If we are feeding our birds correctly, we are putting in a lot of kitchen time. With all of their dietary requirements, we could spend more time cooking and preparing foods for them than we do actually enjoying their company. And then there’s the cost of the good quality foods that we want to serve at their peak of freshness and nutritional potential.
Providing a varitety of fresh foods is a difficult thing to do whether you have one bird, or forty. If I go to the market where they have great bargains for bulk purchases, and find that they have a bin full of perfect snow peas or green beans (two things I have a hard time finding in acceptible condition here in Orlando), I am buying them – a lot of them. I know I will be saving money this way.
The problem is that I now have all of these fabulous snow peas that I bought for a song, and only a handful of birds to eat them. It would be a crime to let them wither away in the fridge. (This is where your freezer rides in on a white horse.)
Freezing your foods will save you time in the kitchen on some future hectic day, save you money by allowing you to buy foods in bulk, and give you access to seasonal foods year round. You are wasting both money and time if your freezer only contains ice.
Some tips for freezing:
- Begin with fresh, good quality food. The freezing process will simply retain the quality of the food you start with. If it goes into the freezer less than adequate, it will come out less than adequate.
- I recommend using a vacuum sealer. The best results happen when air is kept out of the bags and moisture is kept in.
- Be sure to label each bag with date of freezing and contents.
- Food that has been thawed cannot be refrozen for later use. Be sure to bag the food in portions that will be used over the course of a day or two so there is no waste.
- Vegetables that have been frozen, should not be thawed before cooking (except winter squashes, beets and corn on the cob – let them thaw in their packaging before cooking.)
- Thoroughly wash vegetables in cold water.
- Discard any bad or overripe pieces.
- Trim away any unwanted parts and cut into uniformly sized pieces so that it will all blanch, freeze and cook in the same amount of time.
Blanch (scald and rapidly cool) the vegetables before freezing – This link will explain why and how you perform this necessary step and provide a cooking time chart. Keep in mind that each vegetable has different density and will require a different amount of time for blanching. (Leafy greens will lose thier crispness in this process and after thawing. I choose not to freeze these for my birds.)
Once the food is cooled, it is ready to be frozen. Choose the portion sizes to go into individual bags, remove as much air as possible and freeze the food immediately and quickly. The faster the freezing process, the better the color, texture and nutrition of the food will remain. Vegetables will last for 3-6 months in the freezer.
Fruits are a little more troublesome to freeze, but it can be nicely done. One thing to remember, you are freezing foods for your birds. They won’t be as picky as your family members when it comes to the browning that sometimes results from freezing, such as with pears, (but, to prevent this, you can soak the fruits in a mix of 1 quart of water and 3 tablespoons of citrus juice for a few minutes prior to freezing) And they won’t particularly care that their strawberries and raspberries have lost their shape and are no longer aesthetically pleasing.
- Small whole fruits like berries and cherries (remove the pits after thawing) can be put on a tray in a single layer and placed in the freezer. Once they are individually frozen, they can be portioned out and put into bags for their duration of freezer time. (NUTS can be frozen this way as well.)
- The firmer fruits (apples) can be blanched and frozen in the same manner as vegetables.
- Fruits can be frozen in containers of water or fruit juices. Put in just enough liquid to cover them and leave some room for expansion.
- Most fruits will last for 6-12 months. Citrus fruits and juices will keep for 4-6 months.
I usually only freeze cherries and berries. I don’t do well with freezing the other fruits, but that’s just my failing. It doesn’t mean you won’t have better luck. I recommend though that you avoid packing your fruits in syrup or using the sugar treatment advised as freezing methods for fruits. There is altogether too much sugar in these processes, especially for a food that contains so much anyways.
You can utilize you freezer and save youself some time by freezing cooked beans and grains ahead for future use as well. Grains and beans cook well without much supervision, so while they are on the stove I can be washing and chopping the veggies for freezing. Over the years, I have discovered that it just makes sense to spend a single afternoon in the kitchen preparing, cooking and freezing bird meals that will have me covered for several months.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.