My vaccinated friend Peter has well-grounded opinions on frozen food. While sitting at our dinner table, he said that when his mother died, he cleaned out her freezer and found things near the bottom that his father put in there over 40 years ago. To hear him tell, it was comparable to excavating a 600-year-old privy site in Amsterdam.

Perhaps it was unnecessary to mention that Peter has documented evidence of both COVID shots, because if you think like my wife, Marsha, and I do, even loved ones who are unvaccinated are turned away at your door.

Peter had brought the makings of a Dagwood sandwich and had just pulled out a jar of store-bought sweet pickles. I threw up my hands and told him we still had 26 quarts of the finest kind of sweet pickles on the cellar shelves. We might have put up 40 or 50 quarts last summer because once you start canning sweet pickles, it is so much fun it is hard to stop.

That’s when we got into the relative merits of canning or freezing food.

When Peter packed up his pickles and left, wondering if he could safely salvage food that was frozen when Nixon was still proclaiming his innocence, I checked online. I already knew that Marsha tossed out frozen bread after six months because of “freezer burn” – which would seem to be an oxymoron.

I read of Arctic explorers who found frozen food cached by earlier visitors, how eagerly they opened the rusted tins, wolfed down the crackers, jam, cocoa powder, meatballs and beans, and lived to tell the tale.

I read how Mr. Birdseye realized that fish frozen the minute it was caught retained its taste and texture, and why fish or meat frozen when brought home from the supermarket was dry and tasteless. Even some brands of frozen peas have the texture of straw.

Not long ago I brought a friend a box of freshly picked crabmeat. When I came by a week later with another box, she told me that she still had the first box in the freezer.

Further research into frozen food led me to more explorers and a list of the supplies that could be frozen solid and enable 15 men to survive an Arctic winter. Would you believe 408 pounds of ox tongues, 384 pounds of sheep tongues and 144 pounds of pork tongues? Six cases of brandy, six cases of Champagne, three cases of port and 25 cases of whiskey – called “the tipple of choice.”

I mention the alcohol because when I asked my Google friend how long bottled whiskey would remain palatable, sounding much like Julia Roberts in “Notting Hill,” he replied, “Indefinitely.” If you’re ever lost in the woods for days and come upon an ancient, unopened bottle of whiskey, this is a good thing to know.

When pressed, Google told me that no matter how long liquor is open, you cannot get sick drinking it. It simply loses flavor. This has never been verified on the coast of Maine because only minutes after the seal is broken, there is never enough liquid left for a meaningful study.

Peter and I know that it does not matter if you freeze or can food when another generation is called in to dispose of it. Soon after I carried my bride across my threshold 30-plus years ago, she opened and dumped out all of the rhubarb that she found in canning jars. Some of them were labeled “Cold packed by Aunt Ami 1973.”

Perhaps the all-time horror story came from my brother, who once discovered his freezer had been unplugged for several weeks. Because it was impossible to clean out the sewage that swirled inside, he had Wayne Hilt dig a huge hole in his garden with his backhoe and bury the entire freezer. The word on the street is that in one spot, he is still able to grow radishes the size of turnips.

When Peter first lifted the lid on his mother’s freezer, he probably knew how Howard Carter felt when he opened King Tut’s Tomb. But when he got well down past the first 10 years and recognized the famous beet crop of ’79 and other items from his youth, it could have been more like Ralph Edwards and “This is Your Life.”

When he finally burrowed into the permafrost and found two 30-inch codfish he’d seen his father put away for the country’s bicentennial, he could have cried.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:
www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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