Once the sugar rush of Halloween is over, we need to seriously start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas. That is when all of the sales start for all of the delicacies that we usually only buy at this time of year. I’m talking about whipping cream, cranberries and sweetened condensed milk. I’ve got some tips so that you can load up, or as I like to say – build your food storage, so that you can use these items all year round and save money doing it.
I use to think that you couldn’t freeze whipping cream, but I was wrong. It all depends on what you want to use it for and how you prepare it. If you freeze whipping cream in the carton (which you should do to protect its flavor) after it thaws out it is kind of grainy and it never gets that smooth texture that we normally associate with cream, even after whipping it. You can still use it though. My friend likes to make a lot of cream based soups that call for cream or half-and-half and when she adds the previously frozen cream the little fat particles melt just fine and you get a nice smooth texture (I’ve tasted her soup and believe me it is good).
But you don’t want to use all of your cream for soup. You want to branch out and have a dollop of whipped cream in your cocoa, or maybe make a banana cream pie. That’s okay, you can do that. The trick is, you need to whip the cream up just like you would to use it fresh, then put it in dollops on a cooking sheet with wax paper lining it. Then freeze them. After they are frozen, put them in an airtight container or zip lock bag. This works really well. I experimented with thawing it out different ways. I put one on a plate and let it thaw on the counter to see if it would “puddle”. I didn’t notice any problem. I made a chocolate pie and put the dollops right on top and let them thaw in the fridge. It didn’t take too long to thaw and they looked beautiful, but what was more important was that they tasted really good. The cream dollops were creamy and not grainy at all. My favorite test was to put a frozen dollop in my hot chocolate – now that was good.
I’ve never done a whole lot with fresh cranberries in the past until last year when I decided to try some different recipes. My family really liked them and asked me to make some more. When I went down to the store to get more, I found out that there is a very small window of time that you can buy fresh cranberries. I had never thought about freezing them, but a friend of mine that used to work on a cranberry farm said that it is the only way you can store them for later use, unless you want to bottle them. I’m going to stock up this year.
Is there anything more frustrating than to get your heart set on a certain gotta-have decadent dessert only to discover that you are out of sweetened condensed milk and have to settle for something more sensible, like an apple instead? No more. I will share this recipe with you and you will be able to break your diet anytime you feel like it.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
¼ cup butter or margarine
4 cups instant milk powder
Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Pour mixture in a blender. Add butter or margarine. Blend on low, gradually adding milk powder. Blend on medium until smooth. Makes about 3 ½ cups, enough to replace two 14-oz. cans of sweetened condensed milk.
It is creamy immediately if you use the instant powdered milk, but you can substitute the non-instant milk if you need to. The only difference is that it is has a little grainier texture the first day, but by the second day it has had the chance to totally dissolve and then it is just as good as the stuff out of the can. Believe me, you won’t be able to tell the difference.