“We’ve spent the morning cleaning out the chest freezer to make room because turkey was on sale,” my friend told me.
He said during the process of uncluttering their second freezer, they found lots of foods he and his wife intended to turn into soups and stews. I immediately identified with that thought. The weather lately has turned several folks to the idea of cooking soup.
Frozen meats and vegetables are perfect choices for overnight defrosting and slow simmering. Here are some ideas to keep in mind if you decide to clear out your freezer in the coming weeks.
Freezer burn. Freezer burn looks like a grey or white patch on food. It happens because air has gained access to the food for a prolonged period of time while it has been stored in the freezer. The exposed food has undergone a chemical change and the result is discoloration. The food is safe to eat, but the taste and texture is typically so unacceptable that most people discard the food.
Thawing food. The safest option for thawing food is overnight in the refrigerator. Choose the lowest shelf in the refrigerator, place the food you are thawing on a pan with an edge (like a baking pan) so any juices from thawing won’t run onto other foods. This is especially important if you are thawing meats.
A quicker version of thawing food is to run a sink of cold water and submerge the food in its original wrapper in the cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the food is thawed completely. You can anticipate the food to thaw at a rate of 1 pound per 30 minutes.
Of course, if you plan to cook food immediately and need it defrosted immediately, the trusty microwave is the answer.
Assembling ingredients for soup can be as easy as adding all the random leftover vegetables to a pot, topping with broth and turning on the heat or it can be as intricate as your most difficult recipe.
Most folks cleaning out the freezer tend to take the “dump it all together” approach. And there are plenty of people who will attest that those are the best soups they have ever eaten.
Here are some suggestions for the “dump it all together” method:
Add plenty of liquid. Meat broth, canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, cream soup, or water are all possibilities for giving your soup a liquid background. If you plan to cook your soup low and slow, make sure there is a generous portion of liquid in the pot.
Add vegetables requiring the longest cooking time first. This will allow all vegetables to remain intact. For example, raw potatoes and cooked broccoli added to the same pot would result in a combination of cooked potatoes and disintegrated broccoli. Waiting to add the broccoli would result in a better dish.
Don’t be afraid to add seasoning. Taste your soup when it first starts cooking and adjust the seasoning. Salt and pepper, herbs, garlic, hot peppers, vinegar, sugar, hot sauce, are all potentials for coaxing the right flavor from your soup. Continue to adjust the seasoning as the soup bubbles on the stove.
A couple of hours of simmering and stirring will result in a super tasty soup and a much roomier freezer.