Thursday, September 18, 2014

What To Do With An Entire Freezer Full of Defrosted Meat and Fish

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Part of Mount Protein
My husband and I just came back from a 2 day vacation, and, having made sure to clean the house thoroughly before we left, were looking forward to relaxing in our spotless home as soon as we arrived.
Already at the front door, we could tell something was wrong, as our lights wouldn't turn on...
Turns out the circuit breaker tripped. And why? Because somehow, our freezer door wasn't fully closed, and everything in the freezer melted, dripped down onto the circuitry, and shorted it out, as well as dripping into our fridge and all over the floor...

In addition to all the huge mess on the floor, the biggest headache was that my freezer was packed to the brim with fish, chicken, and meat that I bought on sale... and all defrosted. Fortunately, it was still all cold, so nothing spoiled...
But since that meat couldn't be refrozen unless it was cooked first... I had the monumental task of cooking it all up tonight and refreezing it. (Once a month cooking style.)

Fun fun.

But first, we had to fix the freezer, make sure it wouldn't short circuit the house anymore. So we took apart the freezer, removed the bottom, and dried off every last bit of water we could find, then used a blow dryer to dry it the rest of the way, until it no longer was short circuiting.

And then the cooking began.

My challenge was this:

Everything had to be gluten free, egg free, and dairy free.

I didn't want to cook it all up the same way, since I get bored of the same food over and over, so I wanted my meat and fish to have variety or the options of variety.

I obviously needed to make things that took very little energy, since I had so much to do....

Here's what I did.

I had 4 beef pot roasts (shoulder and shank) as well as 3 hunks of veal cheek. All needing "low and slow"...

I took 2 shank roasts and stuck them together in my smaller crock pot, added apples, ginger, cinnamon, and date syrup, then put it up to cook. It's still cooking.

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I took my hunks of veal cheek and put them in my larger crock pot with soy sauce, ginger, garlic and onions, intending to make it more Asian style. These are also still cooking.

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When they finish cooking and cool, I will slice them up, and freeze each sliced hunk in its respective sauce.

And the shoulder roasts, I boiled away in my cast iron dutch oven, so they can be sliced to used in place of more expensive, softer cuts of meat in stir fries and other such dishes. This gives me the most versatility, that while it is already pre-cooked, I'm not boxed in to only one type of dish to make with it- the possibilities are endless. And the liquid I'm boiling down to make a concentrated beef stock.

Now as for chicken breasts... I had at least 8 halves of chicken breast, probably more. With these, I wanted to cook them up but be able to have as much variety as possible, and be able to stretch them as much as possible. For this reason, I cut up them into cutlets and cooked most of them with just a little garlic and salt, which I can then defrost and add extra seasonings as needed.
I also cooked a portion of them with a simple paprika, cumin, and salt, as these spices are also versatile, and this chicken can then be repurposed into Mexican food, Middle Eastern food, Indian food, etc...

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A small amount I chopped up and fried up, with just salt and garlic, to be used in stir fries and other cooked chicken dishes.

I had 2 lbs of ground beef, which I sauted up in a bit of oil, as cooked crumbles. I can then use this in so many different dishes, from tacos/enchiladas to chili or spaghetti bolognese to stir fries...

My 2 packages of not so bad for you hot dogs were boiled up then re-frozen.

I had a bunch of chicken gizzards, 2 wings, and a chicken neck, and those are currently boiling away on the stove. The broth will be turned into soup, and the gizzards will be frozen in meal sized portions, to be repurposed in a variety of ways.

I also rendered a small amount of chicken fat that I had, as well as a cook up (steam) a lamb's head that I had in the freezer.

I still have a bunch of liver and chicken hearts that I will be grilling soon...

And then there's the fish...

I had about 4 packages of sole fish (probably a good 25-30 fillets) as well as a couple of young hake (bone in)...

I personally find fish to be a little less versatile, and since I don't tend to cook it in dishes like I do chicken, I didn't mind having more specific flavors with the fish.

About half the sole was baked with tomatoes, foraged capers, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.

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The rest of the sole I cooked simply by pouring some homemade chili powder on to it and baking.

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The bone-in hake was cooked on a bed of salt.

And now my freezer... is no where near stuffed. Because cooked, these take up far less room.

And because unfortunately, I did end up needing to toss some stuff that were in my freezer, like a few bags of cooked of beans that became covered in chicken and beef blood...

But all in all... what could have been a disaster financially has now turned out to be a boon- I now have my food all prepared in advance, and don't need to cook it every day.

Have you ever arrived home to find a defrosted freezer? Was the food wasted or was there a way to salvage it? If you salvaged it, how did you do so?


  1. Oh my gosh - what a disaster! Thankfully you had the time and energy to cook it all up! Props to you for not dwelling and just getting to the task at hand!

    Do you think the cooked fish will freeze ok without a funny taste?

    The roast with apples looks very yummy.

    Coming home to a surprise mess after a vacation is such a downer - but you guys made the most of it!

    1. I hope the fish will taste good cooked, but we shall see...
      And yea, as for energy, I really don't have energy- I'm about to conk out....

    2. But I wasn't about to let it all go to waste, so i worked hard... But I seriously am exhausted now.

  2. You can always use the fish in stews/soups if it doesn't taste all that great alone. I love having meals on hand already cooked but my oh my - that was an awful lot of work for you!

  3. I'm sure the work was totally worth it.

    And I lol'd at "mount protein."

  4. OMG! I was looking for a new frugal mom website to follow and stumbled across yours! Wow, I can't believe what happened to you! I have a freezer full of food and don't know what I would do if it all defrosted. Good for you. I look forward to reading your past posts. BTW, it was kind of hard for me to sign up for your posts (I had to scroll down really far to find out where to sign up). I signed up and look forward to hearing more frugal ideas.

  5. I had this happen once, and at the time I was ordering meat once every three months from an interstate butcher and having it shipped frozen! My freezer was a very very full. I think I caught it earlier than you, and I looked up what things I could safely refreeze if they had not completely defrosted. But I do have a picture somewhere of the six massive pots of chicken soup cooking at the same time, on every burner of my stove ! There was no way I was going to refreeze chicken frames a.k.a. carcasses. I think I cooked all the ground beef too, maybe all of the chicken actually. I think I refroze beef roasts and lamb chops and shanks. On the plus side, I didn't run out of ready-made chicken soup for five or six months!

  6. I was reading about your veal cheeks, and the photo was up on our computer monitor, my husband walks by and asks why are your reading about space? I glanced up at the top of the screen, what? what are your talking about? He said that your crockpost of veal cheeks looked like a picture of a distant galaxy..LOL I don't see it , but , men eye roll.. Great job of saving your food!

  7. Pardon my ignorance but why cant you refreeze thawed meat?

    1. You can refreeze some meat if it's totally organic, locally raised and butchered by a local butcher. However, if it's been cut and packaged at a processor (i.e. what you would buy in the grocery store) there are potential contaminants and bacteria that will grow enough once the meat is thawed that it's not safe to refreeze it. Better to cook and freeze.

    2. My question exactly. I've read this on a few other sites, too. The reasons given were that it was "recommended" by so-and-so because of one-in-a-lifetime case of food poisoning that 'may' happen. I'd think it would be more of a worry during summer or in warm-humid climates.

      As long as it's not slimy / stinky / fungussy / too warm for too long / discolored; I've always thought refreezing was ok, particularly if it was well packaged.

    3. the bacterias that are on the meat (and there are always some) don't die in the freezer, they "sleep" - as soon as you defrost them, they don't only multiply, they explode, way beyond the normal rate before frosting. so, even if you freeze them again, you just put those meanies to sleep, and they will "explode" again as soon as defrosted again.
      And that is really not save, even well cooked.
      that's the reason ;)

  8. This happened to us once too. Now whenever the freezer is overstuffed we use masking tape to tape it shut

  9. My freezer is slowly emptying - we bough a half cow back in January. But when I first got it, it was TOTALLY full of meat - I would have died if the freezer had conked out on me. Very clever ideas, though!!

  10. I have an extra upright fridge and freezer in my back porch and one morning we got up and something had opened the freezer and its contents were scattered through out the porch and onto the back lawn. It had been a really warm night and the sun hits the back porch first thing in the morning. The next night we found out what it was, mama racoon and a few of her little ones raided and cleaned out the freezer. The freezer being an upright made it very easy to clean out for them. We were not able to salvage a thing due to the heat, meat etc on the lawn and in the driveway plus the bacteria that would have come from the mouths of our freezer raiders. My husband made a latch that now you have to move in order to get into the freezer, we also make sure the porch door is closed tight everynight. It was an expensive ordeal but a funny story to tell. I am sure they had a great meal that night.

  11. Meat can be canned, and this is probably the safest way to store it. It's also quick and easy to use when canned. However, it's a lot of work up front. I'm sure having to deal with this was a terrible let down after a refreshing holiday.

    1. But you have to have a pressure canner, right?

    2. you can do it in your oven, that's the way we do it in europe and it's considered totally safe. (there are no pressure canners in europe, at least where i live)

  12. I love having the option to freeze stuff. Frozen veggies are so much better than canned ones (less work, better taste, less salt...).

    But being out of power is definetely a big issue with the freezer :'( There is that and also the space issue. Poor you... that didn't sound fun to take care of all that meat. But now you have a lot of prepared meal ready ! for whenever you do not feel like cooking ! :)

  13. I had just come here for the first time and read about your amazing and relxing anniversary trip. Then I scrolled down and saw this! I am amazed at your energy. And at your yummy looking photos!


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