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!!!