by Susan M. Collins-Smith, Mississippi State University Extension Service
As families limit trips to the grocery store, they can use their freezers to preserve more than just meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Dairy products and eggs can also be frozen.
Natasha Haynes, a family and consumer science agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the freezer is one of the best ways to save money and reduce food waste.
“Right now, a lot of people have questions about whether they can freeze dairy products, eggs, and bread,” Haynes said. “You absolutely can, but each product is different, and you want to make sure you freeze them correctly. That way, you’ll have the best quality products when you are ready to use them.”
Haynes, who is also host of “The Food Factor,” a digital platform she uses to share recipes, tips, and other information about food and nutrition on the Extension for Real Life blog, gives guidelines for freezing dairy, eggs, and bread.
Remove an inch or two of milk from the container before freezing to allow for expansion. Use smaller containers to freeze individual serving sizes or ice cube trays for small amounts for cooking. After thawing in the refrigerator overnight, shake the milk or use a whisk to reconstitute it. The fats and proteins thaw faster than the water, which causes milk to separate as it thaws. Drink it or use it immediately.
Some people find that freezing milk changes the flavor. Haynes recommends freezing a small amount to try if it is to be used for drinking or for cold cereal.
Freeze cheeses that will be used for cooking or as toppings for salads because freezing changes the texture. Shredded, soft cheeses, such as mozzarella or young cheddar, freeze well. Hard cheeses, such as aged cheddar, will be crumbly once thawed. Thaw cheese 24 to 48 hours before use. This allows the moisture to reabsorb. Freeze it in its original packaging. Butter can be frozen by the package or in individual sticks. Leave in its original wrapping, then wrap in plastic wrap and foil or another wrapping that is moisture- and vapor-proof. Place wrapped butter in an air-tight container to prevent it from absorbing other flavors. Properly packaged, unsalted butter can last up to five months in the freezer. Salted butter can last up to nine months in the freezer.
Thaw milk, cheese, and butter in the refrigerator, and use them immediately.
For more information about freezing dairy products, visit the National Dairy Council’s website, Undeniably Dairy, at www.usdairy.com.
To freeze eggs, remove them from the shell and beat until just blended. Put them in a sealed container and freeze for up to one year. Thaw them in the refrigerator or under cold, running water. Use thawed, frozen eggs only in dishes that are thoroughly cooked.
For more ways to freeze whole eggs and information about freezing egg yolks, egg whites and hard-boiled eggs, visit the American Egg Board’s Incredible Edible Egg Eggcyclopedia website at www.incredibleegg.org/eggcyclopedia/f/freezing-eggs/. Always freeze products before their expiration dates.
Qula Madkin, an Extension instructor of nutrition in the MSU Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, said freezing does not affect the nutrient value of foods. “Quality and texture changes may occur with some items,” she said. “For example, milk may not look or taste exactly like it would if it had not been frozen. But it’s nutritional value remains the same.”
The same is true for fruits and vegetables, Madkin said.
“Freezing at peak ripeness simply means the most nutrients are retained,” she said. “This is why we recommend it especially during this crisis and when you are not going to eat fresh fruits or vegetables before they go bad.”