A few weeks ago I gleefully announced spring’s arrival.  Mother Nature had other plans.  After being excited about weather above 50 degrees, MN was really hoping that Central Maryland would build an ark because it nearly rained for 40 days and 40 nights.  And just as the rain stopped, spring is coming to an end and it’s looking like August heat in our future forecast.  The weather is such a phenomenon, and sometimes an anomaly, to me.

The thing is, while we all sat around inside for the last four weekends drafting our ark plans, something happened – time passed us by.  This weekend is Memorial Day.  We all call it the unofficial start to summer.  Our local pools are open, the school year is winding down, and yes, friends, summer is coming.  (Not be confused with #winteriscoming.)  I hope summer is coming.  The last time I was excited about a season arriving it didn’t go as I had hoped.

MN, I’ve gotta move on from the rain.  We all have to move on from the rain.  And MN, I know I have been tough on you this spring, but I am not saying I am routing for a drought either.  Just to be clear.  It’s true, MN, I want it all.

Now that I have done my MN mea culpa, let’s just get back to the fact that MEMORIAL DAY is in less than a week.  With that said, I am already thinking of our long days by the pool.  Oh, I long for this time of year.  Early morning chores, lead to long days in the sun, swimming, playing Sharks and Minos, and snowballs.  It also means packing a cooler.  Man cannot live on snowballs alone.

I have a few tricks up my sleeves.  This post is the bottom building block, so let’s get to it.

If you are Pinterest user, you know all about freezer meals.  I truly believe freezer proteins have their place, and in our house, it’s summer time.  I know, that sounds a bit silly, but stick with me, you will see why.

Today, I went to one of my favorite places, Trueth’s.  For you dear readers that don’t live in Central Maryland, it’s our local butcher shop.  This is what I picked up today:

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Yes, I will give it to you, it looks like I was in a candy shop.  I was, kinda.  This picture is a summer of poolside meals just awaiting to happen.  In the pile is 2 lbs of lump crab meat, 2 lbs of beef cubes, a ham steak, 8.8 lbs pork shoulder, divided, 5 lbs of ground beef, 5 lbs of bacon, 1 lb ground pork, and 5 lbs of shrimp, 24 chicken wings, and 5 whole chicken breasts.

Right into the freezer went the crab meat, the ham steak, the beef cubes.  Next week, crab soup.  In the fridge, the pork to thaw for homemade pork sausage for pizza.

To breakdown what you see above, some additional supplies will be needed.  Zip-top bags, freezer paper, permanent marker, cutting boards, scissors, sharp knife, and several hand towels or paper towels.  Oh, and lots of soap because it’s about to get messy.

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If you have a kitchen scale, this a great time to bust that out too. (If you don’t, you have two options.  One eye ball stuff, or speak with your butcher about how your items are packaged.)

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First up – it’s really important when repackaging items for the freezer that it’s labeled.  All it needs is the date and contents.  There is nothing worse than pulling out chicken breast when you are planning for chicken tenderloins.  It’s also important to know how long something has been in your freezer.  I following a six month timeline.  If I am approaching six months in the freezer, it’s getting moved the top of my prep list. The meals I am building today will be gone before school starts in the fall.  Let’s get started.

zip-tips-labeled-tersiguels zip-tops-flipped-tersiguels

The picture on the left, follows my label note.  The one on the right, has the tops of the bags flipped out and down.  By doing this ahead, I don’t have to stop to open bags, and it keeps the exterior of the bag, and the zip top clean.  The health safety part of Chef in my brain is starting to come out.  You will notice, I am handling a lot of raw food.  It’s important to execute this in a timely manner to get everything back in the fridge or freezer, and not contaminate anything.  A little planning ahead guarantees you can be successful at this.

I started by dividing the shrimp into five one pound bags.  Moving onto the ground beef.  I divided them into three one pound bags, and one two pound bag.  It looks like this:

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I wait until each bag is full, wash my hands, and then zip them all closed.  Flattening them makes it much easier to store.

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While I was dividing shrimp and ground beef, I asked Chef to split the wings.  He’s speedy, and I haven’t quite mastered playing with raw food and taking pictures.  I asked him to divide them up for me according to part.  Like this:

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The smallest bowl has the wing tips, they are going to the back of the freezer to make chicken stock in the fall.  The others, I bagged six of each into four bags, twelve pieces total in each bag.  One bag landed in the fridge for buffalo wings on Thursday night.

Onto the bacon.  Again, dividing the five pound package down to one pound packages.  I wrapped these in freezer paper.  If you don’t have it, zip top it, and call it a day.  Lots of BLTs, and the easiest way to cook bacon, coming your way.

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Last, but not least, the chicken breasts.  I made two quick marinades, soy and balsamic.  I prepared two bags of soy, one balsamic, and the last two bags, I left plain.  Sometimes, I just want a chicken sandwich, or chicken salad, or use a salsa to prepare it, so this gives me some more options.

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If you are keeping track, you may be wondering what happened to the pork shoulder.  I had the butcher cut it in half and when I got home, one half went into the freezer, and the other went straight into the crockpot for pulled pork.  This will lead to pulled pork, pulled pork MD style, maybe Carolina style and Asian.

When all was said and done, this is what I had to put in the freezer:
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It was definitely a successful afternoon.  I will update this post, as I prepare a mix of recipes.  Knowing the freezer is full of protein for the summer, makes packing up the cooler for the pool, the park, Lurman Woodland, the drive in, and anything else that may come our way easier.

In my summer cooking planning, I have three rules I try to stick to.  First, if you can, grill it.  There is nothing worse than running the oven in the heat. Second, while the grill is on, in my case, or hot, in some of yours, grill for several days at a time. Third, I tend to cook dinner at breakfast, so when I am ready to pack the cooler, I am good to go.

Lastly, anything in italics will appear over the next few weeks on the blog.  Looking forward to summer meals with you.  And MN, go easy on us.