Q. I can’t always get to the store when I need citrus zest. Can I freeze zest? If so, should I freeze it in strips or zested?
Thanks! — J.B.
Freezing zest is an excellent way to keep those little bits of intense, citrus flavor on hand for recipes, garnishes or salad dressing. The trick is to remember to make zest when you are using the citrus for juice, then pack the zest into small plastic bags (such as the snack-size bags) or just wrap up a tablespoon or two of zest in plastic wrap, and close it tightly around the zest.
Zest is the colored part of a lemon, lime or orange rind. First, wash the fruit and dry it well. As you are zesting, try to avoid the white pith underneath the zest, as it is bitter. One good way to zest citrus is by using a tool made for that purpose. You can find a lemon or citrus zester in a cooking supply store. Or, use a microplane grater or the side of a stand grater with the smallest holes. Simply run the fruit across the smallest holes on the grater, moving the fruit around so that you can take of a thin layer all around the peel.
If you use either of these methods, use a pastry brush after you’ve grated the zest to get all the bits out of the grater.
There is about a tablespoon of zest per normal-sized lemon. When you take the zest out of the freezer to use later, you don’t have to defrost – that will happen pretty quickly once you take it from the freezer. Put the amount you need directly into the recipe. The zest won’t be at its best if you leave in the freezer for a long time. Replace with fresh from time to time.
See recipe for Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing