How many times have you jumped up to try a mouth-watering recipe only to discover it called for a teaspoon of zest and you didn’t have a fresh orange, lemon or lime on hand? If you take a moment to zest and freeze before you squeeze, you’ll always have citrus zest when you need it.
You can zest an orange and prep it for the freezer in less time than it will take you to read this quick and easy tutorial.
This is a kid-fun kitchen activity
If you have a child old enough to handle the zester, teach her how to do it and let it be her special job. If your child is too young to handle a sharp-edged tool, teach him how to squeeze the oranges after you zest.
This morning, my three-year-old granddaughter wanted fresh orange juice. Before we squeezed the oranges, I ran the zester lightly over their skin.
“Smells good, YayYay,” she said, surprised at the pungent scent exploding into the air.
Right away, she wanted a taste. I explained it might not taste as good as it smells. Taking a pinch of the bright orange bits apiece, we popped them into our mouths.
“Eeewww,” she said, wrinkling her nose. She spit the bitter shavings into a cup. (I was prepared!) I liked mine, a factor of aging taste buds, I suppose.
Together, we squeezed our three small Valencia oranges. She had a fine, messy time turning the orange halves on the pointy, ribbed cone of our old-fashioned manual juicer. I wish I had a glass one like my mom had. Mine is plastic. I’ve had it since before this baby’s mama was born.
While she sipped her juice, I measured the zest into one-teaspoon piles, wrapped it and tucked it in the freezer. Here, in pictures, my quick, easy method.
Tools you’ll need
To harvest and preserve your zest, gather these tools.
- Baker’s parchment, preferably unbleached (not waxed paper)
- Measuring spoons in the following quantities: 1/2 teaspoon and/or 1 teaspoon
- Small food-safe, freezer-quality baggie
- Permanent marker (for marking the baggie with the date and type of zest)
Unlike waxed paper, which absorbs moisture and allows ice crystals to form on the zest, baker’s parchment keeps the zest dry and protects it better from freezer burn.
As for the baggies, you might be surprised to see what I use! If you’ve nursed a child, you will recognize my baggies for the re-purposed, food-safe, breast-milk bags they are. I have a lot of them, all carefully washed, rinsed and dried. My daughter could not reuse them for breast milk, of course, but they are just the right size for storing frozen herbs and citrus zest wrapped in parchment envelopes.
Zest your orange, lemon or lime
Run the zester lightly over the skin of the fruit, taking only the top layer. Avoid cutting deep enough to get the bitter white pith.
A little reminder: To avoid feeding endocrine-disrupting pesticides to your family, zest only certified organic fruit. Learn more about pesticides on many foods, including oranges at What’s On my Food.
Measure the zest
Measure the zest in the quantities you use most often, so you can snip off just what you need without thawing the whole batch. Many of my recipes call for a teaspoon of zest. Others call for just half a teaspoon, so I keep some of each on hand in clearly marked baggies.
To preserve the zest, cut a piece of baker’s parchment, which you can barely see against the brown cutting board in this image. Cut it just as long and twice as wide as your baggie.
Lay measured spoonfuls of the zest on the parchment. Leave a little space between each pile, just so. Later, when you take the strip from the freezer, you will snip in the flat space between, to get just what you need without having to thaw the entire strip.
Insert packet into baggie
Fold the parchment in half over the zest and carefully insert into your baggie. Again, it’s a little tricky to see that brown parchment paper against the bamboo cutting board, but it’s there!
If you have a steel memory trap, ignore this step. If you’re like me, after a few weeks you may be glad to find the label.
Oh oh. I thought if I folded down the previously marked tab that the old handwritten label wouldn’t show. I was mistaken! As my granddaughter would say, “Silly, YayYay.”
Pop it in the freezer
Lay the package flat until frozen, then, store it upright in the door of your freezer to keep it handy. Here, you can see I have a bank of citrus zest and fresh-frozen herbs.
Snip what you need
When you discover you need a little zest and there’s no fresh orange in sight, unzip the baggie, snip off one or two teaspoons, and put the rest back in the freezer.
Your zest will thaw in a minute or two. Use immediately.
Little tricks like this help to make for both a greener kitchen and a frugal kitchen, saving the environment for my grandchildren, and saving money I can invest in better tools to make my work easier, or even that gourmet Belgian chocolate I want to use in my next cake.
Love your zest?
Have you tried freezing fresh herbs or zest? I find freezing works well with most herbs as well as with the zest. What is your experience? I welcome your comments and suggestions, and any culinary tips you might want to share.
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Dear Readers: If you think you’ve seen this tip before, you may well have done. In June 2014, as a writer on the now-defunct site Squidoo, I first published this tip under the user name graceonline. In August 2014, HubPages, where I am known as ecogranny, bought Squidoo. I opted to have my Squidoo pages, including this article, transferred to the new site. Now, in November 2015, I’ve brought it home–to YayYay’s Kitchen.