Storing and Freezing Food
Anyone who enjoys baking and possesses a freezer can have a wide selection of food available with little extra effort. Cakes, pastries, biscuits, bread and rolls can be baked from double or treble the quantities and then frozen. Food mixers really come into their own when you are making large quantities, saving a lot of time and effort. Fuel bills are also reduced by baking large quantities at the same time. It is sometimes advisable to freeze large cakes already sliced, interleaving with greaseproof paper, so that you can thaw small quantities as required.
• Baked cakes which have been frozen should not be refrozen once thawed. This will spoil their quality.
• It is best to open freeze small cakes, tarts and buns on baking trays. When frozen they should be carefully packed into rigid polythene containers, with greaseproof paper or foil between the layers.
• Wrap food to be frozen carefully, and only in packaging intended for freezer use. Secure tightly, excluding all the air.
• Place the food to be frozen in the coldest part of the freezer, or on the fast freeze shelf if your freezer has one.
• Do not bring food newly placed in the freezer into contact with food which is already frozen.
• Do not freeze too much food at any one time; always read the manufacturer’s instructions for your freezer carefully.
• Open freeze foods that will be used in their frozen state e.g. fruit such as strawberries or raspberries, piped rosettes of cream and elaborate cream gateaux.
The quality of frozen foods depends upon correct packaging. Use containers that are moisture-vapour proof. Many years of experience have shown that packaging material for frozen foods should have the following qualities: it must be genuine food wrapping able to resist extreme cold and heat; it should have no inherent taste, smell or aromas which could taint the food; and it must withstand fat and acidity, as both these substances are present in food.
Special material for packing frozen foods can be obtained readily in supermarkets, department stores and specialist freezer shops. Be careful when you are buying it that the material is intended for freezing, as some aluminium foil, plastic bags and containers are only suitable to keep food fresh in the refrigerator.
Packaging Materials Available
This material is particularly useful being in sheet form, as it can be moulded or shaped around the food to be frozen, making it completely airtight. It comes in two thicknesses, domestic and heavy duty, the latter being suitable for freezing purposes. Cakes which are thawed in their foil wrapping are at the same time well protected against drying out.
These are extremely suitable for cakes, particularly uncooked cake mixtures, as they can be frozen and cooked in the same container. They are sold in various sizes and shapes; pie plates, basins, loaf tins, flan dishes and gussetted foil bags.
These fulfil almost all the requirements of an ideal freezer wrapper. With careful handling they can be used several times. For freezer use, polythene bags must be of thick gauge (200-250) to be moisture proof. The much thinner bags are suitable only for keeping food fresh. If using bags for freezing several times, test well before using to ensure there is no hole in the bag, no matter how small (test by filling with water). After use, wash well in detergent, rinse several times in hot water and hang up to dry. This material should be sealed with a heat-sealing device, rubber bands, plastic or metal clips, or with sealing tape.
These must be able to withstand sub-zero temperatures without cracking or warping. The seal must be airtight. Make sure that you buy reputable makes as cheaper containers will not last for very long.
This comes in the form of polythene sheets or cling film. Polythene sheeting requires sealing with freezer tape or a heat sealer, whereas film will cling itself automatically. Cling film comes in two thicknesses, one for short term freezing and freezer film for long term storage. Its advantage is that it is invaluable for wrapping irregular shapes, and it also makes frozen food easily recognisable.
Yogurt, cream and butter containers can also be used for freezing when cleaned thoroughly. They are suitable for biscuit crumbs, raw cake mixture, egg whites or whipped cream. Always be careful not to fill these containers to the brim.
For this, depending on the type of packaging, rubber bands, ties or plastic clips, or freezer tape which will resist frost are all suitable, and also the heat-sealing device which gives polythene bags an airtight seal.
Every container, no matter how small, should be labelled. On the label you must note the contents, freezing date and any special characteristics such as ‘halved fruit’, ‘whole fruit’, etc. Either use the self-sticking labels which withstand cold, or sealing tape which you can write on. Write with a ball-point or felt-tip pen. There are also special marker pens which will write directly on to foil or plastic.
Whichever packaging material you choose, it is important that the air is expelled before sealing and that the material is pulled tight (with the exception of yeast dough — this expands slightly in the freezer, so the wrapping should be loosely sealed). With foil you expel the air by pressing firmly and folding the edges over double.
Only use foil once for freezing, then use it for covering or keeping food fresh in the refrigerator. With each time of using the foil, small, barely visible tears are formed which, if used again, would cause the food to dry out.
With bags, suck out the air with a straw or a vacuum pump. Never fill boxes, beakers or jars too full as the frozen food will expand slightly; leave 2.5 cm/1 inch clear at the top. If necessary secure lids with freezer tape. Boxes without lids should be covered with foil folded double and the foil then fastened down firmly with a rubber band.