Kitchen Hack #2: Freeze Your Citrus

Last week I shared with you the easiest way to poach an egg, and I was so excited to see how that little hack inspired a few of you to try out that technique in your own kitchens. Today I’m back with another simple little kitchen hack, one I know will also streamline your work in the kitchen by making sure that you never run out of citrus.

In my own kitchen I use citrus on a daily basis. Because I rarely cook with recipes, I rely on my intuition and personal tastes to inform me of when a dish needs tweaking. If a dish is bland, it sometimes needs a bit of salt or pepper to bring it to life. If a dish is a bit too fatty, or bitter, or still bland despite extra seasoning, I usually turn to acid to make things right. Vinegar works to bring acid in a pinch, but there is really nothing that adds fresh zing! like a squeeze of lemon or lime. Unlike salt or vinegar, lemons and limes unfortunately go bad, and even the most well stocked kitchens can run dry of essential citrus, meaning that every once in a while you might turn around to find yourself helpless at bringing your fish/salad/vegetables/whatever to life.

Much like running out of salt, running out of citrus is a situation I like to avoid, so I’ve developed this kitchen hack to make sure that never happens. Here’s how it works: freeze your citrus. I know, that didn’t really blow your mind or anything – I’m just telling you to use your freezer, which you already knew you could do – but it really shocks me that no one else does this. Why does no one else do this!?

When I first started freezing citrus, I did so only to use up the bounty of fruit I knew would wither on my counter. (I mistakenly ordered three bags too many of on-sale lemons and limes from Fresh Direct.) After a few weeks, though, I realized that I always had on hand the lemons and limes that I needed, and I wasn’t stomping around my kitchen angry that I had forgotten to replenish my supply at the store.

Quite by accident, I also discovered that frozen citrus produces way more juice than room temperature citrus. Seriously. If you’re making guacamole and using thawed frozen limes, expect to need 1-2 limes fewer than you might otherwise use. My theory on the magic juice-producing potential goes like this: the water in limes freezes into ice crystals, those ice crystals puncture holes the membranes of juice-containing pods in the lime, then those holes allow more delicious juice to flow out of the lime when it is thawed. Is this hard science? Maybe not, but it makes sense to me.

So now that I’ve convinced you that running out of citrus is the worst, and that freezing your citrus is the bestlet me give you a run down on exactly how to execute this hack.

  1. Slice your lemons and limes into halves or quarters. Bonus points for zesting the fruits first. (Zest holds up great in the freezer, too!)
  2. Scatter the sliced fruit onto a parchment lined baking sheet and set in the freezer to freeze-dry for at least 2 hours.
  3. Regain your freezer space by moving the frozen citrus into large freezer bags.
  4. Anytime you want to use the citrus, simply thaw in the microwave!

Tweet: This simple #kitchenhack over on #cookingwithbellson will make sure you NEVER run out of #citrus again! via @kemayell This simple #kitchenhack over on #cookingwithbellson will make sure you NEVER run out of #citrus again! via @kemayell

Want to use up that citrus you just froze? Try those lemons in my Super Salsa Verde, or give the limes a squeeze over my Thai Green Curry with Crispy Roasted Chicken, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Bok Choy.

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