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Food Preservation – Freezing Meats

August 23, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAModern food preservation is easier than ever before with a freezer that enables you to stock up on meats when they’re on sale or purchase directly from a farmer. Most people don’t have need for 180 pounds of pork even at a great deal of under $3.50/pound including customized cutting but with a freezer and proper storage you can indeed buy a whole hog, have it cut to order and use it as you need it.

However this game plan does have some cautions. Like everything there are advantages and disadvantages and money is a big advantage in stocking up. Another is you have food on hand if the paycheck is low one week or unexpected guests come over. However you must be totally prepared including if the power goes out in a disaster. Having disaster food is of little good if you use it because you don’t plan to keep the freezer cold.

Vacuum packed meats can be frozen as is and for short term storage most foods can be put directly in the freezer. Airtight freezer bags are recommended for longer storage. The faster you freeze the better – spread it out for the fastest freeze time. You can stack it later to be organized but fast freezing reduces freezer burn and prolongs the taste and quality of your meats.

Meats will change color somewhat and if you purchase direct you may notice a difference in color and texture from what you see at the grocery meat counter. This is ok and is a variance that is not harmful. However, if there is any odor at all it’s best to not take chances – discard it.

Beef and fresh slaughtered meats should be chilled for 2 days and, if desired, aged for a week or so before freezing in freezer paper or airtight bags. The more air you can keep off the meat the longer it will last. Once the meats have been thawed it’s best to use them but I have re-frozen one time in case of power outages.

If the power goes out keep the freezer shut. This conserves the cold and allows the meats themselves to provide “chill time.” Keep the freezer full – even if it means using water bottles to use space – solid is better than air. Air warms faster than a solid ice cube! Ideally have small chest or other freezer and in your refrigerator/freezer transfer items for that week’s meals or up to a couple weeks meals. Doing this you can keep the storage freezer closed during outages. Alternatively have a generator just to run the freezer and refrigerator.

Organize your freezer to make it possible to grab what you need and get out. Rotate foods to use the oldest first. Ground meats have a lower store time than solid cuts such as roasts, but I’ve used even ground meats stored six months in the freezer, provided they are kept frozen. Ground meats are definitely not one to refreeze – if it thaws use it, even if it’s feeding pets.

Another option for those facing roasts thawing – you don’t have a way to use it all so how do you go for preserving option #2 as it thaws? You make lemons out of lemonade or in this case jerky out of roasts! Lean meats work best – thaw and dry over a low fire either on a grill or, if power isn’t the issue, in a dehydrator. Properly dried jerky extends the use date by weeks, salvaging much that would otherwise be lost. Dried beef can still be used in pasta and other dishes as it rehydrates. Additionally, quick thinking people can preserve for room temperature storage and lose little to none even in a freezer outage.

For those in the cold regions have plastic tubs available – in freezing weather meats can be stored outside or in an unheated room out of the sun. If it’s 20 degrees out it’s not going to thaw providing it’s out of the sun and away from animals. This is an obvious solution but few think of it – and although a last resort it beats losing the food.

Be prepared. It pays off in an emergency!

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