STUMBLING back into your lodge after a day in the powder, tired and hungry, is likely to see your thoughts turn to chips and beer, or a glass of wine and cheese. But once you’re done with your ski trip and are back to ‘normal’ life it’s time to start taking more responsibility with your food choices. Or at least you can start planning to while you’re on your skiing holiday – a nice caveat for you before you order the Hanazono crab ramen for lunch. If there is one device that I reckon is the most underutilised in your kitchen it’d have to be the freezer. If you’re still trying to master the fridge stare-down – you know how it goes – opening the door and trying not to be drawn the big block of chocolate waiting on the door shelf. No doubt the freezer stare-down is less challenging for most. Looking at an empty ice tray, a tin of ground coffee and a three-year-old bottle of vodka is not exactly a tough temptation to resist. But it really shouldn’t be that way. Frozen food is back in a big way. Everyone’s doing it, and if they aren’t, they should be.
Massive leaps in the techniques used in the freezing of fresh food mean that frozen fruit and vegetables can often be healthier than fresh. Yes, I know many dieticians would sooner cut off their tongues than admit the truth, that something could be more healthy than fresh – but sometimes the truth hurts. The reason frozen food can be better for you is that it is usually picked at the peak of its ripeness. The freezing plants are generally located very close to the farms and fruit can be transported from the farmer and snap-frozen in less than a day. They do not have to be transported across the country or world and sit on a shelf before making it to the consumer. I’m sure most people know that most fruit and vegetables we buy these days do not have as much flavour as they did 20 years ago. A big part of the reason for this is that produce is not allowed to ripen before being picked. Almost all fruit and vegetables are picked long before they should be and complete their ripening process while in transit. This not only reduces the taste, but also greatly decreases the nutritional value.
A University of Illinois study found that frozen beans retained twice as much Vitamin C as fresh beans purchased at a grocery store, and that ready-to-drink orange juice can lose nearly all of its Vitamin C content by the expiration date, while frozen OJ loses only about half by the time you mix it. Clarence Birdseye was the forefather of the frozen food movement when he had a brainstorm while observing and copying eskimos he observed while working in Labrador, Canada in 1924. He noted that quickly freezing food prevents the formation of the large ice crystals that until then had caused damage to the cells in all slowly frozen fruits and vegetables. Birdseye went on to make his fortune in frozen food and was posthumously inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.
Freezing your own food is also a pretty good idea, particularly if you work long hours and need something healthy in a hurry when you get in from a day at work. The infamous frozen TV dinners have also improved their freezing technology considerably, and they now maintain a pretty good percentage of their nutritional value, but generally still don’t quite match freshly cooked food. Water molecules, including the ones inside the food, will always try to escape to the coldest place, which is normally the wall of the freezer. Sealing the package that your food is kept in is the key, and investing in a sealing machine is a great idea.
Correctly frozen meat can literally last a life time and longer without spoiling. Mammoth flesh preserved in ice was discovered just across the way from Niseko in Siberia and it kept for at least 15,000 years. Burgers made from that mammoth meat wouldn’t kill you, although they probably wouldn’t be too tasty. A handful of Mammoth jerky might just keep you riding from the afternoon into the nighter without a break.
Defrosting frozen food is best done on a heavy unheated metal surface (that space-age metal defrosting surface you saw on the late night TV shopping is…aluminum). Metal is one of the most efficient conductors of heat, so it absorbs warmth from the room air and delivers it to the meat, which will thaw in about an hour. That’s too fast for bacteria to reproduce much. The flatter the food, the faster the thaw, as the food has more surface contact with the pan. Don’t use a non-stick pan, as the surface coating can block some of the heat.
All in all, my advice for your holidays and your food is surprisingly similar – keep a large percentage of both frozen.
Frozen food gems
So, if you’re here for a few weeks or the season how do you get your stock of the frozen stuff? In Sapporo’s Costco (or online at www.theflyingpig.com) you can buy a massive bag of mixed berries for about ¥1,800, and it is a fantastic investment. Tip a handful or two with some soy milk yogurt and honey to make the best and healthiest smoothie you could wish for – bursting with anti-oxidants’ and vitamins and ready in about one minute. The perfect quick breakfast to slam down when you wake up t 8am and you’re trying to get out the door for first lifts. The mixed frozen fruit bag containing frozen chunks of mangos, paw paw, pineapple and strawberries makes a great desert or snack, and can also be used for smoothies.