Operation Freezer: the Best and Worst of Week One (with bonus recipe)

January 9, 2012

I have a problem that I like to call my Freezer Issue – I put food in my freezer but almost never take it out again. So, trips to my freezer are more archaeological expedition than simple food-grab. Like New Year’s day when I found a bag of blackberries, circa 2009, on top of a pile of other things I’m too embarrassed to mention.

So I made a resolution to stop treating my freezer as a vault (“not to be used until the need is dire”) and to start using up the food that has been so lovingly stored in there. New Year’s Day 2012 was the start of Operation Freezer: use it or lose it – to freezer burn or worse, to the Land of Unidentified Frozen Objects.

Step one: prepare for a Dig-with-a-capital-D to the bottom of the freezer.
Step two: bring the oldest stuff to the top.
Steps three through one thousand: use it up!

I am hoping that, by this time next year, a trip to the freezer will be a simple matter of grabbing the chicken or berries or stock or what-have-you.

What makes all this harder is that I actually have three freezers. I know, right? I just might have a food-overstocking problem as well as freezer issues, but one thing at a time, please.

Since I know I am not alone in my freezer issues I thought you all might be interested in my travails. If I can, I will write a Best and Worst post for each week of Operation Freezer. This may or may not morph into a Best and Worst meal of the Week in general. But I had good ones to share from week one of Operation Freezer, so here they are:

Worst: New Years Day, squash soup of indeterminate age
We are having a lazy day around the house, grubbing for leftovers and snacks rather than cooking a meal. I decide to implement my Operation Freezer resolution right away by using up a container of squash soup that I found in Freezer One during my Dig. The kids settled with a grilled ham and cheese, I’m feeling smug as I heat my squash soup (“Look at me! Homemade soup for dinner!”), although I start to worry as the soup gets warm because it doesn’t smell right. (“But that’s just a freezer thing, right?”) I pour it into my bowl and sit down to eat. Yuck! One bite later and I am pouring it down the toilet. Somehow, the soup has gone off! I know from my FoodSafe courses that bacterial activity is only slowed and not stopped altogether in the freezer but still… a soup would have to be in the freezer an awfully long time to go off.
Question: How long has that soup been in there?!
Dinner: I settle for a PB+J with a side of self-pity.

Best: Jan 4th, freezer-burned blackberries, circa 2009
Any self-respecting person would have thrown them away, but I had torn myself to shreds on a hot August day in order to get these blackberries and I was NOT going to waste them. So I decided to waste even more time by making a galette (rustic pie) to use them up.  Thank the heavens the galette turned out so fabulously delicious that I couldn’t believe those were the same berries! What great things butter and sugar and French cuisine can do for freezer-burned fruit, n’est-ce pas?

The galette was so good and so easy and such a great way to use up old frozen fruit that I thought I would share.

Makes 1 galette, to serve 6 people.
A galette is a French open-topped fruit pie, made without a pie plate. This is delicious, rustic, peasant food. Feel free to change up the nuts and fruit as you see fit.
The mixture of toasted ground nuts, flour and sugar forms a protective barrier over the bottom crust, preventing it from getting soggy with absorbed juices. The nut mixture also helps to thicken and flavour the pie.

Note about the photos: I whipped off the galette with no thought of my blog, so I have no pictures other than the two I took after I realized it was delicious. The other photos in the recipe are from a rhubarb-strawberry galette I made in the spring.

Butter Pastry
1 -1/4 cups (7 oz) all-prupose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter
4 to 6 Tb cold water

Nut layer
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted
4 tsp flour
2 Tb sugar

Fruit filling
3-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, freezer burn not required 
(I had only 2-1/2 cups of blackberries, so I peeled and sliced one apple to make up the difference)
1/2 cup sugar

a bit of water
1 Tb sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 425°F

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the cold butter pieces and use your finger, two butter knives, or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour. Rub the butter pieces gently between your fingers, coating them in flour, until they are cut in. The pieces should range in size from large peas to small beads, with a generous amount of the larger pieces.

Slowly sprinkle in the water, one tablespoon at a time, using a fork or rubber spatula to mix the dough. Stop after four tablespoons of water and use your hands to gently mix the dough a bit more.  The dough will be a bit crumbly at this point, but it should almost form a ball by itself. If not, add another tablespoon of water and mix gently with a spatula. Use your hands to gently gather the dough into a ball, using gentle pressure to make it hold together. If the dough is still too dry, sprinkle on a tablespoon more water and mix the dough with your hands again, until you can form it into a ball.

Form the dough into a disk. This dough can be used immediately, or wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated or frozen for later use. (Although, don’t freeze it unless you plan to use it!) I set my dough in the fridge for a few 20 minutes or so while I made with nut layer and filling.

Nut Layer
In the work bowl of a food processor or mini-chopper, combine the toasted hazelnuts, the 4 tsp of flour and the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Process until finely ground. Set aside.

Fruit filling
In a large bowl, mix together the fruit and 1/2 cup sugar.

To finish galette
Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly-floured countertop out until it forms a 12- to 14-inch rough circle. Don’t worry if the edges are ragged. Place the rolled-out dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet with sides.  It’s ok if the pastry overhangs right now. Place the nut mixture in the dead centre of  the rolled out pastry and spread it to a thin, even layer over the bottom, leaving a 3-inch border of pastry all around. See below


Give the fruit filling a stir and carefully pile the fruit mixture only over the nut mixture, not on the pastry overhang. Make sure the filling is level.


Gently lift the overhanging border dough and fold it over the filling, making nice folded scallops as you go. The centre of the pie will be open. Brush top of pastry with a bit of cold water and sprinkle with sugar.

Place cookie sheet on the bottom rack of your oven. Bake for about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F, rotate tray and and bake for 35 to 45 minutes more, until pastry is deep golden and filling in centre is thickened and bubbling.

Let cool 2 hours before serving.

Check out that crisp bottom crust on that juicy berry pie – all due to te protective and delicious nut layer.

Comments (24)

  1. Ive been using freezer cooking method (cooking or prepping batches of meals at a time) for the past seveeal months to reduce household spending and to help manage busy family life with kids and working parents and it has been a godsend. One really critical tool is using a freezer inventory to make sure you know what’s in there AND use it. When I meal plan I have my inventory with me and use what’s listed to help me plan. It works fantastically and freezer food gets used (and makes work nights do much easier!!!!! And our spending is way down) I use a sheet of paper I keep on my fridge but my aunt uses a whiteboard on the wall above her freezer.

    1. Seechelle, freezer inventory – that is a great idea! I’ve heard of people doing that for their fridges as well. I will start that as soon as I have the time to wade through my freezers and see what is in there :)

  2. Thank you for this post! My hubby and I were having a similar conversation the other day when he was digging around in the deep freeze. We are pretty good at using up stuff in our ‘freezer over the fridge’ as it houses leftovers which become lunches. But that deep freeze… glad to know we are in good company. Good luck!

  3. We have been using the freezer alot lately for storing leftovers and it has also became a problem consuming the delicious homemade meals, but I like your new years resolution, USE IT OR LOSE IT! We have dry-erase boards, but they are only used 25% of the time. I like the idea of setting every Tuesday for freezer leftover night, to save time. I’ve also been using my culinary training for tips like labeling the date and product info. so we know what the heck we are eating! Thanks for all the great information~

    1. Ash – I know I should label more than I do! I’m good about labelling foods I put in the freezer on purpose (berries, chicken, salmon), but get lazy when shoving leftovers and other bits in there.

  4. Guess what I found tonight when I got curious about some yogurt containers in my freezer? Containers that were blindly moved from my old fridge-freezer in December? Blackberries! And no, I did not pick any in 2011.

  5. Hi Heidi, Thank you for sharing your story. I’ll come out of the closet as well (or should I say the freezer…) and say that I had the issue of hoarding food in my freezers (freezer sections of 2 fridges and 1 appartment size freezer. How easy indeed it is to just pile it in and forget about it. Right around Christmas, I had no more space in the freezers to put my Christmas goodies (Toutières and other traditional Québec delicacies), so I decided to make a big cleanup. I was so amazed how much stuff I had frozen since last summer (the time I got the freezer). I had 5 turkeys of different sizes, loads of vacuum pack roasts, IQF fish fillets and of course, the precious wild fruit harvests of 2011 (35 lbs of blacberries that I juiced among other things…)
    I decided to box the turkeys, most of the roasts, the unopened fish fillets bags and to bring them to the Mustard Seed. In the same token, I did a visit to my pantries (4 of them!!!) and boxed anything I would not use in the next few weeks.
    Wow, what a great feeling of release! I filled 6 full Banana Box size of dry goods!
    The lesson I got from this was that I sometimes (well, often… ok, ALWAYS) fall in love with the idea of doing something with the food I buy at the moment of purchase and of course there is so much meals ideas than there is meals to prepare…
    So now I am committed tohave a better relationship with my freezer and use the frozen food BEFORE buying other food and keep a minimum inventory that is just about sufficient for my needs.
    I just had a beautiful porterhouse steak last night from the freezer. It was there in plain view, because now there is enough space in the freezer to move things around and there is actually a bottom to my freezer!
    Happy Thoughts,

  6. I love the recipe for the galette Heidi. I like the idea of the nut layer to stop the pastry getting soggy.

    I have a name for those unidentified objects in my freezer that I put in so confident I will remember what they are, but they come out in disguise after they are frozen and I don’t know what they are! So I call them UFOs – unidentified frozen objects!


    1. GASP! Laura, no! What happened? Did the pastry crack and leak out berry juice or something? Please tell me the parchement saved your pan a bit. And was the galette yummy in spite of the evil blackberries?

  7. Heidi, you saved the day. I kept looking at those berries, not wanting to throw them out.. and so I didn’t! The downside is that I live alone… and consequently ended up eating the whole thing because it was so good! (albeit over a few days)… now i want to make another one with granny smith apples, and cinnamon… thanks for making it so easy :) (if only going to the gym was as motivating…!)

  8. Operation freezer – love it! I’m always pulling things out of the basement freezer wondering “why did I not label this?” or this or this or this. So I end up thawing whatever it might be and hope for the best. What caught my eye was your galette visual – I love making galettes. Fact is I would love to leave my office at this very moment and dig around by freezer and find some frozen fruit and a pound of frozen butter so I could make it right now. Instead I must make money to pay the rent and will simply enjoy your photo for a moment or two longer. Nice looking blog.

    1. Hi, Chris, thanks! I, too, have wanted to make a full-time job out of my pantry and freezer cleanout, at least for now. That way, I might actually make some headway! :)

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