What’s In the Freezer?

March 2023

The gardening catalogs are out, and my blood is stirring.  Actually, we have one small clump of daffodils that have already sent up a reconnaissance force of about a half-dozen leaves to test the weather.  Of course, those bulbs are planted right under the pipe laying on the ground that expels water from the sump pump; hence, ground water, which is warmer than surface water.  Poor daffodils got fooled, I think, by that warmth.  Never mind, I don’t care, it’s a sign.

But if I’m going to garden, that means I should think about cleaning out the freezer from last year’s produce.

First off, way back there is a bag full of rhubarb, all cut up and ready to go into a pie.  Or I could make sauce.  Naw.  Pie. This year, maybe in two months, I’ll start seeing those fat nubs poking out of the ground, looking a bit like the red nose of an animal that’s decided it’s time to un-hibernate.  Is that even a word?  Then come those ruffled leaves, all curled up together, tight as twins sharing a womb.  Then the stalks shoot up, almost overnight, firm red and green with big umbrellas for leaves.  Suddenly, it’s rhubarb!  Okay, enough rhapsodizing.

What else is in there?

What looks like an apple pie.  It’s not the whole pie, but only the filling.  Those are Ginger Gold apples in there, which brings another memory floating up.  My bonus sister (read sister-in-law) and I make time for apple picking at Apple Holler early every fall, in order to catch the varieties we love.  The orchard trucks us out to the trees, circling around through all the labeled rows.  By the time we get to where we want to pick, we’re salivating.  From the Ginger Golds, we can wander at will and sample.  Yes, they encourage sampling while we pick!  I’ve tried some unusually named fruit that I never see in the stores.  A few years ago, I bought one of those fancy-schmancy apple peeler/corer/slicers.  I could rhapsodize over that, and the apples, but, moving on…

What else is there?

Two pounds of butter.  Okay, those aren’t produce from the garden.  When butter prices started going sky-high before Christmas, I stocked up.  Earlier pounds are already part of cookies, cakes, stollen, to say nothing of being used in the honorable practice of buttered popcorn, and, yes, to top off baked potatoes and hot veggies.  Time to bake Dutch almond bars, maybe.  Stuffed baked potatoes for dinner tonight?  Oh, yes!  Does anybody else remember when margarine was forbidden in Wisconsin?  My uncle, a trucker and overall good guy, would bring back oleo, as it was known then, back from Illinois.  The oleo came in sealed plastic bags with a little button of orange dye in the middle.  It was my job to massage the dye into the oleo, kneading it into every little corner, to turn the white stuff yellow, so it would at least look like butter.  How times change!  I took out one of the pounds of butter and gave it a little pat (pun intended), thanking it for its willingness to sacrifice itself for flavor in my baking and cooking.

Anything else in there?

Besides the bucket of ice cream, of course.  (Though I prefer Culver’s frozen custard, butter pecan especially.)  Yup, several of those frozen slabs of…something blue…to stick in a cooler.  Those can stay, seeing as how they’re not edible, thank God.  We’ve packed plenty of coolers with food and drink to haul off somewhere.  Tailgating at baseball games is lots of fun.  If we go with our son’s family, he brings a little grill, and we can go all out.  But my favorite cooler trip is to Madison’s farmers market on a summer Saturday morning.  Arrayed around the capitol building, the stands are stuffed. We can find anything and everything.  The cheese display is dangerous, because there are so many different kinds to try.  Amish pies and cookies and bread.  Buffalo meat and fish fillets.  A dozen types of mushrooms, subtly colored in pastel shades, reach up from their little boxes,.  Bunches of beets, carrots, flowers, more.  We make one round, just to see what’s there, then go back around to purchase.

My mind spools off to my mom’s big chest freezer in the basement.  My dad used to tease her about the amount of stuff she froze, and how long it resided down there.  She got him good, however, by labeling things as two or three years older than they really were.  Blueberries picked in 1967 were labeled as 1965, or earlier.  He eventually caught on, and they had a good laugh over it.  Unfortunately, the freezer died without anyone noticing, and I was in charge of removing all that thawed fruit, fish, meat…. Yuck!  Buckets and buckets of slushy food went out to the garbage.  One ugly memory for all those other good ones.

Nothing else in my freezer that needs to be used?

I look out the window as I am writing this, and can hardly wait to see grass and sunshine instead of snow!  Wishing won’t make it happen.  However, baking a pie might help alleviate the pain of waiting, as well as begin to make space for new stuff.  Excuse me while I go pull out that package of rhubarb.