Now that we’ve officially entered autumn, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that many people will be getting ready to plan Christmas bits.
Planning ahead is a good way of avoiding any last minute panics, which could be more prudent this year following the reported shortages of various foods and goods.
Though a combination of the CO2 shortage, lorry driver issues and changes to regulations following Brexit have left supermarkets scrambling to adjust to the change, it’s important to remember panic buying isn’t the solution.
But there are ways you can plan ahead without overdoing it, like knowing how to freeze perfectly-sized portions.
Read on to find out how you can get ahead by freezing foods for Christmas.
What foods can you freeze?
Though most people know the obvious freezer foods – the strongest clue being they’re usually bought from the frozen aisles of supermarkets – there are others that might surprise you.
Meat – Rather than just freezing packs of chicken breasts, you can go bigger if you have the space and freeze a turkey or joint of beef.
The NHS advise that meat can be frozen for a long time and it will still be safe to eat, but the quality will deteriorate so it’s best to eat it within three to six months.
Before you cook your frozen turkey, it’s important you let it properly defrost.
If it’s still partially frozen – even if it’s just a few ice crystals inside – it may not cook evenly, which means that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process.
The best way to do it is to defrost your turkey in the fridge and overestimate the time needed to be safe. It can take at least a couple of days for a large turkey to thaw.
Keep it separate from other foods and in a dish or container large enough to catch any defrosted juices to stop bacteria from spreading.
Some new ovens do come with a defrosting capability – always check the manual and see if it’s compatible with defrosting a large turkey.
Brussel sprouts – Love them or leave them, no Christmas dinner plate is complete without some Brussel sprouts. These can be frozen, and the best way to capture their full flavour is to blanche or roast them before you do.
Parsnips – Experts at Net Voucher Code have come through with some surprising additions for your freezer foods. Did you know parsnips will stay good to eat for around nine months when frozen? Blanching parsnips before freezing them will lock in their flavour and texture. Freeze them alongside similar veg, like carrots and peas.
Milk – Net Voucher Code also explain that milk can be safely stored in the freezer, but needs a little more planning. From leaving a glass out for Santa (or his reindeers) to keeping all the visiting family and friends in cuppas, you don’t want to find yourself without milk.
When freezing milk, remember that it will expand in the freezer, so don’t freeze it in a tight container. You must also allow frozen milk to fully thaw before using it.
Cheese – The Christmas cheese board is, of course, a highlight for many. The good news is, if there’s a good deal on cheese, you can freeze cheese as a full block, in chunks or when grated.
Bread – This should be frozen when fresh otherwise it will be slightly stale once defrosted. You can freeze it as a full loaf, or in individual slices if this is easier. You can then leave your bread to thaw naturally or pop it straight into the toaster.
Eggs – The shell of eggs can’t be frozen, but everything else can. Crack the eggs into a muffin tray, then place these into the freezer.
Chocolate – Chocolate is great for freezing because the relatively low amount of water in it means it doesn’t change too dramatically. Put the chocolate in the fridge for a few hours before placing it into the freezer, as this will help bring the temperature down slowly, reducing the risk of the flavour or appearance changing.
Homemade sauces – Traditional sauces, like cranberry sauce or any tomato based sauce, can be frozen for up to three months.
Once you’ve made your favourite Christmas sauce – like cranberry – leave it to cool completely, transfer to plastic food bags, seal firmly and freeze in a flat layer on a baking tray.
Once frozen, remove the tray and stack the frozen sauces in the freezer. They’ll be good to keep in the freezer for up to three months. Once you’re ready to use them, put the frozen sauce in a bowl of lukewarm water until defrosted, then reheat until piping hot.
Though many sauces can be frozen, emulsified sauces, like mayonnaise or homemade vinaigrette, should not be. Cream-based sauces also don’t suit freezing.
Prawns – A prawn cocktail is quintessentially Christmas, too, and fortunately you can freeze prawns.
Prawns can be frozen for around three months. When buying fresh prawns, it’s important to use or freeze them as quickly as possible. This is mainly because you don’t know exactly how fresh they are.
To freeze prawns, Freeze It explains it’s best to wash them first by rinsing them under cold water.
Pat them dry, place them in a container where there’s enough room that they won’t stick together and freeze
Defrost them in the fridge before cooking them.
How cold should a freezer be?
To ensure your pre-prepared Christmas frozen bits don’t spoil before the big day (and end up spoiling the big day), it’s important to ensure your freezer is working properly.
Most sources agree that the ideal temperature for a freezer is -18 degrees.
You should also make sure your fridge-freezer has plenty of room around it for air to circulate and keep it away from any external sources of heat, including direct sunlight.
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