Eat & Drink

The Big Chill

How I learned to love my freezer.

October 2013

5280.com Exclusive: Read tips on how to join the frozen revolution here.

For most of my cooking life, I’ve lived by one grocery-shopping mantra: If I can’t carry it in a basket, I don’t need it. The goal was to make sure my fridge was always stocked with ready-to-use produce. The reality was that I made too many trips to the store and rarely had leftovers to freeze.
But that was all right because my freezer was already stuffed with frozen rhubarb from the backyard, sausage from German butchers, ice cream, and a chilled bottle of vodka, which I kept on hand for pasta sauces (really).

But one year, I drove through Palisade during harvest and bought 20 ears of Olathe corn, a crate of peaches, and three varieties of roasted chiles—all of which I crammed into the freezer. Then I signed up for a lamb share. Soon, I couldn’t let the tomatoes and kale from my garden go to waste, so I froze pasta sauce and blanched greens for winter soups. All of those additions meant I had to make choices: The vodka went in the trash, I ate the ice cream, the sausage stash dwindled, and I threw away pounds of rhubarb—all to make room for the Colorado bounty I couldn’t live without.

That led to some desperate soul-searching in front of the open freezer door. What needed to go? The homemade chicken stock I used for risotto? The lemon compound butter I slathered on grilled salmon? The homemade buns my husband baked for crab rolls? How did my freezer become better stocked than my closet?

That’s when my parents stepped in and suggested a gift of a stand-alone freezer. I was against it. To me, those massive white chests were something of my childhood, when everyone did their grocery shopping in the freezer aisle. It was a relic from a generation that grew up during the Great Depression and never wanted to go hungry again. My grandparents had two of those freezers, which were so jammed with game meat and ice cream treats they were held closed by bungee cords.

But as I sifted through my collection of frozen items, I realized I was already a convert. I gave in and let my parents buy me a stand-alone unit. I unpacked my fridge’s freezer—which by now needed a bungee cord, too—and found more treasures. Catfish fillets caught by my husband’s uncle. A pan of our favorite lasagna. Pesto from my basil plant. To that stash, I added fresh pasta. Coffee cake. Meatballs. Premade meals. And, of course, a bottle of vodka.