How to Keep Pre­made Foods Fresh

Modern Pioneer - - [fast Foods] -

The trick to keep­ing freezer meals palat­able is to choose wisely, and freeze and pack­age them cor­rectly. This re­quires some trial and er­ror, how­ever I’ve found a few things to be true most of the time. For in­stance, recipes with a sig­nif­i­cant amount of dairy—par­tic­u­larly milk—have a dif­fer­ent con­sis­tency than those with­out it. When pos­si­ble, I pre­fer to omit the milk and add it later dur­ing cook­ing. Also, most soft-fleshed fruits and veg­gies such as mel­ons, greens, cu­cum­bers and straw­ber­ries be­come squishy once frozen and thawed. Denser pro­duce, how­ever, like beans, onions, pep­pers, broc­coli and cooked pota­toes, as well as purees, freeze per­fectly.

When freez­ing, opt for heavy-duty zip-top freezer bags, vac­uum-sealed bags or dis­pos­able alu­minum pans. Zip-top bags work well for chili and soups, as long as all of the air is re­leased. For larger dishes like lasagna and casseroles, dis­pos­able alu­minum pans work just as well as heavy glass pans. It’s im­por­tant to press foil down onto the top of the food to pre­vent freezer burn. If ex­tra pro­tec­tion is needed, wrap the en­tire con­tainer in freezer pa­per.

Pack­ag­ing makes a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence with dough-based recipes. Cook­ies, bis­cuits, pie crusts and pizza dough main­tain their “fresh from the oven” taste and tex­ture best when first frozen raw on a cookie sheet, then re­moved and vac­uum sealed. Most foods keep nicely for one to three months, with vac­uum seal­ing pro­tect­ing them long­est.

To keep your fam­ily eat­ing healthy, home­grown foods when life gets too busy for a home-cooked meal, ex­per­i­ment with freez­ing your fam­ily’s fa­vorite dishes for ready-made fast food. You’ll find some meals work best when frozen fully cooked and sim­ply re­heated in the mi­crowave, while oth­ers work bet­ter when frozen raw. Each recipe is dif­fer­ent, but over time you’ll learn what works best for your fam­ily.

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