Saturday, June 25, 2011

Valuable lessons: Label your mystery meat

We've all heard the same bit of advice at some point... label what you put in the freezer. I, for one, often ignore that bit of advice. Our freezer is fairly small, and what goes in it is pretty easy to identify... frozen veggies, the occasional loaf of bread, tub of ice cream... you know, the usual suspects.

But in keeping with my inability to cook for just two people, I often find myself with leftovers of soups, stews and sauces that also get bundled into the freezer for a later date. On thawing, these items aren't always as easy to identify as a bag of frozen peas might be. We've had our fair share of pasta with "mystery sauce" dinners:

"The sauce is good... *holding up a forkful* Is this chicken or fish?"

"I think it's cauliflower, actually... *tentative sniff*"

So, unless it is easy to visually identify and/or you plan on using it within the limit of your memory, label it. If it's in a plastic freezer bag or glass container, you can simply write on it with a Sharpie. Otherwise, slap a mailing label or piece of masking tape on and write on that. Also, make sure you've removed as much air as possible (squeeze the air out of the freezer bag or press a bit of plastic wrap to the food's surface inside a non-flexible container) and the whole thing is air-tight. Freezer burn occurs when air gets to the food and dehydrates/oxidizes it.

Now, the second thing to include when labeling your freezer-bound bits: the date they were packaged/frozen. This weekend we found a super deal on humongous pork chops, so we bought them with the intention to freeze some for later. According to general wisdom on the subject, you should use frozen meats within 4-6 months.

So using freezer bags, I made sure to label each bag with the contents:


As well as the date the contents were packaged and frozen:


And then I got a little carried away:


Anyway! Aside from that last bit, you get the idea ;) It's not rocket science, but will help a great deal in managing what's in your freezer (and more importantly, what shouldn't be in your freezer). You can also use this approach in making meals or meal components ahead of time, preparing individual servings for your morning smoothies, saving herbs or leftover wine for later cooking use, manage your pork inventory... there are a million and one things you can do, and of course Tipnut has a list of most of them! ;) (they also have some more in-depth tips on wrapping and freezing meat if you'd like more info).

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