When freezing food, packaging is most important!
It is rather simple to avoid freezer burn: Use special food grade plastic bags with a zip or press seal for your food or containers made for this purpose. When using freezer bags, be sure to remove as much air as possible before closing. When you want to freeze liquids in containers, for example fish stock or pasta sauce, keep some head room for expansion.
It is very helpful to label the frozen packages: Write the name of the dish and the date of freezing on the parcels with permanent marker, so you know what is happening in your freezer. Frozen food changes appearance and you might forget what you have tucked away. One time I thought I was thawing a tomato sauce for pasta when in fact I had pulled out some fish soup -labeling prevents similar mistakes. I try not to keep anything more than 2 months in my freezer; remember the power cuts…
When a long power cut occurs, keep your freezer door shut at all costs. Only open it when absolutely necessary. Normally frozen goods survive a power cut without any harm if it does not last longer than 18 hours. Never put anything warm into your freezer. Food to be frozen should have room temperature or – even better – be cooled to fridge temperature beforehand. The outer edges of a warm dish will freeze quickly while the inside may not cool in time to avoid spoilage.
Sometimes I see a nice piece of meat at the supermarket, but I don’t really need it straight away. As meat supply in Goa is sometimes scarce due to various reasons, I take advantage by freezing it: When I come home I clean it and wrap it tightly into cling film. Thus wrapped I place it into a freezer bag and store it away.
Mostly I freeze prepared foods like meat balls, chicken nuggets or goulash. Meat with sauce I fill into plastic containers. Meat balls and other small pieces I first spread out on a tray and freeze them until they are hard. Then I place them into freezer bags, squeeze out excess air, label and store them. In this way the items do not stick together and you can take out as many as you need. It is not necessary to thaw these meats before frying or baking them. You can put them straight away from the freezer into the pan or the oven.
I must admit I rarely freeze vegetables but I always have some frozen peas and corn available at home. These vegetables I buy frozen when I find them in good condition at the supermarket: Good condition means, the peas and the corn feel like loose little marbles in the package. If they are stuck together in one solid mass, it indicates the package has melted and has been refrozen which is not good.
You can freeze rare vegetables like Brussels sprouts or asparagus, which are hard to find. Clean the vegetables and remove any unwanted stalks and leaves, then cut them into bite size pieces. Many vegetables lose color and flavor when frozen straight away. Blanching avoids this. To blanch vegetables, boil water in a pot and place a bowl of ice water next to it. Put a handful of vegetables for a couple of minutes into the boiling water, and then transfer them to the ice water. Pat them dry, package them and freeze them. Most vegetables require around 3 minutes blanching. Brussels sprouts need about 5 minutes.
Many people in the West advise against freezing herbs as they lose their texture in the freezer. In Goa European herbs are not available regularly, I stock a variety of them in my freezer compartment. Frozen herbs are not good for decorating food, but they keep the taste and that matters to me. It is perfectly fine to use frozen herbs in sauces and salad dressings. As always, packaging is most important. I have plenty of small containers for herbs. When I find herbs in the market I take them home and immediately wash them well. Then I chop them, fill them into containers and stash them in the freezer. In this way they stay fresh. Only sage does not need chopping before freezing, because you don’t eat the leaves of sage. Keeping fresh herbs in the fridge is mostly useless. Basil and parsley wilt away almost immediately.
If you want to decorate dishes with fresh herbs, for example for a formal dinner, you have to buy the herbs the same day as the event and keep them in some damp kitchen towels in the fridge.