I should consider it a privilege to share my life experiences in this news column to help you not make the same mistakes I make. Today, I would like to record my recent adventure as “the great thaw.”
Using the freezer is my favorite method of food preservation. I recently sliced and packaged fresh peaches for the freezer. I posted pictures on Facebook with my completed product, touting the benefits of using a fruit protector to maintain color. I was excited that I had frozen peaches for future enjoyment.
A few days later, I was in the garage near the upright freezer. I pushed on the door, only to realize that it was not completely shut.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider all the thoughts and emotions any of us would have in this situation: “Oh, no! What will I find when I open the door? Who was the last one to use the freezer?”
I opened the door and was greeted by peaches. They were no longer frozen and some had partially turned brown in the corner (I must have missed that section with the fruit protector). Other food items were dripping, and a quick check with the food thermometer revealed the food temperature at 55 degrees. (The danger zone for bacterial growth is temperatures between 40 degrees and 135 degrees, so my freezer had transitioned to an oversized, cross-contaminated petri dish with a nasty aroma.)
In the event of a power outage, if a full freezer stays closed, the freezer will hold its temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours for a half full unit). Frozen foods that have thawed but still contain ice crystals would be safe to eat. Foods that have remained at refrigerator temperatures — 40 degrees — or below may be safely refrozen but their quality may suffer.
In my situation, there were no ice crystals and no way of knowing exactly how long the food had been above 40 degrees. There was no doubt, I had to throw out everything because it was unsafe.
The plus side of this situation is that I will be starting September with a clean and organized freezer. I also purchased an appliance strap (available from stores that sell child-proof locks and products) for my freezer. For less than $5, I will have peace of mind that future peaches (and other food products) hopefully won’t be victim to another “great thaw.”
Upcoming K-State Research and Extension Events
Beginning Oct. 4 (typically Mondays and Wednesdays) — Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, South Central Kansas Specialty Clinic, Ark City, $20, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., call (620) 441-4565 to pre-register (class meets twice per week through Nov. 25).
Becky Reid is the family and consumer sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension, Cowley County. She can be reached at (620) 221-5450 or (620) 442-4565.