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Now that the holidays are over, my local grocery store has a glut of pints of pre-shucked oysters they need to unload. I can't pass that up, so I thought I would make a whole mess of oyster stew or chowder and freeze it for later. But that had me wondering, what is the proper way to approach this with minimal damage to the quality/taste/texture of the result?

I could make it all up front and freeze it in pre-portioned amounts. But will it freeze well/properly? Pretty much every recipe is just a whole bunch of fatty dairy (butter, cream), maybe some aromatics, and the oysters. With all that fat, will it freeze well (not separate) and be easy to store without picking up freezer funk?

The alternative I came up with, since the recipe really is so simple -- sweat the aromatics if using them, heat up the dairy and drop in the oysters until cooked -- perhaps it would be better to pre-portion the uncooked oysters and freeze those, probably in a flat puck shape. Then when it's time to eat some stew, I just prepare the recipe as usual and drop in my frozen oyster puck and it probably takes a few extra minutes to cook but it's not really much worse than thawing and reheating the version made with the previous method.

I feel like the second approach will give a better result for the added cost of a few extra minutes when I want to eat it, but I've never frozen oysters in their liquor so maybe I am missing something. I've also never frozen heavy dairy so maybe I am missing something about that also.

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If the stew is already prepared, you should be able to freeze it with very little problem. I freeze cream sauces all of the time. Individual portions are ideal because they freeze more quickly with less/smaller water crystals.

If the stew is not cold already, chill it in the refrigerator before before moving it to the freezer. Breaking, or separation of fats, usually occurs when reheating. Defrost the frozen stew gently, say overnight in the refrigerator or in a cool water bath, and then gently warm in a pan -- not a microwave. Add a little fresh cream to smooth it out if you need to.

As you mention, any oysters in the stew will be frozen and reheated, so they will be end up more "well done" than those in a fresh batch.

As for freezing the oysters in their liquor, you can do so. If you have a vacuum sealer that allows liquids, that is your best route. Note that freezing will slightly change the texture and they will release more moisture when thawed.

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