Deep freeze cleanse

When i was a child someone broke into my parents’ garage and cleaned out the chest freezer. It was a food heist. I kid you not. The scoundrel took off with the entire contents. We were a family of six, including a hungry bricklaying father, so the freezer was well stocked: legs of lamb, slabs of belly pork (as it was called in the north-east of England in its unfashionable days), sides of bacon, big bags of chicken portions, and a plethora of pork chops. The loss was so great that my parents filed an insurance claim. And someone made a quick quid by selling a stack of defrosted meat off the back of a lorry. 

When i cleaned out my own freezer last weekend – for health and safety reasons – there was no such bounty. I don’t own a chest freezer, for a start. Plus, we’re a two-person household. And being ridiculously time poor of late i haven’t done a weekend cook-a-thon/freezer-fill for a while. After a cook-a-thon the freezer is full and neatly lined with labelled plastic containers holding curries, sauces, soups, as well as piles of home-made burgers and pies – a goldmine of convenient home-cooked week-night dinners.

My small two-drawer freezer has been bursting at the seams for a while. But it has been crammed with odds and ends, dribs and drabs, things i feel guilty throwing away. In a nutshell it was stuffed, almost to bursting, with a whole lot of not much. After the long overdue clean out i categorised my freezer stash in an attempt to analyse my hoarding habit. What do i keep and why? Deciphering the code might help close the freezer door, or at least and prevent dummy spits from my partner when he tries to find and extract something edible from the detritus.

Here’s what I came up with:

Bread products: garlic naan, garlic bread, half loaf of turkish bread, Lebanese bread, ¾ loaf of sliced sourdough, 1 bag of pita, 1 bag of breadcrumbs

Snags: 15 sausages, plus 6 chorizo

Good intentions: chicken carcass and 2 bags of prawn shells, both put aside for stock.

Inedible: freezer burned pork loin, ditto lamb backstrap

Stockpile: 200ml beef stock, 1 cup vegetable stock, 2 cups chicken stock, 350ml veal stock

Pastry: One unopened packet of puff pastry, two opened packets of puff pastry

Forgotten gems: a roll of herb butter, madeira jus, hand-pounded Penang curry paste, box of mixed berries, three individual pear crumbles, 2 half eaten containers of vanilla bean ice cream from Glacé Ice Creams & Sorbets

Herbs: coriander roots, bag of basil leaves, kaffir lime leaves

Tomatoes: half a tin of tomatoes, tomato paste stored in an ice-cube tray, half a cup of passata

Beans & things: ¼ tin kidney beans, ¼ tin of cannelloni beans, unknown quantity of chickpeas, ½ tin four bean mix

Mince: 250g beef mince, 200g pork mince, 200g veal mince

Chicken: 4 chicken breasts, 4 chicken drumsticks

Bingo: 4 bags of home-made pilau rice, 1 portion of butter chicken

What do I make of all this?

Well clearly I have a penchant for buying, but not necessarily eating, sausages and bread products. I stockpile stock, including the raw materials for making it. I also have an annoying habit of hanging on to ridiculously small quantities of mince, tomato sauces/pastes, and varieties of beans. There’s a hint of frugality behind the breadcrumbs and coriander roots. And a lot of good intentions.

On a more practical note, i have the makings of meatballs if i combine minces, tomato sauces and basil. Throw in some garlic bread and it’d be a pretty decent meal. With autumn upon us i could eradicate the snag glut with a spicy sausage and bean hot pot. I have the key ingredients for Penang chicken – a forgotten favourite. Chicken drumsticks slow cooked in an Indian curry could be consumed with pilau rice and garlic naan. Dessert is taken care of with pear crumble and vanilla ice cream, or i could knock up a mixed berry and puff pastry tart.

All up, there’s more than just a whole lot of nothing in my freezer.  It’s not in the same league as my mother’s chest freezer food heist material, but these odds and ends, thoughtfully combined, will create a week’s worth of meals at least. I feel a cook-a-thon coming on.

So what’s in your freezer? And what does it say about you?

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22 Comments

Filed under Reflections

22 responses to “Deep freeze cleanse

  1. I feel shamed by your talk of a cooking marathon. So long since I’ve do this very practical thing. It’s now top of my must do list.

  2. In our former apartment, we had a pretty decent-sized freezer comprising of 3 generous drawers. When we first moved in, I was pretty excited about buying meat in bulk and squirreling them away for a rainy day, not to mention freezing meals to defrost and eat during the week. But it wasn’t long before I realised that I didn’t have the discipline to properly maintain a freezer – it was a place where food when to die. My freezer would be so full that it was hard to find anything, or I would be too lazy to forage through it. Plus, we don’t have a microwave, so defrosting food in the fridge would require about 24 hours notice, a luxury which most working professionals don’t have.

    When we moved to our current apartment, I was horrified to find that our new freezer was no more than an ice-box, like what you find find in a mini-bar. It has been a few months now, and I can confirm that I am happy to have a freezer that is big enough only for a tub of ice-cream and a bag of frozen peas. If we ever have kids, that might change, though!

    • Yes, there is too much squirrelling going on in my house and not enough nut cracking! I agree, it is very hard to “maintain” a freezer.
      Sometimes i can barely open the drawers they are so full. An ice-box sized freezer might be just the way to go.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Nathan Hough

    The contents of my freezer leave somthing to be desired.
    1 pack of puff pastry, 1 tub of almond meal (left from making almond milk), Spirit house stir fry paste, 2 homemade pizza bases, 1 container of unidentifiable soup (possibly Potato & leek) Regardless of what it is it’s going in the bin because i cant even remember making it!
    Also my freezer is in dire need of a defrost because it now resembles an ice cave and has shrunk to half the size of it’s former self.
    I would ask you for a recipes pertaining to the contents of my freezer but i feel there is no hope of 1 recipe let alone a cook-a-thon.

  4. Christine Hough

    Well you know that’s got me thinking, my freezer is definitely in need of a really good clean out, I’m sure there are things in there that have been long forgotten, a bit afraid to look actually, just like when you decide to clean out the pantry & find things that are 2 years out of date, so embarrassing, & you wonder how on earth that could happen as it certainly didn’t seem that long ago that you bought it, oh dear, anyway thanks for the reminder, or not, maybe this weekend will see the big clean out as it’s long overdue & I’m sure I can salvage & make use of most things & I resolve to buy no more until it’s all used up, you’ve inspired me..Thanks I think :)

    • Go for it, Chris! I’m glad i’ve inspired you. I hope you don’t end up cursing me, though! Let us know about the hidden gems you find.

    • Christine Hough

      Got that sorted Rachel, found the usual puff pastry, now in the trash, lots of veggies from the garden that were frozen when I couldn’t stand the sight of another bean or capsicum, so have, as we speak a pot of veggie soup on to use some of those & maybe a stir fry through the week, had to toss a couple of chicken breasts too badly freezer burned to salvage and 4 rolled up packages of garlic butter but everything else is fine & now at least I know what’s there & can organise meals to suit so thanks for the motivation I feel I’ve done a good thing today, even cleaned out the fridge as well..cleansing is definitely good for the soul

      • Oh no, now you’ve made me feel guilty about the fridge. Haven’t got to that, yet. And there is something swampy happening at the bottom of the vegetable crisper. I feel a fridge clean coming on. Thanks Chris (i think!).

  5. My freezer is heavily filled with meat, a stash of ether paddle pops or splices (can’t resist these sweet treats), puff pastry, bread crumbs and the occasional frozen berries or vegies. Now is where I insert, I share this mere tiny cold box with 2 other people – it’s so hard! Things get jumbled, food is mixed – it’s a cold-war-zone. Then occasionally I find frozen egg whites or egg yolks in snap lock bags and think – what on earth do you have these in here for? Totes, the freezer cleanout happens every few years. Putting it in the too hard basket, full stop.

    • Puff pastry makes its way into everyone’s freezer, it seems! And i agree – the too hard basket is the best place to put the freezer clean.
      I’m sure i won’t be doing another one for a while. Though i have damn good intentions of maintaining things much better this time around.

  6. You are to be congratulated on your freezer diligence, Rachel, at least you know what is in the frozen parcels. I don’t get to mine often enough and when I do we have “freezer surprise” meals for however long it takes to get rid of the sad, freezer-burned, anonymous plastic bags of meat. Those are the meals whose planning must wait until I identify whatever the icy lump on the sink actually is.
    When it turns out they are dog bones, those are pizza nights.

    • The cat always does well when i clean out the freezer! I’m usually pretty good at labelling things. But there is always a freezer surprise or too hidden in there. It usually doesn’t end well!

  7. Brilliant Rachel! Wow you had a lot crammed into your freezer! I am now thinking about the quantity of (possibly freezer burned) sausages in mine! And the pizza bases… and the balls of pizza dough… oh yes, the curry pastes that we have tucked away… the puff pastry is fine, we are getting through that. We do have one of the vacuum food saver things and I use that for meat mostly, as I cannot stand freezer burned meat. Great article!

    • I’ll have to get one of those vacuum food saver things! Hate freezer burned meat.
      That article was a long time coming, just as the freezer clean was.
      Thanks for sharing the contents of your freezer with us, Lizzy.

  8. …She said as she popped some Gerbeaud Slice into the already packed freezer!

    • Now what on earth are you doing cramming Gerbeaud Slice into the freezer? Isn’t that immediately scoffable?? I always find there is ample space down the sides. My biggest error, though, is putting something bulky in that expands slightly as it freezes and jams the drawer so i can’t open it the next time. My partner goes insane. I often hear him fighting with the freezer. I turn the music up … and wait half an hour until things have calmed down!

      • Gerbeaud Slice is indeed immediately scoffable, but the recipe I make (my mother’s) makes about 50 slices! Last time I made it I took much of it to work and froze only a little. It froze so well, that when I made it again this time, I froze more than half. Recipe to follow soon! I had entered it in Gosstronomy’s Melting Pot Cooking Competition. Waiting till he launches the FB page and web site till I post.

  9. I almost always have bread in my freezer – it’s sourdough too! This is usually from a friend who bakes sourdough and who often gifts us a cob. Unfortunately we are also a two-person household, plus I bloat easily when I consume too much wheat, which makes it a slow process to get through said bread. I tend to have bread crusts stashed in there for making breadcrumbs as well.

    Otherwise it’s a lot of frozen meat, considering there’s only two of us, but somehow my mother-in-law feels the need to restock us before I get the chance to do a shop!

    • The amount of bread in my freezer astounds me. The breadcrumbs that i have in there – constantly – are made from the leftover crusts. When i discovered several bags of them during the freezer clean, i’ve got to admit i felt a bit frugal. But when you need home-made breadcrumbs, and you can just grab them out of the freezer they do come in really handy! I’m glad i’m not he only one who does it.

  10. Good to hear it’s the immediately scoffable type of slice. Looking forward to the recipe. And now that i’ve cleaned out my freezer, i’ll have plenty of room to freeze the many slices it yields!

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