Refrigerator

Freezer Malfunction Melts Precious Arctic Ice Samples

When your freezer breaks down, you might lose some leftovers or a box of your favorite popsicles. But when a scientist’s freezer malfunctions, the world stands to lose thousands of years’ worth of stored history. That’s what happened last week, when an equipment failure at the University of Alberta (UAB) melted ancient samples of Arctic ice.

An ice core is kind of like the vertical equivalent of a tree’s rings. The gas bubbles, sediment, and chemicals trapped in each of its many layers tell a story about the world at that particular moment in time.

UAB’s Canadian Ice Core Archive holds 12 cores—nearly 1 mile of ice—representing roughly 80,000 years of our planet’s history. Some of the samples have been in storage since the 1970s. Many of them are now considerably smaller than they were a few weeks ago.

Each long,…

Cold Comfort: How to Best Use Your Freezer

The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

Did you know that you can keep eggs in your freezer? (There’s a trick to it.) Here are some tips on how to freeze foods you probably thought couldn’t be frozen, and how to better freeze the stuff you’re already freezing, preventing waste and saving money in the process.

FRESH VEGETABLES

• Before freezing, chop raw vegetables to the size you are likely to use when cooking. Thawed vegetables are more difficult to chop.

• Vegetables tend to lose color, favor, texture, and even vitamins when they’re frozen, thanks to the activity of enzymes in the veggies. Blanching the vegetables (immersing them in boiling water for a short period of time) before freezing interrupts the activity of the enzymes, and will keep the frozen vegetables fresher longer.

• Blanching times vary from 11⁄2 minutes for peas and 11 minutes for large ears of corn; consult a cookbook for the correct amount of time for the vegetable you want to freeze.

• After blanching, quickly immerse the vegetables in cool water to prevent them from overcooking.

• Leafy greens, tomatoes, and watery vegetables like zucchini and squash can be frozen without blanching. If you plan on making zucchini bread, grate the zucchini before you freeze it.

GROUND MEAT

• Ground meat is suitable for freezing, but the Styrofoam tray covered with plastic wrap that it comes in is not. The container leaves too much air in the package, causing freezer burn.

• Remove ground meat from the container and place it in a plastic freezer bag, taking care to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible before placing it in the freezer. Press the bag of meat as flat as you can before freezing—the flatter the meat, the faster it freezes, preserving quality.

• If you want individual servings, lay the unfrozen bag of meat flat on the kitchen counter and press a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon lengthwise against the outside of the bag to create indentations that divide the meat into single-sized squares. Now when you need some but not all of the meat, you can easily snap off as many squares as you need and return the rest to the freezer, instead of having to thaw out the entire bag.

EGGS

• Eggs expand while freezing and should not be frozen in the shell. Instead, beat raw eggs just until the whites and yolks have blended together, then pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze. Each compartment of a standard ice cube tray will hold about one egg’s worth of the mixture. When the eggs have frozen, they can be popped out of the ice cube tray and stored in a freezer bag for up to a year.

• Yolks and whites can be separated before freezing if you expect to use them separately. Separated whites will freeze just fine as they are, but separated yolks can become gelatinous over time. To prevent this, beat in 11⁄2 teaspoons of sugar (if you plan to use the yolks in a dessert) or 1⁄8 teaspoon of salt (for other dishes) for every four egg yolks before freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

THE CUBIST MOVEMENT

• Fresh herbs and spices can also be frozen in ice cube trays. Fill each compartment about two-thirds full with chopped fresh herbs or spices and cover with your choice of water, chicken or beef stock, olive oil, or melted unsalted butter before freezing. When the cubes are frozen, remove them from the tray and store them in freezer bags.

• Two more candidates for ice cube freezing: coffee and leftover wine (for cooking). Coffee cubes can be used to keep iced coffee cold without watering it…

Scientists 3D Printed Cheese

These days, you can 3D print anything from a house to your breakfast. And as 3D-printed pizza becomes a thing, food scientists are examining what exactly happens when you print yourself some cheese.

A recent study in the Journal of Food Engineering explores how 3D printing affects the structure of processed cheese. How gross would 3D-printed Velveeta nachos be? A bevy of researchers from University College Cork in Ireland decided to find out.

They melted a commercially available processed cheese (think American cheese, not cheddar) and put it through a modified 3D printer that printed the cheese out at either a fast or a slow speed. The cheese was printed out into cylinders that were then cooled for 30 minutes and put in the refrigerator for a day. After that 24-hour refrigeration period, the researchers took the cheese out of the fridge to check its texture and chemical structure.