Last month I mentioned cooking in bulk and how it is a huge topic. Well, it certainly is, and we probably won’t cover every detail in this article. Winter is the perfect time to take on this project, especially now as we are in between Yomim Tovim, many of us are in lockdown, and the rest of us are staying home more on these long cold evenings.
I am going to review a few basic tips and tricks I use to make cooking for my freezer fun, easy, and totally worth the time.
To start, you need to choose some of your favourite recipes and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. Last month’s tip of a master list comes in right here – run through your master list and make sure you have all the little ingredients you will need like salt, sugar, and plenty of parchment paper. Don’t worry, you will run out of something, I think that is par for the course, but we can always make it work.
Some of my favourites to cook for the freezer are soup, chicken, ground meat, and baked goods. All these things freeze beautifully and defrost as if they were fresh.
Once you have all your ingredients and a list of things you want to make (I recommend about 6-8 items which will take you around 3-6 hours), we’re going to start. Always start with things that take the longest to cook. For me, it is always the soups. To make this easier I will use my own typical cook-day as an example:
To make: Chicken soup, vegetable soup, 2 roast chickens, tomato meatballs, chicken schnitzel, challah.
Preparation order: I start with the challah dough. That takes the longest and needs a warm environment in which to rise (which my kitchen is about to become). As I don’t need the mixer bowl for anything else on this list I will leave that soaking, but the little measuring tools I will quickly rinse so they are ready to be used again.
Now we move on to soups because those can be left on the flame for a nice long time. Chicken soup is easy enough but peel enough vegetables for the vegetable soup also – one activity at a time saves time later. Assemble both soups in your biggest pots and leave to simmer on the back flame.
Next we can move on to the roast chicken. Simple enough. I like to buy a pack of 2 chickens cut into 1/8ths and use the necks and bones for the soup and then make two pans of roast chicken. Roast chicken is also really easy and freezes well either cooked or raw. How you prepare it is totally up to you. Sometimes I don’t have time to cook and cool it for long enough before freezing so I just spice it and freeze it raw but ready to cook (make sure to label it as such). Other times I cook it first. If we are being entirely honest, defrosting and reheating/cooking times are pretty much about the same so it is completely personal preference.
Chicken done. We are moving on to the ground meat. Meatballs do take some time so occasionally I make meat sauce – tastes the exact same and no rolling balls for 10 minutes. Whilst that simmers, prepare the chicken schnitzel. This is about my most favourite trick in the book.
We are going to egg and breadcrumb the cutlets – but will not fry or bake them. You will need a tray and some pieces of parchment paper for this trick. Egg and bread the cutlets and lay them flat on the tray. Between layers place a piece of parchment paper to stop them sticking. Once they are all done, cover the container really well (double wrap is always best) and place in the freezer. This is my favourite because I can then take out however many schnitzels required and fry/bake from frozen for a fresh crispy juicy piece of schnitzel whenever desired. Just remember if you are cooking raw chicken from frozen it will need extra time and you should use a thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is 165^F at least to avoid food poisoning.
At this point your meatballs/meat sauce will be done and your soups simmering nicely. Vegetable soup needs less time than chicken so I usually blend it, before dividing it into containers and leaving to cool for freezing. Chicken soup is left overnight unless you have a pressure cooker, in which case you can cool that now also. Next, braid your challahs. If you are cooking your chicken now, it won’t be ready yet so whilst the challahs have a second rise and the chicken finishes cooking, I wash all the dishes, clean down the counters, and put everything away. Now I can cool the chicken, bake the Challahs and make sure everything is double wrapped and ready to freeze.
As I said at the beginning, there is so much to talk about in this department – hopefully this basic example will be helpful.
Some tips to sign off with:
- Make sure you have plenty (more than you think is plenty) Ziploc bags and silver foil ready for wrapping. The better your food is wrapped the better it will freeze.
- If you usually buy one chicken, buy two. If you usually buy 2lbs of ground meat, buy 4lbs. You are already cooking so why not make a little extra.
- Don’t just freeze in family sized containers. Freeze some soup in small containers and meatballs too so you can use them for a quick lunch or supper for one when no one else is home.
- Enjoy the process. It is tiring and yes, when I am done with my cooking marathon I usually collapse for a good hour, but I also love it. I feel good when doing It and looking at a full freezer always makes me happy.
- Finally, if cooking everything is too complicated, too time consuming, or you don’t have enough pots, buy in bulk sizes and spice and prep so that it is 3 steps less when it is supper time and everyone is hungry. Buy that 4lbs of meat, spice it and bag it in portion sized bags (press it down flat to save freezer space) so that you can defrost quickly and have supper cooked in much less time.