Food Preservation: Freezer Time
My mom canned tomatoes and grew her own sprouts when I was an infant. Then she stopped. Before I got to learn how. But now is my chance to lay claim to those lost food preservation arts, which are enjoying a revival in this recession, embraced by do-it-yourselfers already enchanted with knitting and gardening. So I enrolled in the master food preserver course offered by the local Oregon State University Extension Office. For $40, we spend our Thursdays for eight weeks delving into hot water and pressure canning, jellies and jams, freezing, pickling, dehydrating and all the related food safety issues (goal number one: avoid death by botulism).
Our first class today we focused on freezing techniques, which just happened to coincide with Mark Bittman’s “Freeze That Thought” piece this week. It’s a great freezing 101 primer. Who knew you needed a freezer thermometer, to ensure you are set at 0 degrees. A higher temp reduces storage time.
Freezing is the gateway to more difficult preservation methods. No additional equipment is required. (Although Oregonians are gaga for those huge chest garage freezers, which they fill with that cow share they buy into.) But as Bittman says:
IF I tried to sell you a new appliance that could help you save money, reduce food waste and get meals on the table faster, the only thing you’d ask would be “How much?”
The answer is “Nothing.” You already own it. For just as the stove comes with a hidden and often overlooked bonus — the broiler — so does the refrigerator: the freezer. Why not use it?
I’ll begin by freezing slices of rhubarb this weekend. I crave the tart fruit in crisps all winter. Now I can have it. It just takes a little planning ahead. No need to buy the fancy Food Saver vaccuum sealer our teacher demoed in class. Are they really worth it? You can use the vacuum to seal lids on Ball jars. I’ll stick to the hot water bath. Now if only my mother hadn’t given away her canning equipment:(