by Ann Waterman
Your freezer is your friend: It stores ice cream for late-night binges, ice cubes for drinks, and maybe even a meal when you’re pressed for time and can’t cook. But are you using your freezer its full potential? It can also serve as a second pantry, providing a storage solution for perishable staples that are always good to have on hand. Here are some of my favorite things to keep on standby in my freezer:
While I’m often tempted to polish off that bottle of wine after dinner, I know the leftovers could be put to better use in a recipe at a later time — so I freeze it. Because of the alcohol content, the wine won’t freeze completely, but it’ll be ready to go when a recipe calls for it, all while saving you from opening a new bottle just for cooking. You can store leftovers in a Ziploc bag — or better yet, put unused breastmilk storage bags to good use: The bag size is perfect for small quantities of liquid.
Bagels and Bread
My favorite bagels come from a bakery in Montreal called St. Viateur Bagel. What makes their bagels unique is that they’re made with malt and boiled in a honey-water mixture before being baked to golden-brown perfection in wood-fired ovens. In fact, their bagels are so famous, they offer air shipment all over Canada and the U.S. The only catch is that the minimum order for this service is four dozen bagels. So what did I do when I placed an order for my brother’s birthday? Gave him half and froze the rest for me! I slice mine and store them in the freezer; then, when I have a hankering for one, I simply pull it out of the freezer to let it thaw, or pull the two halves apart and drop them straight in the toaster (the best way to eat them, in my opinion).
Bread also freezes well, and I always have a loaf of two on standby in the freezer so we never run out of PB&Js, a staple in our house. I’ll also throw the remains of a fresh loaf in the freezer if I don’t think we’ll be able to finish it before the mold gets to it, though this is becoming less of a problem as our family grows.
I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but if a recipe called for tomato paste, I used to use the 1 or 2 tablespoons I needed…and trash the rest. It’s not an ingredient I use often (or in great quantity), and by the time I needed it again, it would be well past its prime. Then it dawned on me: Why not freeze it? Portion the remaining contents of the can (I find 1 tablespoon servings most useful) in a silicon ice cube tray and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, pop out the tomato paste cubes and store them in a Ziploc bag. Now I have fresh tomato paste whenever I need it, in portions that are ready to go when I am.
Fresh ginger is delightful in recipes, but I rarely use more than a knob at a time. Thankfully, it freezes well. Wash and peel your ginger, cut it into portion-sized knobs, and toss in a freezer bag. When a recipe calls for fresh ginger, pull it out of the freezer, let it thaw for about 5 minutes, and then grate or chop as needed.
Pancakes and Waffles
While these aren’t as good as hot-off-the-griddle, frozen waffles or pancakes that are thawed in the microwave, warmed in the oven, or heated in the toaster are still considered a luxurious breakfast by the wee folk in my house. We always make a double batch and throw the leftovers in the freezer for a quick and easy weekday breakfast for the kids. My dad’s pancake recipe — which makes pancakes that are more crêpe-like than the traditional, fluffy pancakes — freeze particularly well.
What do you keep in your freezer? Anything that might surprise us?
Images: Ann Waterman