About a year and a half ago I showed you my freezers. I must have been having a tidy day. Let me tell ya, those freezers aren’t tidy now. At the time, we had just put up half a cow. It took up most of one freezer. I have two upright freezers downstairs, and since that time, we got another small chest freezer. (This doesn’t count the “regular” freezer space in the refrigerator upstairs, plus the freezer in the back porch fridge.) I have a lot of freezer space, and yet there never seems to be enough! We’re currently looking for another half a cow, and if we get one, it’s a good idea for me to look back at those photos and remember that it took up A WHOLE FREEZER. You know, while I’m planning. (And by the way, yes, we have a generator and are careful about keeping gasoline on hand in the winter. I also can and dehydrate, of course.)
I’m currently planning my freezer space for the upcoming season. I haven’t gone through and tossed and cleaned and reorganized since the time I wrote that post. Back then, I didn’t have a milk cow. Or meat chicks. Or another pig.
As I toss, clean, and reorganize, I’ve been taking note of what is leftover that’s too old. Every year, I try to take stock of the overkill and restrain myself from, oh, say, putting away 20 bags of peppers–because they didn’t all get used. (Like the 30 jars of homecanned green beans in the pantry. This year, we didn’t plant green beans. We’ll plant them again next year, but we need a little more time to use up the excess from last year.) You can’t keep stuff on the shelf or in the freezer forever, so I’m always trying to do better planning. There are things we run out of, too, and I pay attention, adjusting my preparations. Last time BP was dried off, we ran out of butter, for example. I’m packing away the butter in the freezer like crazy. Butter is a popular gift–everyone loves some homemade butter! I was gifting butter left and right and next thing you know we were out of butter. This time, I’m going to stock a section with this-is-how-much-butter-we-need and keep the “gifting” butter separate because I am not buying butter.
I also have refined my method for storing up the dairy. I used to freeze butter in little freezer containers–but I sure went through a lot of containers, and when I gave butter away, there went the container, too. Here’s how I do it now.
I freeze butter as I make it in 8-ounce Ziploc containers.
After it’s frozen, I just slip a butter knife around the edge and out pops a nice little cup of butter. I put the frozen cup of butter in a sandwich baggie. I can then store eight individually-wrapped cups of butter in one gallon-size freezer baggie.
And I have my containers back to do it all over again! When I want to use the butter, I can dump it back out of the sandwich baggie and into a bowl or container. As long as the butter is moved in and out of the baggie while frozen, it’s no problem. When I want to gift butter, it’s easy to give away in the baggie, no kissing a container goodbye.
I also freeze cream cheese and buttermilk in the same way, in one-cup containers, slip ’em out after freezing and transfer the individually-wrapped cups to a gallon-size freezer bag.
Buttermilk going into Ziplocs.
It makes it really easy to take out what I need, and to store it. (Cream cheese freezes really well. As for buttermilk, we aren’t buttermilk drinkers here, but I like to have it available for baking. One cup quantities work really well for that.) I also make mozzarella, shred it, and freeze it by the pound in quart freezer baggies. (We like pizza here.) I’m using boxes inside my freezers so I can load in the bags of dairy. This saves space, allowing me to stack in lots of bags without things toppling over. I have a box for each different item, and a mental checklist of how much I want to store up before drying off BP. (I’m not just preparing for 2-3 months of drying off, but another 3-4 months of limited milk supply after calving. Having raised a calf, now I know how I want to raise one, and that is with a nearly full access pass to the best there is, mommy’s milk. Whether I’m keeping the calf to raise a future milker, such as Glory Bee, or raising a calf to butcher or sell, that’s how I want to raise calves–on mommy as much as possible. I prepare during the high milking season with that in mind.)
Note: Not all plastic containers are created equal. I found when trying this with some Rubbermaid containers, when I’d slip the butter knife in to loosen the butter, the containers cracked, ruining them. I stick to Ziploc containers for this use now.
Milk is the toughest thing to store (because of space), which is why it’s best to make all the mozzarella I think I’ll need rather than save milk to make mozzarella later. (A gallon of milk turned into mozzarella takes up less space.) I try to freeze enough milk, but not too much. I have to make room for all the new meat and veggies and fruit coming in for the season, too. So far, I’ve only put away a couple of gallons. It’s early days yet, still months before she’s dried off. I’m more focused on making hard cheeses right now, and most of my extra is helping to grow a pig.
I’ve still got a lot of work to do in the freezers. So far, I’ve cleaned out and tossed (usually to the chickens, goats, or dogs), and started reorganizing and planning my space and adjustments in what I put away. I’ll work on it a little at a time all summer as I prepare to restock and repack the freezers by fall to take us through the next year until it starts all over again. (I need to take a day per freezer and move everything out to another freezer while I do some defrosting all around, too.)
Organizing the freezers is a lot of work, but I don’t have to do it very often. It’s exciting and satisfying, too. I get better at planning and preparing every year, and we become more self-sustainable every year. By the time I’m 95, I’m going to be AWESOME at this!!!
Sheila Z says:
Get a vacuum sealer. They are well worth the money. Food keeps at least twice as long and doesn’t show any signs of freezer burn. I wish the commercial sealers were cheaper though. I’d definitely get one if I could. I have a Food Saver and although they work the bags are really over priced compared to the bags that you use with the commercial sealers. I hope that eventually someone will make a sealer for home use that uses the cheaper bags. Any engineers out there? There are a lot of people that are looking for a better option.
On June 9, 2011 at 2:00 am
Granny Trace says:
:woof: Friend when you figure the whole organizational thing out..Please tell us all…I dont think I will ever be.
Maybe when Im 96..hehe
Have good day
On June 9, 2011 at 6:47 am
Thanks for the inspiration!
On June 9, 2011 at 6:56 am
I hate throwing food out… I have a larger Food Saver too…The smaller ones just didn’t work… I have used (carefully) heavier freezer bags in mine… It wont be as good as the regular bags but in a pinch they will do…
On June 9, 2011 at 8:21 am
Suzanne, please forgive me if I’ve missed this along the way, but I was wondering as I read about “butter and buttermilk”, do you use “sweet” or “sour”, “heavy” or “light” cream/milk to make butter and buttermilk? I was thinking you made butter from “sweet, heavy” cream when you first started and that there was little or no buttermilk to save.
On June 9, 2011 at 8:26 am
Suzanne McMinn says:
Judy, yes, I use the sweet heavy cream to make butter, but there’s always buttermilk!
On June 9, 2011 at 8:27 am
Bev in CA says:
Yes, tis the season. Defrosting our freezers a top proority this week. A week and a half to go and it is time to process our CornishX. All of a sudden there is so much to do and plan. When fall comes it will be well worth it!
On June 9, 2011 at 8:49 am
How timely. We just cleaned out the freezers last night. Joy for the dogs, chickens & worms. :woof: Joy for us, too, now that we can navigate again. We actually make up inventory sheets and post them on the freezer door. If we can, we put the dates of the veggies or whatever on the list and put the older stuff to the front. The fact that we have to do this at least once a year is a testament to the fact that we are not indeed organized by nature but out of necessity!But the inventory list does help a lot.
When I cook up lots of stock, I freeze it in muffin tins, then pop the stock hockey pucks in ziplocks & store them. You take out as many cups of stock as you need. It works great. The little ziplock containers would work for that, too. Come to thinkof it, I’ve got a nice stash of chicken carcasses ready to go. That’ll clear up more space, too.
Like Suzanne says, you gotta make room for the harvest and the incoming meat. We’ve got extra chickens going to freezer camp next month.
On June 9, 2011 at 9:15 am
I have a question about your butter. I can never seem to get the salt/cream ratio just right. Do you have an actual recipe/measurement you use?
On June 9, 2011 at 9:51 am
Suzanne McMinn says:
cabynfevr, no, I don’t use a recipe with specific measurements when I do it. I just taste the butter!
On June 9, 2011 at 9:58 am
Someone on the Farm Bell Blog wrote ” As far as amounts, 2C of heavy cream should yield apx 1/4C of butter. I use about 1/4 t. of salt for that much butter.” Tasting the butter doesn’t seem to work for me on a regular basis! Must be hormones or just my mood on any given day lol
On June 9, 2011 at 10:04 am
Ramona Slocum says:
Suzanne you amaze me. We can all take lessons from you. I used to make a list of meat, veggie, & fruit I put into the freezer and crossed out what I used. Ex. if I put 10, 1 pound packages of hamberger in. I would write hamberger with 10 check marks after it. I would then cross off the check marks as I used them. I always knew how much I had left. We had 3 freezers when the 4 kids were at home. Now it’s just me and I have 1 freezer. You are very self sustaining. I enjoy hearing about your plans and how you get everything done. You motivate me. Thank you.
On June 9, 2011 at 10:06 am
Leck Kill Farm says:
You have leftover peppers! Peppers are one thing that never lasts at our house. We go through bags and bags.
The first time I bought a side of beef, I made a fantastic chart with cut and quantity. Great except I couldn’t train the rest of the household to cross things off.
Interesting about the ziploc containers versus Rubbermaid. I have had those shatter on my too many times, I wouldn’t freeze in them anymore.
On June 9, 2011 at 10:34 am
Suzanne, Ramona makes a good point in her post that there will shortly be just you and Morgan at home. Believe me getting a son off to college means you use a LOT less food.
Except when they come home on vacation and raid the house for supplies. Packages of boneless skinless chicken parts, frozen baked cookies, homemade soup in quart containers, an extra tube of toothpaste, extra 4 pack of toilet paper, extra soap, paper towels, extra laundry detergent, Sigh, funny how they all seem to go home with him when he leaves.
I swear my sons were astonished when they moved out and found out that the toothpaste fairy didn’t move with them. Old empty tubes would vanish overnight to be replaced with new ones. Must be the toothpaste fairy. Should have left a forwarding address for the toilet paper brownie, too. And, they thought new underwear in plastic packages just spontaneously sprouted on their bedspread while they were gone and the old ones vanished in the wash. Didn’t they know about Mother’s magic.
On June 9, 2011 at 11:11 am
Suzanne McMinn says:
Yes, that’s part of my planning, fewer people to feed on a daily basis! I want to be careful not to overstock.
On June 9, 2011 at 11:41 am
Cheryl LeMay says:
Suzanne, you are amazing! I love the way you freeze in containers and repack into freezer bags. I do that with my frozen eggs and now yogurt starter.But I have a question-what do you freeze your milk in? It must take up a lot of space if you store enough to last until you get milk again.
On June 9, 2011 at 11:50 am
Suzanne McMinn says:
I freeze the milk in gallon-size freezer baggies (1/2 gallon per bag). I will freeze up the bare minimum on milk. I will have some milk supply as soon as she has the calf, just limited, but if I have enough butter and cheese stored up, I’ll be okay. We’re not actually huge milk drinkers, so I can get by on 1/2 gallon milk a week if necessary. That’s only during the drying off time that I won’t have new milk at all.
On June 9, 2011 at 11:54 am
I guess we must all think alike. I just cleaned out my freezers in May. ( mostly to see what type of fruit I need to stock up on and what I can sell fresh) I gave up on using boxes this time because I HATE to defrost the freezer. That said, it was like a frozen tundra in there. When I went to pull the boxes out they tore and were soft so I started using dishpans. They have handles and can easily stack in a cooler if I have to defrost on the fly. I put alot of stuffed peppers in the freezer, individually wrapped so I can just pull out what I need. I put them in the crock pot. It’s a quick meal that way, just put them in frozen and go about your day. I can post if anyone is interested.
On June 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm
Suzanne McMinn says:
roosterrun, will you post that recipe on Farm Bell Recipes? I’d love to have that one for this year!
On June 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm
Hmmm…I am thinking this ziploc container method will work with soups, gravies, sauces as well!! light bulb moment! Thank you for sharing.
On June 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm
A newbie to this space. I’m enjoying looking around … A ‘refining the process’ suggestion: Try using square containers to initially freeze stuff in. Takes up less space in the freezer.
On June 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm
Suzanne, you have inspired me to clean out my freezer! And that’s a good tip about freezing in the Ziploc freezer containers and then putting it into baggies.
I make hamburg into patties and freeze them, and also I freeze bacon strips by wrapping them in wax paper indiv. and then putting into a baggie.
Will, good idea about the square containers. I just bought some of those and will put them to use very soon.
On June 9, 2011 at 9:15 pm
I freeze my soups, stews, and chili in quart zip bags. I lay them flat until they are solid, Then I place them upright separated by file folders. (Before I had a freezer drawer, I used an old office file holder to keep them upright.) Now I don’t have to dig to the bottom of a pile of food to find the entree I want, they’re as easy to reach as papers in a file. Now I organize my bags of frozen veggies and fruits in the same fashion. Not my idea, tho—it’s Jamie Leigh Curtis’s, she explained it once on a show I was watching.
On June 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm
Suzanne, I will try to post the stuffed pepper recipe later on today when I have more of a brain. You will have to double or triple it because it came from a cooking for two cookbook 20 years ago. It’s easy to do.
On June 10, 2011 at 1:51 am
“By the time I’m 95, I’m going to be AWESOME at this!!!”
You’re AWESOME at this NOW!!!! :heart:
On June 10, 2011 at 7:04 am
Suzanne, I managed to get the stuffed pepper recipe posted. I hope you can use it.
On June 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm
Suzanne McMinn says:
Thank you! It looks wonderful–and easy!
If anyone reading in the comments here is interested in it, you can find it posted here:
On June 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm
I also have several freezers, on the front of each one is a dry erase board with every item in the freezer listed on it, AND the date it was prepped/frozen.
Only way my OCD mind can keep track of things and insure a proper turnover of items.
On July 4, 2011 at 9:41 am