Call out the avalanche rescue dogs!
The swinging door was followed by a cascade of slick vacuum packaged fish. Those sliding off the top shelf triggered the next shelf down, which worked its evil ways on the third shelf.
In noisy seconds I had packages of frozen fish all over the floor.
Try as I might, I couldn’t get all of them back onto the shelves either.
It was past time for remedial measures in our freezer!
Our household is like many others in Kodiak.
Since spring we’ve been fishing at every opportunity and putting lots of fish in the freezer. But we’ve done very little to tame the growing mass.
The down side is that the more you bang and rattle those packages, the more quickly the seams fail and let in air.
That’s not a formula for success when you’re planning to store the fish for as much as a year.
In years past we’ve enjoyed the perfect solution.
We found cardboard boxes just the right size to place two on each freezer shelf. Most were too tall and had to be cut down, but they fit nicely side by side and extended from the front to the back of the shelves.
We labeled the end of each box to indicate contents, and it was a breeze to find exactly what we wanted for the duration of the year that followed. As a result we also experienced very few seam failures.
It’s a proven fact that whatever you want from open freezer shelves is always at the back of the shelf. And meanwhile the packages at the back of most shelves don’t see the light of day for months on end.
It’s almost like Christmas to discover what treats are lurking at the back each spring!
Meanwhile those at the front suffer more and more broken seals as they are pawed several times a week before meals, even if they don’t fall on the floor.
I hesitate to give away any secrets in the hard fought battle to find just the right boxes for a freezer, but here goes anyway.
Pretty consistently wine boxes intended to hold 12 bottles of wine are just right for our freezer. It’s not a huge freezer by any means, and in fact we have two of them.
My point is that freezers come in different sizes, and unless yours is a smaller one I’m fairly safe in giving away my wine box secret. I can’t recommend just the right boxes for a large freezer, but you’ll learn quickly with a little experimenting or a tape measure.
I mentioned that we have two freezers rather than a single larger model. There are several good reasons for that.
For one thing, we once had a freezer fail and sit without notice for over a week before we discovered it. Hauling a year’s supply of fish and venison to the dumpster cured us of any impulse to put all our “eggs” in one basket, so to speak.
Even if you don’t fear failures, there are other compelling reasons to consider a second freezer, even if you don’t use it for most of the year.
Our second freezer is incredibly handy, especially as the first freezer gets close to full. It allows us to spread packages in a single layer for initial freezing, after which we can transfer the frozen results to the primary freezer.
You will be amazed how long it takes fish to freeze if you stack it in layers. A thick stack can take two or even three days to freeze. That might not seem like a problem until you realize that best quality fish in the freezer depends on quick freezing. Lots of bad things can happen with a slow freezing rate.
The other use for our second freezer is subtle but important. Since we put up most of our fish early in the season, it is virtually empty by the time our summer visitors begin arriving.
If you’ve gone through the ritual of making room for visitors’ fish along with your own, you can appreciate the luxury. There’s no confusion about whose is whose.
But having a freezer to themselves also helps guests judge or meter how much fish they’re accumulating and will need to fly home. We won’t allow our guests to leave behind their excess, so they are careful about just how much they keep.
After all, we plan carefully for just how much fish we need of each species, and their excess is nothing but a problem for us.
This is the right moment to introduce an important element of freezer management. Planning!
At the height of any one run, it’s easy to become overly enthusiastic about how many fish to kill. It’s easy to end up with more pink salmon than you’ll ever eat while not reserving enough space for halibut or silver salmon.
While you’re at it, remember to reserve space for the deer you hope to harvest this fall!
It takes time and experience to learn exactly how much of which species are right for your freezer. You family will have favorites and like others less. You might as well plan for that in the number of each species you kill and freeze over the course of a summer.
We eat a lot of fish, probably more than anyone you know. There are only two of us at home now, but our list might help you with your own planning. Cross off the species you don’t like or can’t get, and increase or decrease the quantities to match your family size and appetite for fish.
We love halibut, but rarely go through more than about 50 pounds per year. King salmon are our favorites, so we put away about 50 pounds per year whether that means two fish or ten. We need about 25 pounds each of pink and chum salmon to complement the same quantities of silvers and reds.
If you’re counting, we’re already up to 200 pounds of fish! Add in an assortment of cod, Pollack, rockfish, lingcod, sole and flounder, greenling and Dollies, and we come up to around 300 pounds per year.
That’s a lot of fish by anyone’s measure. And we eat all of it.
In fact we only need about one deer per year, depending on the size. Kodiak venison is the sweetest on earth, but we simply eat less red meat as the years pass.
The hardest part about managing a freezer effectively is making sure that you use everything you put in there, rather than hauling the excess to the dumpster each spring.
We eat so much because we really like it, but more than that, we have so many ways to prepare it. By varying the species and the preparation, it’s actually pretty easy avoid boredom with our freezer.
Good freezer management starts with a good means of organizing it.
We got into trouble this year because our collection of boxes was falling apart, and we failed to replace it before we started fishing.
Now it’s open season on wine boxes in our household!