Here's how to safely store your festive leftovers this Christmas - including mince pies and turkey

12 Days of Christmas competition

To celebrate the countdown to Christmas we have launched a special festive competition to help you have a happy New Year.

Five winners of our 12 Days of Christmas winter word search will receive an engraved, hand-crafted Bailey bracelet worth £230 and a Cockburn’s Port ‘big night in’ hamper.

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All you have to do is find the letter included in the special 12 Days of Christmas content running each day in the Christmas sections of our top JPIMedia websites from December 13-24 and put them together to find a suitable word for this special time of year.

Although we know the 12 Days don’t begin until December 25 we were so excited that we thought we would start the celebrations early.

With Christmas fast approaching (and with only a few days in which to cram in time with your ‘Christmas bubble’ this year), being on top of plans is more important than ever.

People across the UK are getting things in order early, to ensure that the time between 23 and 27 December goes off as smoothly as possible.

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One way to get prepared ahead of time is to get the festive treats in early and, if you’ve got a big enough freezer, store the majority of your Christmas Day meal in there.

But what’s safe to freeze, and what isn’t?

Can I freeze mince pies?

Many recipes for homemade mince pies boast of their ability to be frozen for later consumption, making this most humble of festive treats a nifty little time saver.

According to Good Housekeeping, uncooked mince pies can be wrapped in clingfilm and frozen in their tins for up to three months, before being baked in the oven for around half an hour to get them piping hot once more.

If you’ve already cooked your pies, they too can be frozen for three months, though will need to be transferred to a freezer proof container first; leave them to defrost overnight before warming them in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes.

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If you’re wanting to freeze shop-bought mince pies, check the packaging. The box should clearly state whether or not the pies you have purchased are suitable for freezing, and will provide some information on how best to defrost and prepare them before eating.

What other Christmas foods can I refreeze ahead of time?

Some high in protein foods, like meats, may be more prone to causing food poisoning, but as a rule, most foods can be frozen to be reheated at a later date.

Just make sure that they are stored properly and eaten within the recommended amount of time.

You’ll also need to remember that foods of any sort should be allowed to cool fully before they are put in the fridge or freezer; warm foods can increase the temperature within the appliances, creating an environment that is perfect for the multiplication of bacteria.

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Homemade Yorkshire can be cooled, then frozen for up to one month (Photo: Shutterstock)Homemade Yorkshire can be cooled, then frozen for up to one month (Photo: Shutterstock)
Homemade Yorkshire can be cooled, then frozen for up to one month (Photo: Shutterstock)

The BBC Good Food website has a wide range of recipes that can be made ahead of the big day.

They recommend that homemade Yorkshire puddings are cooled, then frozen for up to one month, while pigs in blankets can be prepared a day or two in advance, and then kept on a baking tray in the fridge (although they shouldn’t be frozen).

Prepared red cabbage will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to three days or in the freezer for up to two months, and can be reheated in a pan or in the microwave.

Roast potatoes can be prepared ahead of time, by cooking them in the usual way and freezing them for when they are needed (although they might not be quite as good as roasties ‘fresh’ from the oven), and gravies can be frozen for later if they’re made using goose fat or butter.

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As for turkey, meat should always be kept on the bottom shelf of a fridge, and leftover food should ideally be cooled and returned to the fridge within 90 minutes.

What about shop bought items?

Again, if you’re wanting to freeze pre-made items you’ve bought from a shop, check the packaging, which should clearly state whether or not what you have purchased is suitable for freezing.

The packaging should also provide information on how best to defrost and prepare them before eating.

Tips on reheating food

The NHS recommends that food and leftovers are not reheated more than once, as the more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning causing bacteria can multiply.

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When you do reheat food, make sure it reaches a temperature of 70ºC, and is left at this heat or above for at least two minutes before consuming.

If you’re reheating using a microwave, make sure you keep the food stirred throughout the heating process, as these appliances rarely heat things evenly throughout.

Leftovers and food stored in the fridge should be eaten within two days, while once you’ve removed something from the freezer to begin the process of defrosting, it needs to be consumed within 24 hours.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Scotsman

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