It’s the annual “Clean Out Your Freezer” event, happening in your kitchen or garage this week. Not next week, not next month, this week. You know that it has to be done.
But then, so does setting up trail cameras and scouting for good animals, but both of those activities are more fun than thawing out your freezer and deciding what is worth saving. Look, I know that you’ve been planning on doing something with that trout you caught last year, or was it three years ago?
You don’t want to be wasteful and you really did have plans to load them into the smoker and make a nice spread to serve with cheese and crackers. If it’s been frozen for three years, there’s a chance that it’s just not worth keeping. Frozen fish doesn’t get better with age and, since yours may have been stored in thin plastic bags that don’t protect them from freezer burn, it’s probably best to bury them under the vegetable garden for fertilizer. If raccoons are a problem, go deep.
Step 1 – Remove everything from the freezer and pack tightly into ice chests. You want to keep everything frozen and don’t allow the packages to thaw. As you unpack the freezer, keep a discriminating eye out for things that probably shouldn’t go back in after the freezer has been de-iced and cleaned. Meat that is green or has grown hair that wasn’t there before should be discarded. When in doubt, throw it out. If meat has a little freezer burn, but is mostly good, you can trim away the bad parts and repackage, preferably with a vacuum-sealing unit
Step 2 – Thaw out the freezer completely. Some use warm water, some use hair dryers, some unfortunate folks have learned the hard way that ice picks and hammers can cause serious damage to the plastic parts of a freezer. Make sure the drain is open so that any liquids can drain out and not form another glacier at the bottom of the freezer. Clean the gasket around the door and use a light bleach solution on any parts that look mildewy.
Step 3 – Inventory Assessment. The goal is to create more usable space in your freezer and, in the future, make sure that the things that you do freezer are packaged properly so that they will last longer and taste better when cooked. Small packages of a variety of game animals can go into a mixed game stew, sausage, chili or just marinated and grilled for dinner. Poorly wrapped packages of meat that have been moved around the freezer for a few years should probably be tossed.
Step 4 – Wipe off any moisture that accumulated around the packages in the cooler. Repackage anything that needs repackaging. Organize frozen foods in some kind of order. Sturdy boxes and plastic tubs are great for keeping things where you can find them before they end up in the bottom recesses of your freezer, only to be discarded at the next freezer clean-out.