Freezing citrus zest

The bounty of citrus in winter months never fails to incite frenzy to save every bit and bob from these fragrant fruits. I taught this workshop over the weekend and have many posts on the blog (here, here and here to name a few) dedicated to using up citrus from rind to seed.

Freezing zest is a great way to add bright, freshness to your baked goods and dinners throughout the year when your citrus bounty is nonexistent. Start by zesting the fruit. Then cut out a few 6” x 6” parchment paper squares and divvy the zest into 1 tsp measures onto the papers. Fold them up tightly.

Wrap your folded packets in a piece of tin foil (and don’t forget to date them!). Throw this bundle in a freezer bag for one more layer of volatile oil protection! Try to use these within 6 months for maximum zing.

Eliminating Freezer Burn

This freezing trick comes as an addendum to a great tip I learned from my friend Kim O’Donnel, who was in town teaching classes last weekend. Enjoy this two-for-one hip trick deal!

I inherited from a market demo an excess quart basket of overripe tomato seconds (the not-pretty, but still great eating variety), and with these tomatoes I made tomato paste. Kim said to peel and seed then puree the tomatoes, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and bake in a low oven (200) for an hour or two until the water evaporates and you’re left with tomato paste. 

Store this or any freezer-bound goods in a straight sided mason jar (to allow ice crystals to evenly expand upward and prevent jar breakage) and top with a little piece of foil to eliminate air from coming into contact with the surface of your food, thus cutting down the odds of freezer burn. (p.s. Yes, this is precisely a reiteration of this very hip trick, but less the plastic touching your food, score!)

Update: A couple hip readers mentioned that the foil might leach aluminum into acidic foods (like tomatoes!) so maybe a small round of parchment paper would do best? The trick would be to cut it just right so it sits completely inside the jar rim and fits on top of the food without bubbling up and causing a pocket of air between food and parchment.

Homegrown jamming: preserving tiny amounts of produce

If your strawberry plants are anything like mine, you’re lucky to get one or possibly (spectacularly) two berries every few days. Hardly a jam-worthy lot. Hardly even an ice cream toppings for two lot.

Well, if you have a bit of perseverance and a freezer, you can make a small jar of your homegrown berry jam. Freeze your berries little by little by following the how-to in this post on freezing berries for future jamming. Wait for your next “harvest” and repeat! When you have a half pound’s worth stashed in your freezer bag, make half of this recipe and enjoy a half-pint of your homegrown jam.

Low-tech food dehydrating

Break into the exciting world of food dehydration with this low-tech method using your oven. As a general rule, you’ll want to slice up your fruit or veg to no thicker than 1/4-inch and arrange on a cookie cooling rack which is then placed on top of a cookie sheet to catch any drips or fruit goo. This allows warm, dry air to completely envelop the food and allow for maximum successful drying potential!

A note on temp: Turn the dial to the lowest heat setting possible; most ovens won’t go below 160 or 170 degrees-F, so just keep an eye on whatever it is you’re hoping to dry. (A food dehydrator achieves your ideal fruits/veg drying temp of 135 degrees-F.) For drying herbs and spices, try using the ambient heat of your gas oven or turn your electric oven on to 200 degrees-F and switch it off when it comes to temp (then place drying tray in after 5 min).

Fermented pickles

Planning to try a small batch of fermented pickles this summer? Use a quart- or gallon-sized wide-mouth jar with an upside-down half-pint jam jar to keep the pickles submerged in the brine. Don’t forget to place a bowl or plate beneath your fermenting jar, to catch any wild brine bubble-overs!

Visit this post for a quick intro, ideas and resources for first-time fermentation projects.