Ice Ice Baby
August 26, 2012 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Metafilter, please fill my new freezer! Double bonus points for teaching me how to freeze PIE.

Oh yeah, after years of freezerless living, my 7 cu ft chest freezer is being delivered Wednesday! Please give me ideas for filling that sucker. I also have a bushel of apples and eight zillion mini pie plates, and would like to put in a Strategic Pie Reserve for impromptu gifts and gluttony. Should I freeze the pies pre- or post-baking?

Things I already make and will freeze:
-cookies for unexpected cookie-related emergencies
-yummy, yummy leftovers
-chicken, beef, and veggie stock
-bread dough (although dough freezing-related tips much appreciated)
-partially pre-baked pizza crusts
-homemade Chinese dumplings

I'm going through all the freezer threads but hey, there's always room for one more. Thanks for your suggestions!
posted by cyndigo to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
A small thing, but frozen butter grates beautifully for biscuit recipes. I always keep a stick in the freezer.
posted by Wossname at 6:58 PM on August 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

Freeze apple pies before you bake them, wrapped and wrapped again with plastic wrap. Do not thaw before baking.

I also like to make double or triple batches of pie dough and freeze them in thick discs for later use. I wrap them individually in plastic wrap and then put them into a freezer bag. I've never frozen bread dough, but I do freeze sliced homemade bread if I can't eat it all in a couple of days for toast, french toast, bread pudding, homemade bread crumbs, etc.

If I had a chest freezer I would buy up meat when its on sale and freeze it. I also like to make big pots of chili or bolognese sauce, half to eat and half to freeze. Dried beans cooked up are much tastier than canned and are so convenient when cooked ahead and frozen. Again I just make a double batch and freeze half for the next time. Make sure you freeze them covered in their pot liqueur.

Brownies also freeze beautifully
posted by ephemerista at 7:08 PM on August 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Freeze the pies pre-baking! Hopefully you're also going to be freezing the cookies pre-baking too.

Frozen sliced fruit is amazing (bananas are still the best I think) especially if you need to cool down really quickly.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:09 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

One advantage of freezing cookies pre-baking is that a standard batch of cookies is often too many to eat at once; if you freeze cookie batter you can make just the right amount of cookies.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:19 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make your favourite curry sauce, and freeze flat in ziploc bags for fast weeknight curries.

Same goes for any pie filling that you make in large batches, like mincemeat.
posted by LN at 7:21 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Individual smoothie packs.
posted by raisingsand at 7:44 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I use my chest freezer much more for raw ingredients than for portioned food. I do freeze a certain amount of cooked food, especially things like homemade pasta sauce that are easier to make in large quantities -- and for cooked food, I can't emphasize enough the importance of labeling. A ziplock or container of pasta sauce looks exactly like chili, and both of those look like oxtail soup... but you will be sadly disappointed if you open a package of sauce and find that it is soup, and vice versa. And when you label, include the date, because six months later you won't remember if the sauce was from this March, or last March.

So I devote a bit of space to things like pasta sauce, but most of it goes for large amounts of raw ingredients. Meat in particular is cheaper bought in bulk, and also allows you to buy ethical meat -- in my case, directly from the farmer, butchered and packaged to my instructions, for less than the crappy stuff at the grocery store. That's how the freezer pays for itself in this household, honestly. If I had a big garden, or was big into farmers market shopping, I'd have produce in there as well.

I tried freezing pie once and it was a disaster, so if you figure it out let me know.
posted by Forktine at 7:55 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: An even easier trick for freezing pies (which I admit I got from Alton Brown) - Don't freeze the pie as such. Freeze the fruit in pre-shaped pie form. Thusly -- line a pie plate with a couple sheets of wax paper or tinfoil, then dump in a mix of the fruit of your choice, a little sugar, and a sprinkle of cornstarch. Then put the whole thing in the freezer and leave it overnight. You will end up with a disc of frozen pie filling, which you can then wrap in tinfoil. Then, when you want pie, then you can roll out the pie crust, unwrap that disc of crust, and just drop it in. Let it thaw a bit, then bake (about 10 or so minutes longer than you ordinarily would have).

Other tips:

* I can confirm that the advice I received in my last AskMe was spot-on. Making a whole bunch of turnovers is also a good stocking-away project.

* With the leafier herbs, like basil, try chopping them up super-fine, stuffing them into ice cube trays, adding just enough water to the trays to wet the chopped leaves down a bit, and then freeze them. Once they're frozen, pop the cubes out of the ice cube tray and dump them all in a plastic freezer bag. Each ice-cube-tray cube is about 1-2 tablespoons of chopped herb. You can also pre-mince and freeze a whole bunch of ginger the same way, although the ginger gives off so much juice you may not need any water. You can even mince up ginger and garlic together if you make a lot of stir-fries.

* Another tip I learned about freezing basil in particular (whether you freeze it as part of pesto, or as-is): blanch the leaves first. This helps "lock in" the fresh state they're at, and also helps them stay really, really green. To blanch them, just bring a big pot of water to boil, then drop the leaves in, push them down under the surface of the water, and then scoop them right back out of the water right away.

* About freezing pesto - you will see a lot of different recipes for pesto-for-your-freezer; some of these recipes leave out either the oil or the cheese because "cheese doesn't freeze well" or "oil doesn't freeze well." These recipes usually advise you to leave out one or the other or both, and add them to your half-a-pesto when you've thawed it back out.

But according to a kitchen expert I spoke to, you can go ahead and put oil and cheese in your pesto before freezing; it is true that oil and cheese don't freeze well, but neither of these facts will affect your pesto. Freezing a whole block of cheese doesn't work, because the curds will break down when you try to thaw it; so it's more of a structural integrity problem. But with pesto, you've already chopped the hell out of the cheese anyway already, so any structural integrity is already shot so you don't need to worry about it. As for the oil - well, all that means is that olive oil doesn't really freeze so much as it just gets really viscous. But that is not something that would affect your pesto's taste or texture any, so why not add it.

* You can freeze tomatoes just as they are. Just wash them and drop them into a freezer bag, skins and all, and chuck that in the fridge. Any tomatoes you freeze will not really thaw into being sliceable tomatoes, however - they'll really only be good for making homemade tomato sauce or tomato soup, as they'll be mushy and pureed-looking. But thawing them is easy as hell -- just pull however many you need out of the bag and let them thaw. The peels will come right off, which is a feature as well. I've also frozen cherry tomatoes this way.

* You can freeze certain greens like kale and collard greens as well - chop them up well first, then blanch them (same way as you would basil, only kale and collards each get a full minute in the boiling water bath rather than just a few seconds) then scoop out of the boiling water, squeeze out as much excess water as you can, maybe chop them once more for good measure, and then stuff them into freezer bags. Spinach can be frozen the same way -- maybe blanch that for only 30 seconds.

* Someone's already suggested cooking up a whole pound of dried beans, and then doling it out into smaller containers and freezing them. I would also suggest doing this with carmelized onions, and something called "duxelles" -- which is simply minced-up mushrooms, sauteed in some butter and cooked until almost all the water is cooked away. A spoonful of duxelles enriches lots of dishes or sauces, and if you have carmelized onions in your freezer you have a near-instant French onion soup (one half cup frozen carmelized onions + a cup or two of frozen beef broth + one splash of wine + one saucepan on the stove = heat-and-serve French onion soup for one).

* Make up a crapton of meatballs, let them cool and stick them in a freezer bag. When you want spaghetti and meatballs, all you have to do is heat up a handful along with the pasta sauce while the spaghetti's cooking. (In fact, I had this the other night - a handful of meatballs in some sauce, which I dropped a cube of chopped basil into as well.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:05 PM on August 26, 2012 [20 favorites]

To freeze cookie batter:

If it's a drop cookie, like typical chocolate chip cookies, for example--- drop spoonfuls onto a wax or parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Stick the whole sheet into the freezer for at least 15 minutes, preferably half an hour. Then peel off the frozen globs and pop them into a ziplock. Bake without thawing. Or, um, eat without thawing....
posted by kestrel251 at 8:05 PM on August 26, 2012

When I am in a cooking mood with freezer space I like to make multiples of things like lasagnas or burritos where doing the work is sort of a headache but having either something that you can pop in the oven and it's like real food (lasagna - extra credit, freeze with some ready to heat garlic bread) or like a quick meal on the go (burritos) is super useful. I also try to freeze some fruits when they're fresh and I have a ton of them (blueberries comes to mind) - freeze them on a cookie sheet and then put in baggies once they're frozen so they don't turn into a solid mass. Trader Joe's has taught me that you can even freeze stuff like steel cut oats and make them into little breakfast cubes that, again, seem like real labor intensive foods. No idea of that would work with risotto but that would be the next thing I'd try.
posted by jessamyn at 8:20 PM on August 26, 2012

Best answer: I'm watching this thread eagerly to see who has pie and bread tips!

Also seconding brownies, individual smoothie packs, and beans.

Things I've had great luck freezing:

-Twice-baked potatoes! You make a five-pound bag of potatoes into twice-bakeds, freeze them on a cookie tray, and then either freeze, wrap each in plastic, and put in a freezer bag (tedious, but stores better for long periods) or freeze, toss in freezer bag, put freezer bag in second freezer bag. Having an enormous stash of these has made my life much easier.

-Soup, frozen in single-serve and [family-size]-serve portions. Label it! Also, freeze it on cardboard or a cookie tray or something, and then you won't have annoying little ridges in the bag that make it harder for them to stack nicely in the future. Keep in mind that cream-based soups do *not* freeze well, in my experience, and you'd be better making it and then adding the cream just before serving. (Bonus: takes up less freezer space!)

-Onigiri freeze remarkably well, but must be defrosted in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel. If this isn't a prohibitive restriction for you, I highly recommend doing a bunch of these and freezing them. Great easy lunches, snacks, etc.

-Steamed buns. Again, you spend an afternoon making several dozen, and then you freeze them and thaw as needed. Last year I made breakfast steamed buns that were a huge hit with my nine year old.

-Rice, brown or white. Make it as usual, cool it completely, and then put it in a flat layer in a ziplock bag, getting out as much air as you can. (I use a straw--seal the bag most of the way, stick the straw in, suck air out through the straw, then quickly remove the straw and zip the bag the rest of the way.) When you need rice, you either break off a chunk of frozen or just open the bag, add a little water, and thaw it, covered, in the microwave. I'm not saying that it's as good as freshly-made rice, but it's pretty damn good, and even better on those days when you don't have the brainpower to deal with the stovetop.

-Breakfast (or lunch, or whatever) burritos. Again, I'll spend the afternoon making a bunch of them and then toss them, individually wrapped, in the freezer.

-Meat or tofu in a marinade. A friend of mine taught me this--she'll take beef, say, and freeze it with some red wine, garlic, onion, pepper, and rosemary. It'll marinate as it thaws and save you a step when it's time to cook the meat.

-Crock-pot ready meals, frozen in a ziplock that's been put inside a bowl or something else similar in size to the crock-pot's bowl. (So, like, you put, say, some sauerkraut, mustard, brown sugar, apples, and a pork sugar in a ziplock, then freeze that inside a bowl so that when it's time to cook, you don't have to wrestle with things frozen into corners of the bag not fitting into the crock-pot.) This sounds so stupid, because really, how much work is it to chop up some apples and garlic? But some mornings it's just easier not to think about it. Plus it means that you can prep all the stuff for several batches of soup (or whatever) in bulk, which means onions in the food processor, etc--it's a big time-saver, at least for me.

-Empanadas and calzones both freeze well, and I find them more appealing and easier to eat than the dreaded pizza.

-Caramelized onions! Cook a five-pound bag of onions into delicious, caramelly goo, then form them into a log with cling film. Wrap the cling-filmed onions in foil, then toss in the freezer. A sharp knife will easily lop off pieces of this, so there's no need to thaw or anything. If I could only have one freezer item, it would quite probably be this, because it's amazing, and an easy, easy way to make anything more delicious.

Finally, I'll note that almost everything should be frozen in the flattest, thinnest layer you can manage, not for food preservation purposes, but because it's so easy to take off a chunk of it and thaw for someone's lunch or whatever, plus things thaw so much faster like that.
posted by MeghanC at 8:24 PM on August 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

I keep every odd and end from my vegetable cooking (ribs and tops and seeds and guts and stalks and withered old herbs and skins and peels and veg that's beginning to go a bit off and all that) and use it to make stock. Separately (in case I want to make vegetarian stock) I keep all the guts & bones & gristle from my meat that hasn't been gnawed on.

I use it to make stock. Usually when I make stock I use a big chunk of it fresh, in risotto or whatever, and then I full Solo party cups full of 2 cups stock each, then cut the cups off the giant stock cylinders and put them in a Ziploc. Everyone always says ice cube trays, but who ever uses that tiny amount of stock and then your ice cubes taste like onion forever.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:31 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

- I keep grass-fed and corn finished ground beef in my freezer, portioned into 1 lbs and 1/2 lbs ziploc bags, meat FLATTENED INSIDE THE BAG to fill/fit the shape of the bag for super QUICK DEFROSTING in a bowl or sink of COLD H2O - like 20 minutes and it is defrosted and ready to cook - for burgers and meat sauce and chilli applications.

That was my best and most frequently used tip.

- Shrimp shells for stock. I only save shells from wild raw shrimp, when I do this.

- I have a ziploc bag of fresh keffir lime leaves, fresh galangal, and fresh lemon grass because I cook A LOT of coconut thai curries.

- There is a lot of meat and fish in my freezer - organic grass fed shanks from the farmers market I put in the slow cooker frozen, a package of frozen organic vac packed chicken livers for pate, local Himachi was just in season, so that is portioned up.


My advice for your freezer? Get a vaccum sealer. You will get proper use out of it and it is better for longterm storage.

When I find individually flash frozen NZ Green Shell Mussels (better than fresh and flown in, trust me) that lives in my freezer regularly, too. I add them to other shellfish with cream, shaved fennel, garlic, shallots, and a whisper of curry powder. So yummy!
posted by jbenben at 8:47 PM on August 26, 2012

Best answer: Mini pie in a jar. Freezes beautifully.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:50 PM on August 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

To freeze pie, especially apple: make your crust as normal, making sure to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour (20 minutes in the freezer) before rolling it out. Make your apply filling as normal. Fill the pie and top with whatever style crust you prefer (traditional two crust, french, etc.) Put it in the freezer unwrapped for at least two hours to get it firm. Once firm, wrap it with two layers of plastic wrap.

When you're ready to bake it, bake it from frozen, for 15 minutes at 450º, turn the temp down to 375º and finish baking for about an hour.

Some notes: I bake my pies in a pie plate on top of a rimmed cookie sheet, on top of a pizza stone. The rimmed jelly roll pan will catch any stray juice, and the pizza stone helps keep the bottom of the crust at an even temperature. I also bake my pies with tinfoil covers over the edges of the crust, and with a full sheet of tinfoil over the top for the first half hour or so of any delicate crusts.
posted by nerdcore at 9:22 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pesto pucks: I also make and freeze pesto, in silicone muffin tins. I omit the cheese, but everything else is there. Fill tins half full, freeze, and then dump all the pucks into a ziploc. Pull one out, let thaw, and use as you please. Makes good hostess gifts too.

Fresh sliced peaches: We live in an area where these are hard to come by any time of year. So we get farm boxes. We dunk the peaches in hot water to slip off the skin, slice, put in quart bags and freeze flat on cookie sheets. Makes for the sweetest yummiest treat in the dead of winter.

Seconding breakfast burritos. They freeze great and make the best quick breakfast.

Soup base: I make a marvelous (non-cream) seafood chowder base, with clam juice, onions, peppers, tomatoes and herbs. Freeze flat in baggies, and when you happen upon a batch of clams, or fresh fish, or whatever, defrost and poach your seafood in it. Yum.

If you already make your own dumplings, it's great to make big batches of char siu for filling and freeze that too.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:51 PM on August 26, 2012

If the pie has already been baked (and eaten), and you have a couple of slices left over, I highly recommend MASHING THE LEFTOVER PIE (best w/apple or lemon meringue) INTO ICE CREAM AND LETTING IT FREEZE.

Very tasty.

Also re: pesto pucks: we use an ice-cube tray...
posted by eyesontheroad at 12:35 AM on August 27, 2012

Freezing a whole block of cheese doesn't work, because the curds will break down when you try to thaw it; so it's more of a structural integrity problem

Soft cheeses freeze just fine. Since being told this by a cheesemaker we've tested this over and over.
posted by pompomtom at 4:29 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've frozen already-baked pies with good results. I wrap them tightly in saran wrap, and then aluminum foil. The bottom crust is maybe a bit more soggy than fresh or frozen pre-baked, but it's worth it to have pie in the amount of time it takes to defrost it!
posted by mchorn at 5:41 AM on August 27, 2012

> Freezing a whole block of cheese doesn't work, because the curds will break down when you try to thaw it; so it's more of a structural integrity problem

Soft cheeses freeze just fine. Since being told this by a cheesemaker we've tested this over and over.

Good to know about soft cheese. But the "blocks of cheese don't freeze" advice would still hold for someone trying to freeze a whole wedge of a hard cheese like parmaesan, which is why some people presumably think you shouldn't put parmaesan in your pesto freezer pucks. But as the person I spoke to said anyway, the parmaesan in pesto is in such grated-down form it doesn't make any difference.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 AM on August 27, 2012

I've frozen already-baked pies with good results. I wrap them tightly in saran wrap, and then aluminum foil. The bottom crust is maybe a bit more soggy than fresh or frozen pre-baked, but it's worth it to have pie in the amount of time it takes to defrost it!

Back in my pioneer lady days, I froze many, many pies and solved the soggy bottom crust problem by brushing the bottom crust with melted shortening before adding the filling. We never ever had a soggy bottom crust, and I'm talking dozens and dozens of pies, most with very juicy (like blackberry) fillings.

Oh, and I wrapped the pies in freezer paper. That's what it's made for.
posted by Dolley at 7:31 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just watched an episode of Good Eats last night that covers most of your query:

Huh, they have the whole thing here.

This should give you a couple ideas for freezing; nothing directly pie related in that episode, but lots of good advice.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:29 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, your location could indicate the states... if so, you've picked a good time to grab a freezer. Predictions at present suggest that meat prices may dip this summer/fall as more head are sold off in anticipation of higher feed costs next year. And then meat will probably be more expensive for several years (not that you'd really want to keep it all that long, but still.. there may be a chance to take advantage of some lower prices).

seconding the cookie dough freezing method above vs freezing baked cookies

Meet that I like to have in the freezer: burgers (work them up and freeze on wax paper first then bag or wrap/bag as you prefer), flash frozen chicken or similar, buying a loin vs pre cut and cutting and freezing yourself.

My mom really likes her little vaccum sealer thing for freezing, but I don't currently have the freezer space to justify one. May be worth looking into for the raw veggies and such.
posted by Feantari at 9:52 AM on August 27, 2012

But the "blocks of cheese don't freeze" advice would still hold for someone trying to freeze a whole wedge of a hard cheese like parmaesan, which is why some people presumably think you shouldn't put parmaesan in your pesto freezer pucks.

I'm relaying this all from the custodian of the freezer, but parmesan is OK, as long as you're cooking with it. The damage the freezer will do is to make it all crumbly on thawing, so no cheddars or goudas or mimolettes or suchlike. Unless you're presenting the parmesan for guests, crumbly is generally OK. (ed: That said, a decent block of parmesan lasts for long enough in the fridge, so whatever. Also, dunno about pesto.)
posted by pompomtom at 11:32 AM on August 27, 2012

Stuff that is miserable to prep is great for the freezer. Embrace the suck for just a little longer and you can save yourself a whole second or third time.

For example, last year we took in tons of zucchini and I spent a loooong night grating and squeezing and measuring and bagging it -- but then I had a pile of two-cup portions of shredded zucchini all ready for making bread. Same for fruit & berries that are measured and ready for making into jam: when we have just had ENOUGH of standing at the stove, I pack up whatever is left into bags so we can make one or two last batches as we clear out the Strategic Jam Stockpile at the end of the school year.

I also make extra deep-dish pizza and freeze the leftovers in two-slice packages: it's heaven in plastic wrap!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:32 AM on August 28, 2012

Response by poster: Y'all are awesome, thanks! I should have specified that I'm definitely freezing individual scoops of cookie dough, not baked cookies. Cool Papa Bell led me to this great recipe ... I use peanut butter instead of almond and they're still awesome and boy do they freeze well.

Since a couple people have mentioned vacuum sealers: any recommendations? I've been thinking about adding one into the arsenal.
posted by cyndigo at 7:48 PM on August 28, 2012

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