Following is a quiz that will put your freezer knowledge to the test. The answers are below.
1. A home freezer should maintain a temperature of
(a) -20 F
(b) 32 F
(c) 0 F or colder
2. True or false: Freezing fish maintains the look, taste and texture of the flesh.
3. The reason it’s not a good idea to freeze a whole, large fish is because
(a) once thawed, the entire fish has to be dealt with, instead of just enough for a meal or two.
(b) whole fish can take as much as several days to freeze and to thaw.
(c) putting a lot of raw fish in a freezer will raise the temperature of a freezer and everything in it.
(d) all of the above.
4. The most effective way to protect seafood from exposure to air is
(a) a plastic wrap, such as Saran film.
(b) vacuum sealing
(c) freezer bags
5. Labeling packages of fish is important because
(a) if a fish gave someone “bragging rights,” their name should be on it.
(b) it’s good to know where and how the fish was caught (trolling near Bluff Point, back-bouncing at Beaver Creek, etc.) so you can tell stories while eating it.
(c) labeling makes it easier to find a specific kind of fish and the “oldest” fish stored in your freezer.
6. Fish and other seafood should be thawed
(a) in cold water.
(b) in the refrigerator.
(c) either at room temperature or under warm, running water.
7. The best way to keep a fish in good condition until you freeze it is to
(a) bleed, gut and pack it in ice.
(b) keep it in the water on a stringer.
(c) wrap it in a damp burlap bag.
8. True or false: Fish that have been frozen can be smoked and refrozen.
9. True or false: The best way to freeze salmon is to arrange it on shelves in a single layer.
10. True or false: When placed in a freezer, fish that is at room temperature will freeze more quickly than fish that has been chilled.
1. (c) 0 F. Micro-organisms that cause fish to spoil become very active at temperatures above 0 F. Home freezers should be set to maintain 0 F, or colder.
2. False. Freezing helps to maintain quality, but changes that affect flavor, texture and appearance occur during freezing and storage. This is why it’s best to freeze only fresh, high-quality fish. A poor-quality fish going into the freezer will be even worse coming out. Quality suffers with lengthy storage.
3. (d) all of the above. Adding a large amount of unfrozen fish to a freezer containing frozen fish will raise the temperature of the freezer, thus causing bad things to happen to your frozen fish. Fish packaged in meal-size portions freeze faster than whole fish, are more convenient and use less space. Also, large fish freeze slowly, allowing formation of large ice crystals, which affect flavor and texture.
4. (b) Vacuum packaging eliminates exposure of the fish to air. This prevents oxidization, which causes rancidity in the fat of “high-fat” fish, such as salmon. Air exposure also causes desiccation (“freezer burn”), which causes tough texture. Besides vacuum packing, other methods of blocking exposure to air are either less effective or less practical for home use.
5. (b) Frozen pieces of salmon fillets tend to look alike, so a label is a good thing. Including the date the fish was frozen and using your “oldest” fish first will help keep your stock fresh and prevent waste.
6. (a) frozen fish should be thawed as quickly as possible, but never at room temperature or in warm or hot water. Thawing in the refrigerator can take more than a day. A ½ -pound bag of vaccuum-packed fish can be thawed in a short time under cold, running water.
7. (a) Bleeding and gutting removes many of the micro-organisms that cause spoilage. Packing a fish in ice brings its temperature down to near freezing. This slows the growth of bacteria, the main cause of spoilage.
8. True. Smoked fish can be refrozen. Because most smoked fish is not fully preserved, it must be either frozen or canned to keep it from spoiling.
9. True. Packages of unfrozen fish should be fully exposed to air, not stacked in a pile. Piling them on top of already frozen fish thaws the frozen fish. After a package is frozen solid it can be stored in a bin or other container with other frozen food. Having one freezer for freezing and one for storage is one way to avoid this problem.
10. False. The colder fish is when going in, the less time it takes to freeze, another reason for keeping fish on ice after catching them.
Thanks to the Cooperative Extension Service website (http://www.uaf.edu/ces/), where you can download a copy of “Home Freezing of Fish,” publication FNH-00222.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.