You may already use your freezer to stockpile items such as sale-priced meats and baked goods. But many other foods—some you’ve probably never considered—can handle a deep-freeze equally well. Maybe you bought loads of parsley but used only three sprigs, have soon-to-expire dairy products or are heading off on vacation with food left in the fridge: In these situations and more, the freezer is your friend.
Milk—even non-dairy milks such as soy, almond and coconut—is freezable. This is good news when your milk is close to expiring or you’ve bought more than you need right away. Milk fat freezes at a lower temperature than liquid whey, so frozen milk will separate, as will non-dairy milks. But don’t worry: A vigorous shaking after defrosting is all that’s needed to return milk to almost-perfect form.
Unopened milk bags and cartons can be popped into the freezer as is. For other leftover milk, pour 1-cup (250 mL) portions into individual freezer bags, leaving enough room for expansion. Alternatively, pouring milk into ice-cube trays makes it easy to whip up refreshing, frosty smoothies: Just toss a few cubes in the blender with your choice of fruit.
Blocks of butter freeze wonderfully as is, but if you don’t use butter quickly, cut the block into quarters—or 1/2-cup (125 mL) portions—and pop them into a re-sealable freezer bag. Butter thaws in six to seven hours in the fridge or three to four hours at room temperature. Use it anywhere you would use fresh butter.
Eggs can be frozen; just lose those shells! If the eggs in your fridge are close to expiration, give them a whisk, pour into containers or zip-top bags, and freeze for scrambling or baking later—just thaw in the refrigerator before using. Egg whites can be frozen as they are; however, yolks on their own need a little help. Before freezing, just beat in salt if you plan to use them in savoury recipes or a pinch of sugar for use in desserts. If you freeze several eggs together, be sure to record how many so you can use them in recipes.
- Fresh herbs
Whether purchased in a large bunch or a small clamshell package, fresh herbs have about two weeks to be used when stored in your refrigerator. The good news is they can also be frozen and will still add a burst of fresh flavour to sauces, soups, stews, egg dishes and anything puréed.
To freeze fresh herbs, wash, dry and chop them, place in ice-cube trays and cover with a little oil or water. Once solid, remove cubes and store in a re-sealable freezer bag to be added to soups, stews, sauces or other recipes to boost flavour. (Herb-and-water ice cubes are also a fun addition to summer beverages like a gin and tonic or a sparkling water with a squeeze of lime juice.)
Chop large batches of herbs in a food processor with a small amount of neutral-tasting oil—or go big and prep a huge batch of pesto. Another handy trick is to place chopped herbs mixed with oil in a re-sealable freezer bag and spread it out as flat as possible in the freezer. Once frozen, this thin mixture will become brittle enough that you can quickly snap off small amounts to use in recipes.
- Nuts & Seeds
Storing nuts and seeds in the freezer is always a good idea—thanks to their fat content, they will eventually turn rancid at room temperature. Most nuts stay fresh for about one month in the pantry and six months in the fridge, but freezing keeps them usable for up to two years, depending on the variety. They can be stored either chopped or whole. Place nuts in clean, moisture-free, tightly sealed containers or zip-top bags, as they will absorb the odours around them. Freshen up defrosted nuts by roasting them on a baking pan at 350˚F (180˚C) for 10 minutes.
- Peanut butter
Believe it or not, this family favourite is a perfect freezer candidate. Peanut butter has a shelf life of between nine and 12 months because, like whole nuts, the spread will eventually go rancid when stored at room temperature (especially the natural, nuts-only kind). Freeze peanut butter right in the jar if your family will go through it quickly once thawed, or portion it out into smaller airtight containers for use in recipes or smoothies, or for spreading on toast once in a while. Use frozen peanut butter within a year.
Frozen potatoes have a reputation for being watery when thawed, but blanching them before freezing is the secret to great texture and flavour. Cut potatoes into cubes (for stews or hash browns) or sticks (for oven fries). Boil in salted water for five minutes and then transfer to ice water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry, freeze on a flat baking sheet and then pop into freezer bags. Leftover mashed potatoes can also be frozen in zip-top bags and stored flat; once defrosted, stir in a little extra sour cream, butter or cream cheese to restore their creamy texture, and reheat in the oven or microwave. Mmm—good as new!
- Corn on the cob
Blanching before freezing is also the trick to creating a satisfying, non-mushy texture for defrosted corn on the cob. Boil fresh corn for two to three minutes, transfer to ice water to cool, pat dry and freeze whole in tightly sealed containers. When you’re ready to enjoy your off-season bounty, cobs can be baked wrapped in foil, barbecued or even re-boiled. Don’t waste any leftovers from your summer entertaining either: Just slice kernels off the uneaten cobs and freeze in zip-top bags for use later in salads, salsas and soups.
Yes, you can freeze avocados. Frozen avocados taste great but have a less-than-perfect texture, so save them for dips (hello, guacamole!) or to spread over toast. Freeze skin-on avocado halves in zip-top bags, or simply mash the flesh, add some lime juice to keep the colour vibrant and freeze in a re-sealable container. Avocado chunks can be frozen and then added to smoothies for a creamy texture.
- Whipped cream
Never toss out extra freshly whipped cream again. Place dollops on a baking sheet, freeze until solid and then pop them into freezer bags. These frozen rounds are superb as last-minute dessert garnishes or for topping off hot cocoa and specialty coffees. And there’s no need to defrost first—frozen whipped cream softens in seconds on steamy drinks and in just 10 minutes on a dessert.