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More of the Larder Story

March 2, 2016
Opie, Chibs and Fiona

Opie, Chibs and Fiona

It’s no secret that a big part of our “pantry” utilizes freezers.  Of course cute photos of sweet porkers, chicks and calfies make for better blog viewing.  Freezer pictures are a little boring, actually.

Finch and Reese

Finch and Reese


cornish cross meat chicks

But this is the reality on the farm, the meat and other food items end up here.  Growing up we had a small freezer, and kept the bulk of our meat, and frozen produce at the locker.  Six miles away. Inconvenient as heck, except that my mom did the books for the store that served as the country store, butcher and locker, so you would assume that she would grab something from the locker while she was there on Saturdays doing the accounting.  What happened though is that no one ever wanted to go to the cold locker and get all the unidentifiable stuff stored there.  My mom worked full-time in town, so to stop at the locker on the way home in your town clothes was not a favorite thing either.  Subsequently, I think know a lot of what went in that locker got thrown away each year when butchering and harvesting time came.  As we all know, its hard to stop that preserving train once its left the station.  I swear my brother and I got more laughs out of trying to figure out what those unrecognizable globs of stuff were, since we were tasked to go to the locker and “make room”.  At least the meat was properly wrapped and marked so it was clear what year it was from.  Needless to say our dogs ate well… .  (I think my mom invented meatless Monday, we just didn’t think it was cool, because really, when you raise beef cows… . Just sayin’)  The locker wasn’t free either, I can’t remember what the monthly rental was, but we had three, and they were terribly hard to deal with, it was colder than you know what in there, and it was like an archaeological dig in an ice field to find what you might be looking for.

As for having all our eggs in one basket, I worry way less about our freezers in the event of some disaster.  Mostly because that little country store changed hands several times, and I still kept that locker rental going.  Then the new owners decided to remodel and offered to keep our meat in their extra freezer there during the construction.  One day we got a phone call, it seemed that all was copacetic until someone asked the store owner if they had a dead body in the basement.  The dead body was our meat and theirs, someone had inadvertently unplugged the freezer during the remodel, and no one noticed.  We decided to invest in a couple of freezers right then.  So no, I don’t worry much.  Stuff happens, my desire to eat canned meat is pretty low, compared to having it frozen and ready to be prepared as we choose.

Which brings me to some of the details of how and why we freeze some things and not others.  To simplify the description of my preserving style, I would have to say my goal is to stock ingredients, whole foods, not prepared foods, including soups.  I don’t keep freezer inventory, nor do I menu plan.  It’s all in my head, and if something happens to me someday, it will be someone else doing the food keeping, they can keep records if they choose.  Because we raise our own, we know there is an end to the supply, if we run out of something, we run out, we don’t just buy more to fill in the gap.  Keeping a plan and inventory are just more chores that don’t change the fact of what is in the freezer.  It frees my mind up in all actuality because I don’t need to “stick to the plan.” To make it easier on others around me, I keep the food somewhat sorted and labeled if the item is not obvious.  Frozen broccoli needs no explanation, just the year, something like romesco sauce or pesto does need a label in addition to the year.  Today I’ll concentrate on our freezer contents and follow-up on the next post with other items we can, store, or dehydrate.

What we freeze:

Beef, pork, chicken, soup bones, colostrum, butter, cheese, tallow, lard, bone broth, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, melon, broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, corn, mushrooms, snap peas, shell peas, corn, peppers, pesto, and romesco.

Without further ado here are boring pics of several of the freezers, taken with my phone so I didn’t get all the shelves in the photos.  We have five freezers, I took photos of three.  Of the other two, one is full of whole chickens, the other flotsam and jetsam for pet food, not much to see in those.  Keep in mind these are freezers for a three person family that eats three meals every day from the farm.  We probably eat out five times a year total.

This freezer is our most used one and is in our basement.  Berries, butter, bacon are in here.  We don’t eat bacon every day but I want to know where my bacon is all the time, since we stick to our rule of only eating bacon from the pig we harvest.  I could eat bacon every day, but we like to think we’re being responsible nose to tail eaters by sticking to our guns on that.  Do I get wistful when I see bacon on everything and in every flippin’ recipe?  Yes, but that’s living pretty high on the hog even though bacon is on the bottom of the pig.  I didn’t take a photo of the door, it contains bone broth, spices, flour, and colostrum frozen in various containers.  I try to keep a spot open on one of the shelves to store things I might bring in from the other freezers that are in the shop.  When I go shopping, it is to the shop.

I’d like to think I am organized, and have all my freezers empty before any harvesting starts, but ha ha, that never happens, except in the chicken freezer.  This freezer has beef roasts and steaks on the top shelf (not shown), ground beef on the next two shelves,  pork on the bottom shelf, and misc mostly bones for stock and some overflow frozen broccoli.  I try to stick with my rule of meat below veggies and fruit, but to tell you the truth the only blood that gives me the willies is chicken blood, I would not care for that on my veggies or fruit, but beef and pork blood not so much.  Still it’s a good idea to store meat below your vegetables and fruit.


This is the door to the same freezer, unrendered lard and tallow (Bee I feel ya, this is just a small portion of fat I need to render), soup bones and some ’14 cauliflower.  I do freeze a goodly amount of broccoli and cauliflower, with the hopes we probably won’t need it as long as we keep our successions going.  It’s easy to grow, blanch and freeze, so when the next crop comes in this usually goes to the hens.  The dates really help with that, something I learned from those scarring locker experiences when I was a kid.  I make stock each week, and find it easier to just store the bones and make stock as needed.  But this is also a place where you could free up some freezer space by making your stock in one or two big batches, reducing and freezing or canning.  We store chickens whole too, and break them down as we eat them.  This again is a place to free up freezer space, by breaking down your chickens instead of storing the whole carcass.  The way you approach your meals and meal prep really determines the manner in which you freeze your food.

This freezer has the oldest beef that we need to use first, mostly steaks, roasts, and organ meats and a few straggler ground beef packages. In the canning jar boxes are wide mouth half pints full of pesto, romesco, shell peas, & chopped garlic scapes.  Bags of sliced nectarines, whole strawberries, and chopped peppers are in here also.  I don’t bother with pre-freezing anything on a tray anymore before committing the item to the freezer bag, everything still comes out of the bag just fine in the amount needed.  Part of that may stem too from skipping the washing step since we are harvesting our fruits here and bring them right in and put them in the freezer.  There is nothing to wash off.

This the door to the same freezer, corn off the cob, sauteéd chanterelles, and some wild blackberries.  Nothing too exciting, but very useful nonetheless.  By using freezer jars, I have these items in pre-measured amounts that come in handy for cooking. One thing I do that might not work for folks that purchase their meat, is that I thaw out ground beef and pork and make breakfast sausage and then refreeze the sausage.  I say it might not work because one time we were out of pork so I purchased some very expensive pork at the “best” natural food store meat counter and had the pork ground to order.  It got that off-smell within three days, and was a little slimy.  Which leads me to believe that even though this was organic pork it still was handled along with many other animals and contaminants in a large plant.  Which also goes to show you that it’s not just what the animal was fed it is how the meat is handled after the animal is dead.  I would eat a neighbors conventionally fed, small abattoir butchered meat before I would buy organic pork at the store.  Lesson learned.  Back to the as-needed sausage making thing, when I refreeze the sausage I freeze it in containers that hold about 5 days worth of breakfasts so we make sure we use it up in a timely manner just in case.  I do the same with our chickens.  I break down the carcass for three meals, a meal of oven fried wings, thighs and drumsticks, each breast is a meal, one for fajitas, one for stir-fry, and the backbone, wing tips and neck go into the stock pot and usually because I am sloppy on purpose with the knife I can pick one to two more cups of meat off the carcass when the stock is done, and that is reserved for chicken pot pie.  Out of that chicken, usually the breasts go back into the freezer to be refrozen and used later in the week.  Again, I don’t know if I should go out on a limb and recommend this method just because it works for me, but I’m throwing it out there in case you don’t want to spend a day breaking down 25 chickens.  Mileage may vary.

Stay tuned for the next episode, I am off to take photos of what we’re eating in the hunger gap in the way of fresh food.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Jenny permalink
    March 2, 2016 4:58 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing!! I’m loving these posts.

  2. March 2, 2016 5:13 pm

    Holy cow – that’s a lot of food for thought… I am still trying to get my mind around the number of freezers you have and thinking we need to rethink a few things for the farm. I’m loving these larder posts!

    • March 2, 2016 7:49 pm

      LFF, I thought you were gonna say that’s a lot of food! 😉 Well, it’s nice to have an extra one just in case you have to throw a 1/4 beef or 1/2 pig in there for a customer that can’t pick it up right away. Five might be overkill. A couple of them were free from neighbors who were moving and didn’t want to store food anymore. Big tip, for anyone, buy a manual defrost freezer instead of frost-free, the air blowing really causes freezer burn. I would rather defrost than deal with freezer burn yuck.

      • March 3, 2016 3:36 pm

        now there’s another nugget of larder wisdom – I would never have thought about the effects of the blower and freezer burn!
        and that IS A LOT of food… but food with a lot of thought put into it

  3. March 2, 2016 6:26 pm

    I really need to start putting my butter in jars – don’t know why I never get to it – probably because ziploc bags store flat (though I’m not a fan of the plastic). My freezers look similar to yours – with the exception that I can up my chicken and beef stock – and because we both work off farm, I do can up a lot of stew, pork and beans, etc. It’s a huge time saver when we get home from work some nights and can just open a jar and heat it up while we do chores. 😊

    • March 2, 2016 7:52 pm

      Val, I hear you on that, we both use to work off farm, now just my hubby does, so I only have to make sure he has something that translates to a lunch. At home we’re not so fussy. Leftover roasted roots make up a big part of lunch salads around here.

  4. CassieOz permalink
    March 2, 2016 7:31 pm

    Oh Matron, I knew we were kindred spirits! Refreezing good clean meat safely (although your chickens are clearly MUCH bigger than my farmyard mutts ), not quite getting the freezer empty before next harvest (despite best intentions), eating only bacon from your own pig (cuz the storebought stuff is awful anyway) and when some stored product is finished, it’s off the menu til next season. I get so many weird looks and comments when I answer questions about our lifestyle, that it’s so validating to know there are other weirdos out there. Thank you for a great, revealing post as always. Now I must get back to canning tomato products and bottling grape juice. 🙂

    • March 2, 2016 7:55 pm

      CassieOz, my twin!! I just uncanned some tomato products, we had spaghetti for dinner 🙂 Oh my gosh, that bacon, we savor it and dole it out sparingly.

  5. Charlotte permalink
    March 2, 2016 10:25 pm

    Brilliant post, as always! You’re the only person that I know of, who can discuss the contents of her freezer whilst keeping the reader completely enthralled 🙂
    Happy to see you’ve resumed your blog again.

  6. March 3, 2016 2:51 am

    We also have a lot of freezers. They are all chest freezers, with baskets. I find them easy to organize, as I use freezer boxes for veg and fruit. I stack like items together. The 3 newer freezers came with dividers for the bottom and those help keep the meat organized. I love going shopping downstairs, making a meal from what’s right here on the farm. We have 2 more big chest freezers in the barn that we refill the house freezers from. Our freezers may not be empty by the time butchering rolls around, but they are pretty close.

    • March 3, 2016 12:07 pm

      I need baskets! My chest freezer is in a bit of a mess this year and I bet there is some veg at the bottom of it.

  7. Bee permalink
    March 3, 2016 4:25 am

    Frankly, CassieOz, I’d say we’re the smart ones:-) This nonsense of subsisting on fast foods and prepackaged convenience meals is no more than a temporary aberration in human history. Us so-called weirdos can handle power outages, oil shortages, trucker strikes and similar disasters with one hand tied behind our backs. As for refreezing meat, I do the same. I’ve always wondered whether the advice not to refreeze has something to do with similar nonsense about putting jams and jellies in a water bath, not eating raw eggs, cooking pork to 160 degrees (135 is fine) and so on. I suspect that commercial meat probably wouldn’t handle refreezing — which says something about the quality of commercial meat. I could do with one more freezer (we have two big ones, a small chest freezer and a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer). The thing that really stresses my storage capabilities is the period right after we butcher; when you’ve got 700 pounds of meat and scraps all at once, it takes up a lot of room. Luckily my butcher will let me leave some boxes of scraps in his locker for a few weeks while I go through the process of making chicken balls and rendering fat. Nita, your freezers are a heck of a lot better organized than mine (although you probably don’t have two other adults and three kids digging in them and shuffling things around). I second the manual defrost. My big freezers live in the storage container we call the wash house — not ideal with our hot summers but the only place there’s room — so when it’s time to defrost, my daughter and I muscle the empty freezer out to the door and I turn the hose on the inside; takes about 15 minutes. I have one second-hand freezer that has a weak seal, so it’s wrapped with a trucker’s strap and cinched down to keep it from leaking air around the door. Now, that gets the occasional odd look from guests!

    • March 3, 2016 6:12 am

      Bee, my chicken freezer is a weak one too, we do the same and I get a bunch of chix out when I have room in a different freezer. Poor thing it hardly runs but is the coldest one we have. Not ready for the heap yet.

  8. quinn permalink
    March 3, 2016 5:03 am

    With just a small chest freezer now, I try to stay on top of what’s on the bottom, so to speak. But even with such limited space, a mystery package can appear on Defrost Day.
    Two questions: how do you freeze melon? I assumed it would turn into mush on the defrost – no? Also, do you ever re-use the freezer bags for similar fruits and veg? I reluctantly use ziplocks a lot now, because jars create so much wasted space in my small freezer. I appreciate that the bags work so well, but don’t like buying so much throwaway plastic. Oh, and for freezing a couple of extra portions of cooked foods, I also use 3-cup rectangular Pyrex containers with plastic lids. They stack nicely, like bricks 🙂
    Thanks for sharing such details on your system! With the bonus pictures of young critters 😉

    • March 3, 2016 6:33 am

      Quinn, my mystery packages are always frozen in recycled yogurt containers, things like soup or leftovers that I don’t label…sometimes I have to thaw them out to see what the heck is that. I have been trying to plan meals with extra for lunches for my husband, so I use those small pyrex containers with the plastic lid for those, and they disappear fast so I don’t have to wonder what they are…hopefully.

      Yeah, okay melon, it is mush but I use it for smoothies, but I only froze it because I planted way too many plants, and I just couldn’t let those delicious melons go to waste. But over the course of the winter, I discovered that those beautiful Musque de Provence winter squash taste delicious and quite melon like in a smoothie and need no processing, just a cool, dry storage place. So this year, melons in succession for fresh eating and no more freezing.

      I do reuse the bags, unless they had meat in them, then they do go in trash 😦

      • quinn permalink
        March 3, 2016 9:50 am

        Melon smoothies sound lovely! And now I’ll look up that winter squash as well – thanks 🙂

    • Karen permalink
      March 3, 2016 7:53 am

      Quinn, I do the brick method but in smaller containers. When the food is thoroughly frozen I transfer it to ziplocs so I can reuse the container for the same purpose. An extra step but my freezer space is at a premium. And I’m anal. And obviously a weirdo. 🙂

      Matron, Definitely not boring! I feel a little like a freezer voyeur.

  9. March 3, 2016 5:42 am

    Astounding for me to see. thank you so much for sharing-hardly boring at all! I wish I did not have a frost-free, they are horrible… Loved the plain freezer I used to have, so much cheaper to run!

  10. Beth in Ky permalink
    March 3, 2016 7:34 am

    love this larder post!

  11. christinalfrutiger permalink
    March 3, 2016 8:19 am

    Wow! Not many people can look into their freezers and say…I grew, raised, processed and prepared all this food for my family…Beautiful!

  12. March 3, 2016 10:04 am

    Lol you cleaned for these photos didn’t you? Be honest now😜 I have two freezers and pretty much have the same things minus the pork and butter. I try to keep in rotated so it all gets used and there isn’t some “mystery” package or pail at the bottom. I have to MAKE myself label everything and put a date on it and THAT has taken me years to come to terms with….I must finally be growing up and not just winging it…….but who doesn’t like a mystery once in a while eh?

    • March 3, 2016 10:18 am

      Linda, actually I didn’t but I did come clean about the two freezers I didn’t take photos of. They could use some rearranging, I am way behind on my fat rendering, I either need to make some soap or give that fat to someone, it is backing up :p

  13. Emily from TX permalink
    March 4, 2016 10:58 am

    Wow, it all looks so organized! We just had to clean up a freezer mishap because our freezer is not at our place of residence (it’s at the mother in law’s) and therefore not under our supervision…At least we had eaten most of our purchased steer by the time the power decided not to come back on.

    How do you like to prepare and cook your organ meat and What kinds of meals do you use them in? Does freezing organ meat affect the flavor and freshness? Not sure where I got that idea, but it got into my head somehow. We hardly ever eat organ meats because they’re hard to come by if you don’t raise your own animals and I don’t trust the freshness of what I can buy.

    • March 4, 2016 12:24 pm

      Emily, not fun 😦 Oh my gosh, we like the organ meats plain, roasted and stuffed heart or actually 1/2 with stuffing so we can stretch it a bit, boiled tongue, and liver fried. I don’t care for the liver after it’s been frozen so we try to eat it right away if possible. The tongue and heart though freeze really well without a change in the taste. I think I’m a liver snob since we would eat it right away (well, after the body heat was gone, or soon thereafter) when I was kid, after eating frozen liver I see why some people do not like liver. :p


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