All mechanical things will someday fail, and when your freezer gives out there are few alternatives. These are: A. Cook everything that is partly thawed, B. Take what’s still solidly frozen to a neighbour to put in his freezer, C. Hope you can find enough coolers and dry ice or D. Put it in safe storage outside if it is cold enough.
Do not re-freeze items that are partly thawed. You can put these in a refrigerator to cook over the next couple of days, but use quickly.
It was Thanksgiving week, my sister was in the hospital recovering from a hip-replacement surgery, her children were down and this was the instant that the freezer decided to expire. Fortunately, I eat down my freezer every year in preparation in for deer season and had some room. My brother-in-law also found a friend with a half-full freezer.
When I arrived he was sorting things into a throw-away bag and a freezer chests. I took one chest and bag to re-sort at my house. Too far gone to re-freeze were some frozen pot pies, a package of Jimmy Dean sausage, pizza and an apple pie. These immediately went into the oven with the sausage being used along with two other varieties for a sausage-cabbage stuffed wild pig that I was planning for my Thanksgiving meal.
There was also some mostly thawed ham slices, okra, strawberries, broccoli, beef meat paddies and cooked chicken strips. With the okra it looked to me like it was “gumbo time.” I cut one of the ham slices, added a package of Zataran’s Gumbo Mix that I had just purchased that afternoon, threw in a chopped onion, some bell pepper, a can of stewed tomatoes and the package of okra. When these had cooked, I added a package of pre-cooked shrimp and made a better gumbo than I have ever had in New Orleans or anywhere else.
Some of the pizza was eaten and the remainder frozen, the pot pies were converted into dog food as was the thawed burger paddies that were too fat-rich for anything to eat. These paddies were fried, a third of a cup of grease poured off, and the remainder mixed with cut cabbage and boiled. My dogs like their veggies, and the meaty-cabbage dish was instantly wolfed down.
The extra ham was diced and boiled the next day. These slices were mixed with potatoes, broccoli, a portion of a bell pepper and some salt. These were boiled until done. I extracted most of the solids with a slotted spoon and put some cut cheese on the top and with broken-up crackers made into a mixed meat-vegetable dish. The liquid with a few pieces of meat and vegetables made a fine soup.
I kept a bit of what I cooked for myself and sent the remainder next door for my niece and nephew to feed on while they were here. This made for a non-traditional Thanksgiving and follow-up meal, but everything that had thawed got cooked and consumed by someone or something.
If worse comes to worse, cook and throw a block party. If the object is still cold to the touch it is probably O.K., if cooked and consumed within a couple of days. If things are solidly frozen, these just need to be transferred to another freezer. All of the half-frozen stuff needs to be cooked. Be inventive and cook some new things. Under these circumstances you can do no wrong so long as you pay attention to food safety issues. If it is warm or smells, throw it away.
For more wild-game recipes go to www.hoveysmith.com and http//www.hoveysmith.wordpress.com and books Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and Crossbow Hunting.