Thanksgiving usually means lot of leftovers which a family can safely enjoy over the following 1-2 days. However, even cooked foods don’t last indefinitely in the refrigerator and should be frozen instead if you think those Thanksgiving leftovers won’t be eaten immediately.
Most Thanksgiving leftovers can be frozen safely in freezer bags or sealable freezer contains. Freezer bags are thicker and more durable than regular plastic bags, and do a superior job of storing frozen leftovers. Both freezer bags and containers can be purchased from the grocery store.
Turkey leftovers will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Placing that turkey in the freezer will extend its shelf life by 6 months. How we freeze turkey at our house is to first carve every scrap of meat off the bone. The sliced carved turkey is then bagged up in a one quart Ziploc freezer bags, which is about the right amount for future meal planning. Be sure to label the package, or you’ll never remember what’s in the bag.
*Tip* And what about that carcass? Instead of throwing it out, break up the bones instead and drop them into a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover, and boil for a few hours. This extracts the juicy broth from the carcass and will yield between 3-4 quarts of nutritious broth. The broth can be used as “stock” for vegetable soups or even be used to make gravy. The stock can be transferred to freezer containers, leaving one inch of head space, and be safely frozen for up to 6 months.
Leftover Thanksgiving stuffing can also be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. While it also can be frozen for up to a month, we discovered that it tends to turn mushy and just isn’t quite as appealing. To freeze stuffing, turn into a freezer bag or freezer container, seal, label and freeze.
Leftover mashed potatoes don’t freeze at all and should be used up within 3-4 days. Do transfer the leftover potatoes first into a sealable container to prevent them from picking up refrigerator odors.
*Tip* How we use leftover mashed potatoes at our house is to shape them into patties, and fry them up for breakfast.
Turkey gravy will only keep for about 1-2 days in the refrigerator and then must be thrown out. The fats in the gravy tended to separate during the freezing process, resulting in a curdling effect that looks and tastes unappetizing.
*Tip* If you are a frugal sort like I am, I add my homemade gravies to creamed soups for extra flavor.
Cooked vegetables are safe to eat with 3-4 days if properly stored in a sealable container. Unfortunately, leftover vegetables can not be frozen since the freezing process will break down the vegetables into mush. What can’t be eaten with a few days, must be thrown out.
*Tip* Leftover, cooked vegetables can be added to soup and then frozen in a sealable freezer container.
Salads also can’t be frozen and should be eaten within a couple of days.
Leftover pies… Is there such a phrase? If you should have leftover Thanksgiving pie, and if it doesn’t disappear within a couple of days after Thanksgiving, then it can be frozen for up to a year. To freeze a fruit, mincemeat or even pumpkin pie, slip the entire pie plate in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag, seal, label, and freeze.