Unconventional Foods to Freeze to Use at a Later Date
Whether we will admit to it or not Americans love frozen foods, and why not? The freezer can be an invaluable tool in the kitchen. Everything from vegetable scraps to leftover broth can be stored and used in another delicious way later. Check them out…
All sorts of vegetable food scraps can go into a stock. From onion peels, to carrot ends and peels, potato peels, the parts you snap off asparagus, mushroom stems, left over parsley etc. I keep one bag of “everything” veggies in the freezer, with things like radish, broccoli, pepper, mushroom trimmings for vegetable stocks and broths. And one bag of “Mirepoix” veggies with onion peels, carrot peels, and celery leaves and trimmings for meat stocks. All trimmings from food prep goes in these bags, and when I clean out the refrigerator and find some wilting celery or parsley, they get thrown in as well.
I used to think that making a stock from scratch was some mysterious art best left to Julia Child or Martha Stewart, but it is really quite simple, and although it takes time, it is not difficult and doesn’t take your full attention. To make a veggie stock simply simmer all the veggies from your “everything” bag in a pot of water. Throw in some of the mirepoix mixture too. Add a few peppercorns, and maybe some parsley or thyme from your garden. Fill the pot to cover the veggies. Simmer for about an hour or two. Strain and freeze in individual containers or freezer bags. To make the stock even more flavorful, roast the veggies until browned before putting them on the stovetop. This makes a wonderful tasty vegetable stock that is much more flavorful than any you could buy.
Pan drippings from your roasts and meats dishes can be saved in the freezer to add flavor to your next dish. Simply save the drippings from the pan in a freezer safe container and use when needed.
When you shell shrimp for a dish, freeze the shells. The heads too, if you have them. Lobster shells can be thrown in as well. When you have collected a bag full, add double the amount of water and a cup of your frozen mirepoix bagged veggies. Add a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes, strain, and you have a fish stock that you can freeze.
When you peel an orange, or squeeze a lemon, put the rinds in the freezer. When you need zest and don’t have fresh available, frozen rinds work fine (use a little extra when using frozen rinds). When you have collected a few, you can also put them in a pot on the stove and simmer to refresh your home. Rinds can also be added to your fireplace in winter for a great smell.
Bread and Cracker Crumbs
If you’ve got boxes and cracker crumbs and a kid who doesn’t like crusts, don’t throw them away. Save the heels of bread, crust and crumbs in the freezer. When you’ve got a good amount you can pulse in a food processor and make breadcrumbs.
Meat Bones and Scraps
When trimming up meat or cutting up poultry, save the food scraps and bones. Both uncooked and cooked bones/scraps can be used for stock making, but keep them in separate bags. Also separate the type. For example, don’t mix the beef and chicken bones when freezing (although you can mix them together when cooking them to make a stock).
When you have a bag of one type, make a stock. You can also mix beef and chicken bones when making the stock. Just don’t mix raw bones and scraps with cooked bones and scraps. When making stocks out of raw bones and scraps, the best flavor comes from roasting first. Roast the bones at 425 degrees, and after 30 minutes add a cup or two of vegetables from your frozen mirepoix bag. Roast another 30 minutes. Then simmer in a pot on the stove with water covering the bones and vegetables.
Meat stocks need to simmer longer than a vegetable or fish stock, about four to five hours on the stovetop. Skim any fat and foam that rises to the surface as it gently simmers to help keep your stock clear. Strain, let the stock cool, skim off the fat that rises to the surface and measure into containers or freezer bags for freezing. You can also do this overnight or all day in the crockpot.
I love cheese and usually have a wide variety of cheese in my cheese drawer in the refrigerator. Invariably there are little odds and ends that can languish into little hard unusable rocks. Before that happens, I throw scraps into a freezer bag. I collect them and when I have a sufficient amount I make Mac & Cheese by shredding all the frozen scraps and melting into a white sauce. Best thing is my Mac & Cheese always is a taste surprise, depending on what cheese ended up in my cheese food scraps.
When bananas go black before they are eaten, I throw them in the freezer in their skin. When I have collected a few, I make banana bread. You can use frozen bananas for any recipe that calls for mashed bananas.
If you have a juicer, freeze peels, apple cores, fruit scraps, and fruits about to go bad. When you collect a sufficient amount, thaw and juice them for a mixed fruit surprise. Of course, you may want to stick with organic fruits when juicing the peels.
Next time you are prepping dinner, think about freezing your food scraps and put them to a good and tasty use!