I thought I’d slowly get into posting more information both about canning (I still need to post pressure canning info) and freezing, then possibly other food storage information. I took a break for a while because these posts are actually really time consuming and taxing and I just needed to stop for a while. But I’m thinking if I try and do about one a week, I should be able to handle that – what do you think “Food Fridays”?
Anyway – I touched a bit last time on freezing, with some basic guidelines and how I do stuff. So I thought I’d get a bit more into the “how I do it” part. I’ve said before, and will always be repeating – I’m no expert, nor am I trying to tell you that this is the only way to do something! I’m more more of a “find what works for you” kinda person – in pretty much every aspect of life. SO, with that in mind – lets move forward.
This time on The Hippie Homesteader I’m going to cover freezing bulk meat, specifically beef roast. Therefor, this is your only warning that this post is going to contain pictures of raw meat – if that grosses you out, turn back now, do not proceed, this post isn’t for you. Everyone else – click below to see the rest of the post.
So, I mentioned in my intro to freezing post that I buy my meat in bulk, and then freeze it into individual meals. My FAVORITE way to do this is by pre seasoning foods and freezing them into ready to cook packets for the crockpot (have I mentioned I love my crockpot? No, oh well let me just say I LOVE MY CROCKPOT!). The best part of this method: you can take the meat directly from the freezer, open the package, dump it in the crockpot, add the required liquids and turn it on! Seriously, no need to thaw, and dinner is still on the table in 6-8 hours! Again, let me just say I love my crockpot. My family would probably either a) starve to death or b) live on freezer pizza if it weren’t for my crockpot. No, I am not exaggerating.
So – let me show you how I do this using two different examples…
The first example is SUPER easy, and might be my most favorite pot roast recipe ever. I got it from Kate’s blog a couple years back, and it instantly became a hit. The recipe is: 1 beef roast (3 or 4 pounds is plenty big unless you’re serving a small army), 1 packet each: brown gravy mix, italian dressing mix, ranch dressing mix (I’ve seen this recipe a couple different ways, the ranch and italian dressing are always there, but sometimes the gravy mix is something different), 8 ounces (I always use more, this is my favorite part) sliced mushrooms, 1 can (2 cups) beef broth. Seriously – that’s it, 6 ingredients! To cook it you rub the dry mixes onto the roast, put it on top of the mushrooms in your crockpot, poor the broth in around the meat and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the meat is fully cooked. Again, super easy!
So, now let me show you how I freeze it ahead of time:
The fist step is to divide your meat if you bought in bulk. In this case I bought a two pack Eye of Round Roast at Costco so it’s super simple, just open them and seppoarte them into individual baggies. (Please note, I’m using a FoodSaver vacuum sealer to package my meat, this is ABSOLUTLY not required, the same thing can be done using a regular sip lock bag and using a straw to suck the extra air out (thanks Alton Brown for rocking my world with that one) or if that grosses you out, just try and press as much air out of your ziplock as you can before you seal it.)
Now, for the three packet pot roast here’s how it works:
Open up your three packets and dump their contents onto the meat – yeah it’s that simple. You may now be saying “hey, but you said in the cooking instructions that your supposed to rub the dry mixes all over the meat” and you’d be right. Let me let you onto a little secret – in a crockpot, it doesn’t matter. The flavor will fully cook into the meat either way. However, if you’re a stickler you’ve got two choices 1) stick your hands in that baggie and rub the spices all over the meat or 2) be like me:
Gather the top of your bag in your hands (or if your using a ziplock, just close the top, but don’t squeeze the air out) and shake the bag. This will stir the dry mixes around and *mostly* coat the meat hunk.
Now you’ve got a bag with dry stuff and meat: You could toss in the mushrooms if you want but a) I’ve read they don’t freeze well and I’ve never tried to to say one way or the other and b) I didn’t have any – I’ll buy them the week I plan to actually cook the roast.
If you’re only doing one package of meat, you just need to seal it up, label it, and stick it in the fridge. If you’re doing multiples, I recommend going more assembly line style and mix up all your bags then seal them all then label them all – it helps keep the mess contained a bit more in my experience.
So, that’s what I’m going to show you – lets move onto example #2
For this packet, I’m putting together a Pomegranate Beef Recipe, which is a little more complicated. Remember how I said that when you’re doing this for crockpot cooking, you leave out the wet ingredients. The reason for that is because you want them to actually be wet ingredients when you put them in your crockpot, and if you’re like me and you put the whole packet in straight from the freezer, they won’t be wet, they will be solid like everything else (if you are “proper” and thaw your packet first, it doesn’t matter and you can freeze the wet with the dry since by thawing it you’ll revert it back to it’s liquid state). So, the Pomegranite Beef recipe poses a bit more of a challenge because it’s got several wet ingredients:
1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Normally, I wouldn’t put in any of these and just stick to the rest of the recipe (I’m omitting the olive oil the recipe calls for, because it’s for coating the crock not for seasoning at all), this time I decided to go ahead and try it with also freezing the can of crushed tomatoes with it (I used regular crushed not the fancy fire-roasted ones because thats what I had), I figured there were enough other liquids I’d be adding after that I should be fine with this plan of attack.
I should also note that many places say that garlic and onion don’t freeze well – I’ve never had a problem with onion, and garlic supposedly doesn’t freeze well mostly because it changes colors when it freezes – since I’m going to put it in my crockpot where it will turn the same brown/red color as everything else I didn’t care too much.
So – put all the dry herbs, the onion and garlic, as well as a can of crushed tomatoes in the bag – then went ahead and tossed on the raisins.
Yeah, I know, it doesn’t look pretty. But it’s in there and done.
So, now is the time when I seal up all my bags
Then they all get labeled with the date I froze them, the name of the recipe inside, and if it’s not one I make all the time (like the 3 packet pot roast is I know that one by heart – helps that it’s super easy) I write where the recipe is (either website or cookbook) for easy reference later.
Then they go in the freezer with the rest of my frozen meals
And I’m all set for two more dinners with less than an hours worth of work. Extra bonus – the kitchen only gets dirty once even though I’ve made two meals (or more on other days, today I was only doing two). Not too shabby.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of The Hippy Homesteader, as always I love your feedback, and if there’s something in particular you’re wondering of you’d like to learn how to do – let me know!