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Spring clean your freezer and shelves of home-canned goods

May 5, 2011

By Dianne Lamb

It’s that time of year to think about spring-cleaning. My spring “to do” list includes an annual freezer cleaning and organization of home-canned goods stored on the cellar shelves.

Cleaning out the freezer can be quite a process because you need to take everything out of the freezer first. To prevent food from thawing, place it in coolers. Once you’ve emptied the freezer, unplug it, open the lid, and allow the unit to defrost. Check your owner’s manual for suggestions on how to defrost your appliance because some models have a built-in defrost cycle.

After removing ice and melted water from the freezer cavity, wash the insides with hot soapy water and rinse. Sanitize with a solution of 1 tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water. Allow the interior to dry, then close the lid, plug it back in and let it cool down.

After several hours, the freezer should be ready to be refilled. To store food, I use the plastic dividers that came with my freezer. You can make some out of cardboard.
As I restock, I inspect each item to make sure it’s labeled and discard anything with freezer burn, identifiable as white, dried-out spots on the surface of meat and other foods. Freezer burn won’t make you sick, but the food will be tough and tasteless.

To avoid freezer burn, wrap foods in packaging materials suitable for freezer use such as heavy freezer paper, plastic wrap, freezer bags or foil. For meat and poultry, minimize moisture loss by wrapping the product (still in its original packaging) with one of these. Date foods and use the oldest foods first, placing the newest items towards the back of an upright freezer or the bottom of a chest freezer.

Set your freezer to maintain a temperature of 0 degrees or below. Use a freezer thermometer to check the temperature periodically.

Dianne Lamb is the University of Vermont’s Extension Nutrition and Food specialist.