Diving into the deep freeze

Our chest-style deep freezer was overdue for a defrosting and inventory check, so I’d been keeping my eye on the forecast, hoping for (while also dreading) one more really cold day so the freezer contents could chill outside while I tackled the frost.  I had to wait awhile, given the unseasonably warm winter, but I finally got my chance last Thursday (note to the weather, thanks for the cold day; now bring on spring!).

I unplugged the freezer and hauled all of the food up the basement stairs and out the back door.  Once empty, I attacked the frost with a plastic dust pan (note to self: a windshield ice scraper would be a good tool here).  The freezer has a drain opening, but the freezer is not located particularly close to the floor drain in the basement, so instead of letting the ice melt, I chipped it off and then scooped it into a 5-gallon bucket.  (Note: Apparently the manufacturer does NOT recommend my “chipping the ice off” method, but I was careful — using plastic, and not metal, to scrape — and this method was so much faster than letting it all melt that it’s probably what I’ll do in the future.)


My method proved relatively speedy and efficient, and next thing I knew, I was plugging the freezer in again.  By this time, I was overdue for my morning snack, and I was sorely tempted to just throw all of the food back into the freezer, but I took the time to inventory the contents of the various cloth bags and pillow cases that we use to “organize” (ha!) the food, knowing I would thank myself later.


Our freezer is not a huge, “there’s definitely a dead body in there” size, but at 15 cubic feet, it’s fairly big, and having a list helps us make the most of our frozen food: using the oldest food first, planning meals around items that we have in large quantities, and avoiding food waste.


We use a high-tech organizational system involving a large white board and a variety of “bags” (which include extra canvas bags, old pillow cases, and anything else sturdy and bag-like we can find) to keep track of what we have where in the freezer, and it works fairly well.  In the past, I’ve tracked what is in which bag (e.g., green beans in flowered pillow case), but this gets messy quickly when bag contents change, so I’m trying a new system that’s more of a straight list.  I try to keep bags with older, “use first” items toward the top for easy access.

Now I am looking for ways to use plums and broccoli, as well as the priority older items, before we start freezing 2017 goods.  Frozen broccoli is not my favorite ingredient to work with, but friends have chimed in with some helpful suggestions, and I’ve already reduced our broccoli count by two bags by making a broccoli-rich version of lemon-egg soup.  The best uses for frozen broccoli seem to be soups or casserole-type dishes, and I like partially thawing it and pulsing it a few times in the food processor first.

Deep freeze

No, I’m not talking about the weather — that’s been relatively warm.  My reply to a recent post by Mama Gone Green got me thinking about our deep freeze (i.e., chest freezer).

From the time we’ve brought it home over three years ago, we’ve maintained a full fifteen cubic foot deep freeze.  Depending on the time of year, exact contents vary, but they include bulk dry goods (flour, nuts, etc.), homemade baked goods (bread, cookies, muffins), and garden- and locally-grown veggies and fruit.

My reply to the afore-mentioned post, where I mentioned our freezer, made me wonder, “How green is our deep freeze?”


  • Freezing garden and local produce helps us eat more local food more of the year.
  • Using the freezer to store bulk dry goods minimizes trips to the store and packaging.
  • Minimizes the potential for food waste if dry goods were stored at room temperature, with the risk of moths or other pests.
  • Allows us to “bake in bulk,” making and freezing multiple loaves of bread and double batches of relatively healthy muffins and cookie snacks as well as yummy desserts.
  • Baking in bulk makes better use of heating the oven and minimizes our use of prepackaged foods.

Not Green

  • Well, the energy needed to run the freezer, though it was NOT the energy hog we first feared.
  • And, although we do a very good job of using/eating everything we freeze, having the freezer can lead to overdoing things, i.e., purchasing/preserving more than we really need, which can lead to food waste.

We picked a chest freezer to minimize the the first item in the “Not Green” list — chest freezers are much more efficient than upright freezers, as relatively little cold is lost in opening and closing them (on the downside, they are a bit trickier to organize and use when it comes to finding a particular item).

So, do the “Greens” outweigh the “Not Greens?”  Objectively, I don’t know, but they present a fairly strong case.  Many of the items on the “Green” list are benefits for us, in-and-of themselves, especially with the garden produce to preserve and our love for cooking and baking.  I don’t see the freezer going anywhere soon, although we are realizing that it’s size may limit some of our housing options :-/

Strawberry season + deep freeze = lots of work (and some good eats)

Late last fall, we purchased a used deep freeze so we would have a way to store local produce for the long winter months.  We are just now beginning to fill it with spring’s bounty.  Last weekend was asparagus; this weekend was strawberries.  Locally grown, using organic practices strawberries.

I froze most of the berries whole, but I couldn’t resist making some freezer jam.  I’ve observed my mom making freezer jam, but had never done it myself.  When I called for directions, she warned me that I would not like the amount of sugar necessary for the process.  (I frequently cut the amount of sugar in recipes to make them healthier.  You can often do this without negatively impacting the recipe.)

A quick bike ride to the grocery store yielded some Sure-Jell (pectin), complete with directions for freezer jam.  I quickly scanned the directions and saw that for 2 cups of crushed strawberries, I was supposed to add 4 cups of sugar.  4 cups of sugar???  For 2 cups of berries?!?  Why don’t I just open the bag of sugar and pour it straight down my throat?

As I was contemplating reducing the sugar, I looked more closely at the directions, which seemed to be speaking directly to me:

Measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl.  (REDUCING SUGAR OR USING SUGAR SUBSTITUTES WILL RESULT IN SET FAILURES.)

(Note: bold, italics, and all caps were part of the original directions, not something I added.)

They may as well have written, “Melissa, we are talking to you.  We know you are thinking about reducing the amount of sugar.  Don’t do it!”

I reluctantly bowed to the wisdom of the powers that be, and I now have about 10 cups (I doubled the recipe) of delicious strawberry flavored sugar goo jam in my freezer.  To be enjoyed in moderation.