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How to Freeze Food Without Using Plastic  RSS feed

 
Adrien Lapointe
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Here is an article that gives some ideas on how to freeze food without using plastic.

Not too much details, but some ideas for sure.

Anybody else have ideas or experience getting away from plastic in the freezer? What do you do for meat?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Do you think meat might be frozen by packing it in glass jars and covering with fat? After thawing, the fat could be scraped off and used for other cooking purposes, maybe?

 
Adrien Lapointe
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Do you think meat might be frozen by packing it in glass jars and covering with fat? After thawing, the fat could be scraped off and used for other cooking purposes, maybe?


That sounds a lot like confit, in which case I think we could skip the freezing process altogether.

I like the idea of using other techniques to preserve meat (drying, curing, ageing, confiting), but I am not there yet. I guess waxed paper could be used. The half beef we got this year is wrapped in butcher paper, but that has plastic.

I have friends who use those stainless steel containers to freeze. They are not cheap, but they don't break as easily as glass. I think they come in all sizes too.


Onyx 18/10 Stainless Steel Three Clip Airtight Food Bowl, 4 Inch
 
ev kuhn
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I don't quite understand the urge to freeze without plastic
I collect plastic screwtop jars, like the ones mayonaise, mexican creme, grated parmesan, protein powder ... come in
and re-use them in the freezer over and over again
 
r ranson
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ev kuhn wrote:I don't quite understand the urge to freeze without plastic
I collect plastic screwtop jars, like the ones mayonaise, mexican creme, grated parmesan, protein powder ... come in
and re-use them in the freezer over and over again


Neat idea to reuse the containers.

There are some people (me included) that feel that the particles that leach from the plastic into the food pose a health risk. It's a bit controversial, so I don't think this is the place to discuss it. We'll have to check with the mods before we dive into that kettle of fish.

The book Plastic Free by Beth Terry and This article from Life Without Plastic are great starting places to learn about some of these concerns. You local library should have the Plastic Free book (albeit wrapped in plastic). If they don't have it, they should and feel free to tell them I said so. I can't recommend that book enough. It gives a wonderful grounding in the problems of plastic, and for an anti-plastic writer, the author is surprisingly fair to the pro-plastic side of the discussion.


I've been searching for plastic free food storage for a while now. It's very difficult with our modern foods, but much easier with traditional (aka, pre industrial) methods of preserving food.

For the freezer, I often use butcher paper. I bought a big roll and it works at keeping food from drying out better than anything else I've tried - even plastic. You have to wrap the food tight, however, so that the paper is hard against the food. Otherwise the air gets at it and it starts to dry out.

Still seeking butcher paper that is made with natural wax. Don't know if it exists.
 
ev kuhn
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OK, how do you wrap a gallon of blueberries or miniature eggplant?

 
r ranson
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ev kuhn wrote:OK, how do you wrap a gallon of blueberries or miniature eggplant?



Eggplant - shudders. Never tried to freeze it as can't stand the stuff.

Gallon of blueberries... hmmm. I don't usually keep fruits in the freezer either because I love them dry and in jam. For a fresh sensation, I like to have them only when they are in season because that makes when they do come into season, all that more special.

When do freeze fruits and berries, they thaw into a juicy mess, so I haven't tried the paper with that.

Sorry, no solution.

To be honest, I don't like freezing food much. The plastic issue is a big barrier for that. I have other prejudices against the freezer, but if I share them, all we get is a long list of problems.

I mostly freeze meat, that's where the butcher paper started. Now I use it for the occasional other thing too. But it dosen't work for soup. Still trying to figure that one out.
 
ev kuhn
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hmm
#1 blueberries thaw to blueberries, not a juicy mess
#2 nobody has to like eggplant
#3 some people have at least as big an issue with sugar as you with plastic, so jam is not a solution

guess we will have to coexist in parallel universes ;/
 
Adrien Lapointe
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ev kuhn wrote:I don't quite understand the urge to freeze without plastic
I collect plastic screwtop jars, like the ones mayonaise, mexican creme, grated parmesan, protein powder ... come in
and re-use them in the freezer over and over again


I still use plastic containers, but I am trying to avoid them for a few reasons:

1- It does not biodegrade
2- Not all plastics recycle very well
3- A lot of plastic going to recycling ends up in landfill
4- It leaches into the food, and I feel like even small amount are not good (more leaching with warm food)
5- A non negligible amount end up in water ways where it causes all sorts of problems
6- It is made out of a non-renewable resource, the extraction of which is very damaging for the environment (that includes all commercial bio-plastics I am aware of)

Wow, I started with 3 points in mind, turns out I have quite an issue with plastic...
 
r ranson
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ev kuhn wrote:
#3 some people have at least as big an issue with sugar as you with plastic, so jam is not a solution


I don't do much with sugar either. We keep it in the house for the hummingbird feeder. They are so good as early pollinators that it's worth feeding them through the winter to keep them around.

I have a couple of jam recipes that use honey, but it's not really something I eat often. My sweet tooth is broken or malfunctioning or something. Maybe a jar or two a year for myself, plus more for the household. I gave it more as an example of what freezer-free preservation looks like than my actual preference.

What I really love is dry fruit. One can munch on it dry, or add it to all sorts of cooking. It goes great is sweet or savory dishes. Although it doesn't have the same texture as fresh, most dried fruit has a nice texture when reconstituted. I also like that it doesn't take electricity to maintain the preservation like a freezer does.

But you know, everyone's tastes are different. Which is great for this kind of discussion. Even though we are different, we can find inspiration from what other people like to do.



Also, I think I must be doing something wrong with the blueberries. They always seem to generate moisture when I thaw them.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:
That sounds a lot like confit, in which case I think we could skip the freezing process altogether.


I'm not convinced that would work in my climate...
 
Adrien Lapointe
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Adrien Lapointe wrote:
That sounds a lot like confit, in which case I think we could skip the freezing process altogether.


I'm not convinced that would work in my climate...


If you have a cold cellar that stays below 10 C, I think it would work. I think the critical part here is that the fat stays solid. However, my only experience with confit has been with keeping it in the fridge (that reminds me I have a jar that must be ready).
 
Dale Hodgins
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Those tins that cookies sometimes come in are a nice size. I have saved many stainless items found at houses that are being demolished. My giant coffee cup has been used to freeze stew. After the stuff is frozen, if there is no lid, I put a quarter inch of water over food like this. The ice seal separates the food from any unpleasant freezer smell. Once a container is removed from the freezer, a little water is poured on the ice seal. After a few minutes melt time, the water is discarded. Once thawed, some containers can go onto the stove or into the oven. This started for me, as a way to save on dish washing. Probably not good for long term freezing, but great for someone who goes on an occasional cooking binge, followed by two weeks of home made TV dinners. I'm a one pot cook.

Rather than using pot lids, dinner plates allow several similar sized items to be stacked. I sometimes cook or reheat using a plate as the lid for a Dutch oven. A great way to keep things warm and free up space at Thanksgiving.
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This one holds 5 cups. I find dozens of stainless items every year. Unfortunately, most are round. square and rectangular would stack well. The glass item is blown glass. Another nice find.
 
Craig Dobbson
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When I was a kid we used to reuse paper milk cartons for freezing fish. We would carefully unfold the top and pour out the milk, cream or whatever into a jar. Rinsing the carton right away and drying it fast made sure the dairy smell wasn't an issue. After a good day of fishing we'd fillet our catch and pack the pieces into the cartons, leaving a little head room for about 2 inches of water to cover the fillets. This ensured that there wasn't any air in the carton to spoil the fish. They would be closed up tight and the seam closed with duct tape. Then they'd be frozen in the upright position. After that, you can stack them in more stable configurations.

I suspect this would work for just about anything. Berries, sauces, soups, meats in gravy/sauces could probably be figured out pretty easily. Just make sure to leave room for expansion during freezing.

When I freeze berries, I do it on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper or freezer paper. Once frozen I pack them in freezer bags. I'll bet you that you could get pretty crafty and learn to make waxed paper bags and boxes from some origami website. Oh... what about bulk ordering paper Chinese food cartons? They come flat packed and you just fold them as you need them. They hold liquids pretty good, at least for a little while. Probably long enough to get it frozen anyway.



 
Dillon Nichols
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My favorite kitchen storage thing is the 1kg Adams peanut butter jars. Sturdy glass jar with no curve/taper, so it's easy to empty/clean. Steel lid, lasts pretty good.

I freeze things in them often, no problems as long as it's not a total liquid. I tend to break them a bit more often than I like when I try freezing liquids. Stuff that can be IQF frozen(loose on trays) and then dumped into jars is great.

OTOH, my mom freezes soup in them all the time, and they never break. She swears there's no secret...

I suppose a possible compromise would be to track down some plastic containers just a bit smaller than the jars, freeze liquids in those, and transfer to glass after a day. Not plastic free, but much closer.
 
r ranson
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Milk cartons didn't use to be plastic, they use to be wax lined card.

Sometimes it easy to forget when we talk about the past, or even the recent past, that technology has changed drastically. What we take for granted now, might have been very different 10 years ago.

There have been some studies that show that cooking with aluminium pots, especially those that have been scratched by using metal spoon to stir, has a direct correlation with brain disease like alzheimer's. Science is divided on how bad it is for you. For my part, I side with caution and avoid it most of the time. I figure it wasn't arround when my dad was growing up and he survived okay without using aluminum foil. Then again he also didn't have a freezer or fridge, and he didn't die of food poisoning. At least not yet.



Aluminium foil is another one of those controversial issues. As you all know, it's not always easy to follow the Be Nice requirements of this site and talk about things we feel passionate about. Sometimes it's difficult to remember that someone else may not share the same point of view. I'm so interested in the topic of plastic and food related health, that I am surprised when I find someone who hasn't read all these books and articles about it. It takes an effort not to be shocked and yell at them about how they are poisoning themselves. If I did that, then feelings would get hurt, and the other person might just avoid the topic altogether and go back to their tupperware. Instead, I like to nudge them towards the information and let them decide for themselves if they want to take action. There are some really good books on the topic, and most libraries lend them out free or for a small yearly fee. If the person does want to learn more, then I'm here to help. If they don't, no pushing or browbeating will make a difference.



On another note, I am really enjoying these plastic free alternatives. Please keep the suggestions coming. Even if it's something like the milk carton idea that has plastic in it now (but didn't then) I bet there is some way we could use this idea with the materials available now. We just need to put our (plastic free) thinking caps on.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Two hours after I posted yesterday, I went into the garage at my job and looked through some boxes. There were some stainless rectangular and square baking pans and some really nice handmade cutlery. They will stack nicely in the freezer and can be heated on the stove.
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It should be easy to release things from the tapered pans.
 
Kate Muller
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Canning jars can be frozen.
 
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Dan Boone
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:Plastic does leach into food. It is only a matter of how comfortable each individual is with the toxins. I feel like the toxins in isolation might not be beyond the ability of the body to deal with them, but mixed in with all the other toxins in the environment, it might have some impacts.


I have no issue with calling plastic leachates "toxins" if by that someone means "gick that I don't want in my food." But the pedant in me wants to object that toxicity is defined by dosage ("the dose makes the poison") and... No, inner pedant, you need to be quiet now. Some other time, some other thread.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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not sure what dose makes the poison in that case, so I use the precautionary principle and don't take any chance, let's call it a toxin
 
Krista Marie Schaus
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I have been considering this topic seriously for about 5 months. As I started all my long term preparations for relocating to the Lab I have took a serious look at food storage. I too have wanted to get away from plastic containers, close-able bags and plastic cling wrap, mostly from a sustainability viewpoint. I have been conducting a few experiments with my deep freeze to make sure my idea will pan out. I have found in most situations canning jars are the way to go, my grandmother has been doing it longer that I have been alive. However long term in the freezer the lids become problematic. But I believe I have found a solution. I read this article on how to create waxed cotton sheets, the predecessor of wax paper. They work great in the freezer! So far I have several jars of chicken broth, with waxed fabric on top, tied with hemp twine, that have been in the freezer for months. Every month I remove one jar, let it thaw and cook with it. Here I am at month 4, no funny taste, no frost build up, and I am pleased with the outcome. Granted my full experiment will last a year (I froze 12 jars) but so far it looks promising. I have included the link below that lead me to my original trial concept.

http://myhealthygreenfamily.com/blog/wordpress/plastic-wrap-alternative-diy-beeswax-cotton-wraps/

I hope this helps!
 
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A few options, one of which I've experimented with and three of which intrigue me.

Option Number 1 [the one I've actually used]: Leaves. Wrapping food to be frozen in large leaves. Be it Banana leaves [ornamental bananas grow easily where I live, though fruiting ones do not], Pawpaw leaves, Big Leaf Maple leaves [very high in tannin, these are the ones I have most experience with wrapping single portions of meat] or Bamboo Leaves.

Option Number 2: Glazed Clay vessels. As far as I can tell the firing process should have purged the moisture from within, and the glazing should keep moisture out of the structure of the vessel itself, leaving something which should be able to hold up to repeated temperature changes.

Option Number 3: Gourds. I have no clue whether or not the drying process for gourds would dry them enough to survive freeze thaw cycles, but if it does this might be an interesting option. I'm actually looking to start experimenting with growing gourds for use as containers in my cool summer climate, should be interesting.

Option Number 4: Bamboo. Some of the larger bamboo have been used as containers for a long, long time. Cut two nodes off the pole, cut a hole in the top node [or cut it clean off] and fill with whatever. Seal the top in some way [cork, 'glueing' (perhaps wax, perhaps honey) using something really really sticky to hold additional woody material over the hole, whatever] and proceed to freeze.


What I really like about the bamboo method is it's completely disposable in a way that the gourd method really isn't [and doesn't require awkward leaf wrapping], because of the amount of work and land that goes into growing gourds. A single gourd plant might produce 3 usable gourds per season, whereas a single Timber Bamboo pole might produce more than six suitable containers. Plus the bamboo plant will keep sending up new poles so long as it isn't overharvested, whereas the gourds require replanting and growing as an annual every year.
 
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@Tyler: I think the freezing meat covered in fat in a glass jar idea is genius. I very rarely have the occasion so please try the experiment and get back to us.

Really the only point of using plastic in freezing is to form a protective barrier around the product that keeps it from drying out and from freezer smells and freezer burn. When I was a kid many moons ago, I believe that butcher paper was just one-sided wax paper, the kind "R" is looking for. The only real problem was as noted above that the wrapping had to be touching the meat, anywhere there were air gaps you were liable to get a little bit of freezer burn. No big deal usually.

The protective layer of fat should take care of that issue just fine -- no air will be circulating around the meat which should solve the problem. Or at least as long as the fat was heated to liquid state and poured around the meat (or at least slathered on in pasty semi-liquid state enough to eliminate air bubbles). Hmm... now that I'm thinking about it, perhaps there would be a bit of know-how involved... Besides a fat that tastes good and is appropriate for what you're freezing, you'd want to choose a fat that had a very low melting point so that you wouldn't have to heat the food-to-be-frozen very much, i.e. you don't start to cook it. Definitely not more than 42C/105F which is where enzymes start to cook. And then pop into the deep freeze right away I'd say.

A confit is normally cooked or half-cooked, and it kept refigerated if half-cooked, presumably for a reason, so just in case I wouldn't keep my raw filet mignon sitting in a jar of goose fat in the kitchen cupboard!

@Ev: Raw blueberries are easy to freeze in glass. The secret, so I was told and it has worked for me, is not to wash them first, so they're prefectly dry. Also they should be prefectly fresh and firm, do this ASAP after picking them. I put them in small 1-serving sized glass jars which I fill up completely to minimize air, which probably helps. I just had some 2-year-old frozen blueberries from the deep freeze this morning and they were perfect. Defrosting is easy as pie -- just set them on the counter for a couple of hours. They come out softer than when they went in, but definitely do not shed any liquid and there is no mush involved at all. They're perfect.

To freeze a gallon, I have heard but not tried myself the other method described. Spread them on trays in one layer till frozen and then transfer them to whatver size jar you like. I suppose then you could just pour out the amount you want and leave them sitting on a plate on the counter till they thaw, and presto. I don't know if there would be a problem over time as the level of the jar goes down and there's more and more air in there. I think it's circulating air that causes the most problems and not still air inside a jar, but I really don't know.

 
Deb Rebel
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I like to flash freeze stuff loose on trays then pack tightly into jars and put in freezer. For tomatoes, I will roast with oil and herbs then flash freeze and pack up tightly in jars and freezer. This tends to save issues with expansion, and if lids are an issue, waxed paper over the mouth of the jar and tie it down good.

Solar drying is good as well. Fruit, veggies, and meat all work well...
 
Hans Quistorff
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Observation: as liquid freezes in a container it does so from the side of the container inward. Water expands as it freezes therefore if the water can't push up in the center it exerts an outward pressure on the container which can cause it to burst or crack. The larger the surface area to depth the easier it is for the center to mound up as it freezes. Possibly laying a tall container on its side with enough head space would be enough to avoid the glass cracking.
The Addams glass peanut butter jars are very tough but they also have a good sealing lid so I tend to use them for hot canning.
When I plan to freeze berries I pick directly into the container being careful not to crush them which causes them to stick together. They then come out of the container almost as well as ones frozen on a tray and then put in a container. I avoid the berries thoughing before serving. Placing the frozen berries into their individual serving dish usually makes the best presentation.
I have never tried freezing meat in water to prevent freezer burn but it has always worked for fish.
I sell my berries in the paper take out containers so I should experiment with freezing in them. I buy them from the Cash and Carry restaurant supply. I like the idea of sealing the air out with the rendered fat from the animal you are butchering.
 
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