then in this way, you can easily take slices as you need them and toast them straight from the freezer, and it doesn't lose any quality of taste. I use a plastic box with a lid to stop freezer burn for the loaf we are eating just to make it quicker to grab, and then put the spare one in a plastic bag deeper in the freezer.
It's surprisingly handy to have frozen eggs in stock. Of course you can't freeze them in their shells or they will burst as they expand, but you can either pour them individually into little pots whole, or separate them before freezing and cover them with cling film. I often do this when making ice cream as I only use the egg yolks for that and I can then later use the egg whites to add into omelettes to bulk them out.
The easiest way to store egg yolks is in large ice cube trays covered with cling film.
When you are ready to use the eggs, it is important to defrost them safely in the fridge to prevent bacteria entering them, and also only use them in cooked dishes.
Never cook them from frozen.
Pasta and Rice
If you have a glut of cooked pasta or rice, lay it flat on a baking tray to freeze then decant it into plastic boxes or bags to freeze,. You can then defrost them by pouring on hot water. I find this really handy to speed up a stir-fry or to be honest I use it in place of biscuits when I run out of dog food. Most dogs love them both and they are good for them.
Raw potatoes are not good for freezing because of their high water content, but if you cut them into chips and par boil them, then lay them on a baking tray to freeze, you can decant them into bags ready to grab and fry your home made chips direct from frozen.
All types of onions can be peeled, chopped and bagged for freezing. Use them in cooking straight from the freezer without defrosting.
The most useful way to store garlic is to peel the cloves and wrap them in aluminium foil to freeze. You can then use them from frozen as soon as you can chop them, five minutes after they come out of the freezer.
All types of chillies can be frozen whole with the stem on. Wash and dry them well before you freeze them otherwise they stick together. When you get them out to cook with, cut the stem off and chop immediately.
Ginger and Lemongrass
You can freeze both of these whole but it's easier to use straight from the freezer if they are peeled and cut into small chunks and frozen in bags or boxes.
Curry Leaves, Lime Leaves and Coriander Root
I know these are all a bit obscure in the UK, but they are essential to my Keralan and Thai cooking so I always have them in the freezer and luckily they all freeze well and can be used from frozen.
If you get coriander root with too much leaf on, cut that away from the stems so that you are only freezing the root which saves space and you can use the leaves to make stock.
And finally after all that storage work, break out the:
If you have too many boxes of chocolates – as if there is such a thing - put the whole box with the packaging in a freezer bag and freeze for up to a year. Not that they would stay that long in my freezer!