Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
At this point in your life, you’ve probably mastered the basics of storing food. Fresh milk needs to be refrigerated. Frozen peas need to go in the freezer. That sort of thing.
But, as it turns out, the conventional way of stashing your groceries isn’t always the easiest. Or the cheapest. Or even the most convenient. So today, I want to share some handy tips I picked up from clever cooks on how to store food, better. And, having just arrived in chilly Canada from a much warmer North Carolina, it seems only appropriate to focus on the great storer of food that is the freezer.
Read on to find out how stashing three typically unfrozen ingredients in the freezer will save you a trip to the store, transform a task from tough to easy, and cut down on food waste.
Not bad, freezer, not bad.
WHY YOU SHOULD FREEZE THEM: Like most fresh veggies, fresh chilies have a relatively short lifespan on the counter or in the fridge. But, wouldn’t you know, the little things freeze well (thanks for the tip, Wendy!). So save yourself from having to run to the store every time you need a chili by starting a frozen chili collection.
WHAT TO DO: Wash and thoroughly dry your chilies. Toss them in a bag. Freeze them. Ta-da! You can prep them straight out of the freezer, though I find they’re easiest to cut if they’ve sat at room temperature for a minute or so.
TIPS: Chilies that have a high water content – like juicy jalapeños – will be slightly softer after a run in the freezer relative to when they’re fresh. So if it’s essential that your pepper has some crunch, it’s best to keep them out of the freezer. But if you’ll be cooking the things or using them in small quantities, you’re fine to dip into your frozen stash.
WHY YOU SHOULD FREEZE IT: When it’s fresh, ginger root is a pain to work with – its fibrousness makes it tough to chop or grate. When it’s frozen, the fibrousness seems to disappear, making prep work a cinch.
WHAT TO DO: Wash and dry your ginger root, then pop it in the freezer (you can put it in a container here, though I don’t bother). Once the ginger is frozen through, it’s ready to be used as per your recipe. Be sure to wield your knife/grater/peeler carefully here, as the frozen ginger will have a good amount of resistance to it.
TIPS: Two things: 1) Peeling ginger is optional – the thin skin is edible and not noticeable when grated; and, 2) My preferred tool of choice for grating ginger is a sturdy microplaner, like this one.
WHY YOU SHOULD FREEZE IT: Recipes rarely call for a full can of tomato paste, which means that when you cook with it, you’re almost always stuck with more than you need. Save yourself from having to design the next few meals around the extra paste (or from throwing it out) by storing it in the freezer. When frozen, it’s easy to work with – a sharp knife slices through it without a problem. And since tomato paste is typically added to hot sauces or stocks, you’ll most often be able to toss it into your dish straight from the freezer.
WHAT TO DO: In a freezer-safe container, spread your tomato paste in a thin (~1/2-inch) layer that doesn’t quite touch the container’s walls. Now freeze it! Once the paste is frozen, remove it from the container, set it on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to carefully slice off as much as you need (you’ll have to approximate). Refreeze the extras!
Alternatively, for more precise serving sizes, freeze individual tablespoons of the stuff on a parchment-lined baking tray. Once the little pods are frozen through, drop them in a freezer-safe container or bag.
Defrost the tomato paste only if you need to (if you have to mix it into something that isn’t hot, for example). In most cases though, working with it while it’s still frozen should be fine!
Have any clever food storage tips of your own? Be sure to leave a comment so that other readers can benefit from your wise ways!