Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Freezing Casseroles

No, I don’t mean casseroles that are shivering in their pots, what I’m offering here is a group of tips related to keeping casseroles in the freezer. But you knew that really, didn’t you?

I generally make at least a double portion of any casseroles that I make, although there are exceptions, which I’ll come back to a second. It makes sense to use the cooker just the once - who wants to waste energy, whether it’s gas, electric or your own? Far easier to just whip some out of the freezer, heat it through and dig in.

Most casseroles can be frozen and kept for up to 2 months (remember to date it - it’s easy to forget when you put it in there) and generally don’t take up too much room in the freezer. Rather that than a stack of pre-packed frozen meals from Tesco, anyway. There are a few things to know about freezing casseroles though, so here goes:

Pasta doesn’t freeze well. If your casserole contains spaghetti, macaroni, noodles or the likes, it won’t be anywhere near as good when re-heated because pasta tends to go sloppy after freezing. Some people don’t mind this but it reminds me too much of hospital food. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you freezing the meat, fish or veg mixture before the pasta goes in.

Potatoes don’t freeze well. I make quite a few vegetable stews and casseroles plus a few meat based casseroles that contain potatoes. I soon learned that freezing them isn’t such a good idea, though. Potatoes change their consistency when frozen and the results aren’t always pleasing. Rather than waste any leftovers I just remove the potatoes (they either go in the dog or are chilled and used in a second meal) and freeze the rest. If I need them, I can always boil up a few spuds next time - that’s still easy and more energy efficient than making the whole thing over again.

The taste can change. Some seasonings change their taste when frozen, becoming either weaker or stronger so be aware that your casserole may not taste exactly the same. You can always add more seasoning if need be and if it’s too strong, a little milk added to it usually helps tame the flavours somewhat.

No freezer container to spare? No worries. I was always running out of tubs and things to freeze leftovers in but soon realised that I’d have to find some other way of doing it. Enter aluminium foil. I line a plastic Tupperware type tub/box with foil, stick the casserole in, freeze it, remove it and then take the foil and casserole out of the tub again. I wrap the foil around it then stick it in a freezer bag (which get reused a couple of times, being as no food comes into contact with them). Another good thing about using this method is that you don’t waste freezer space with half filled tubs.

Try freezing small amounts first. If you’re using a new recipe, rather than make a huge batch, just double up in case it doesn’t freeze as well as you’d thought. If all goes well, go mad next time.

NEVER refreeze food once it’s been thawed. I know some people do this but it really isn’t a good idea. Every time food it brought back to room temperature, the bacteria it contains continue to grow. Freezing doesn’t kill them, it just stunts their growth. If you do make a big batch, freeze in individual portions to avoid thawing more than you need.

I know quite a few of my regular readers will already know these things but I’m sure there are people out there who don’t and we all have to learn sometime, somewhere.

Sharon J


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emmani said...

Thanks Sharon... I've frozen a few casseroles recently and they wern't very nice. I think it was the potatoes and I had used kohl rabi too, that's a bit like potato in consistency. The other problem I've had is freezer burn, the tubs are half full and the top layer is almost like snow, the meat is 'burnt' and all in all it doesn't look very appetising.

I don't think I'll get up to much freezer storing in India, as the electricity is very dubious, so I don't suppose it matters much now. But it's always good to know these things!

Sharon J said...

I can't say I've had a problem with kohlrabi, Emma. My guess is that the potatoes were the real fiend. I know the problem with half filled tubs too - hence using foil instead. I guess I had to ruin a good few meals to learn though :)

Cathy said...

Hello sharon
Just catching up after being away - lots of good points here.

lol I thought I was the only one to line my containers and then take the lining and frozen food out and put into another wrapping.

Means theres more shelf space as I don't need as many containers in the cupboard
Take care

Carol said...

I freeze stews, I use ananya potatos (only seen them in Sainsbury though) and they tend to be ok as they are a very waxy firm potato. A bit knobbly to look at but nice and firm no matter how long you boil them and seem to taste better after reheating too.

I re-use my take away delivery containers to freeze stuff.

Sharon J said...

@ Cathy. My containers, no matter what size I choose, are almost always too big or too small for the amount I want to freeze so the wrapping method works much better.

@ Carol. I think you probably mean Anya potatoes. I haven't tried freezing them but apparently potatoes lose a lot of their goodness when you freeze them too although I've no idea why.

I use take-away containers too, only as we don't have many take-aways we don't get nearly enough.

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