Salsa hack: Frozen nuggets of awesome

July 24 | Guest post by Maniacal Giggler

Cilimetro-Prep-1If you're like me, your mind probably conjures awesome meals you want to make at pretty much exactly the same time you want to be eating them. Which doesn't leave much time for prepping, cooking, and assembling it before you hulk out and get all Hangry — that special brand of hunger-angry.

However, my partner and I have devised a method to ease at least one aspect of meal preparation — a food-hack for fast and perfectly seasoned salsa or guacamole.

Tools:

  • Old-school ice cube trays
  • Limes
  • Cilantro
  • A freezer

Of course, given our modern age of intelligent refrigerators that not only make their own ice but also tell you the temperature and probably could fold your laundry, you might be wondering what, exactly, is an "ice cube tray." If so, this post may not be for you. (We were amazed one day when my partner's godson, who had stopped by one day while out biking with a friend, exclaimed "What's that!?" when we pulled out a tray to provide ice for his ginger ale. He'd apparently never seen one before, since ice "just comes out of the fridge door thing!" Le sigh.)

Prep is easy:

  1. Juice the limes
  2. Chop up the cilantro
  3. Fill the trays
  4. Freeze
  5. Wait for maybe a day?
  6. PROFIT

We put at least enough chopped cilantro in each spot to fill it halfway up, then top the whole thing up with lime juice. Extensive experimentation has revealed that the perfect portion for guacamole is one frozen cilimetro cube per avocado, since it provides just enough tartness but doesn't end up too limey. Your results may vary.

Cilimetro Prep 2

Once the cubes are good and frozen, transfer them to a zippy bag you keep in the freezer, thus freeing up the trays for another round of cilimetro or other purposes.

We've also successfully done this with home-made chicken stock, but you could probably do it with any liquid (except maybe something dairy-based — I imagine there would be separation issues?).

The real beauty of this method is you have absolute control over how much you choose to use for any purpose, and so there's no waste because you're not defrosting a full quart-size bag of stock or juice if you only want to make a single serving of something.

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  1. We have bags of different kinds of ice in our freezer- coffee cubes, watermelon juice for martinis, grape juice for the kids, lime juice, tomato paste so none of it goes bad when we don't use the whole can.

    10 agree
  2. You can absolutely freeze milk too! When I was little, we lived in rural Canada and my mom only went grocery shopping about once a month because it was about an hour into the nearest "city". We froze the bags of milk (yes, in Canada milk comes in bags) in our deep freeze.

    The fat does separate out from the liquid a bit, but if you shake it a couple times during the defrost, it's ok. It's a little weird to drink it (it feels weird), but it works perfectly to cook or bake with.

    3 agree
    • Ooh! I should try this with buttermilk! I like cooking with it but not regularly enough to keep a fresh carton on hand, and the powdered just doesn't quite work the same.

      1 agrees
      • If you don't have the freezer space, you can make "almost buttermilk".
        1 cup normal milk, 1 TBS vinegar, and 5 minutes. It's not as thick, but I can't tell the difference in the recipes I use.*

        *Let's get real- the only recipe I make that uses buttermilk is pancakes 🙂

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        • You are missing a golden opportunity to make fresh butter, by which process you will get butter milk, which you can then use to make the pancakes which you can top with your fresh butter.

          1 agrees
      • An excellent point. I just taught myself how to make buttermilk biscuits, but after the first few batches, I was struggling to figure out how else to use the buttermilk before it went bad and also without using it for every meal for an entire week.

      • I always freeze buttermilk. And the handy thing about it is you can freeze it in the carton, then peel the carton off and put it in a ziploc bag. Since our house has a tupperware and ice cube tray thief, this is handy and saves space in the end.

        1 agrees
    • We freeze bags of milk too! We don't drink it fast enough otherwise, but milk bought in bags in cheapest.

    • See, I had never heard of freezing liquid dairy products, or even solid ones like butter, for that matter, so this just blows my mind.

    • In my house growing up, with six people in our family, we went through milk at an alarming rate. So my mom would get several gallons every time we went to the grocery store (once a week?), and all but one went to the downstairs, full-sized freezer. We got sort of slushy milk occasionally, if the old gallon ran out before the new one thawed, but it still was good!

      1 agrees
  3. I use this same method when I make pesto sauce, because my husband doesn't care for pasta much so it's super easy to make a single serving for moi. Now I wanna think of what else I can freeze…

    4 agree
    • This sounds fantastic. I never made pesto before, could you elaborate or offer some tips?

      1 agrees
      • Pesto is super easy, especially if you have a food processor. I tend to make large batches, and then freeze lumps on a wax-paper lined tray (we call them "PLOPs" — Portioned Lumps Of Pesto).

        I make my pesto by taste/texture (no recipe) — basil, garlic (or garlic scapes, or green garlic), olive oil, and salt are the basics, but you can also add parmesan cheese & pine nuts if you want to be a little more spend-y about it. If I'm using scapes (the flower stalk of the garlic plant), then I put them through the food processor first, then add oil, basil, and salt, and run the thing until everything is nice and pesto-y. I think for cloves of garlic, I generally start the basil, then cut chunks of garlic in, and add oil as necessary. If things aren't chopping evenly, add a little more oil. If it tastes a bit bitter, you can add some salt. How much basil to how much garlic you like is completely a matter of personal taste, and there's a wide range between "too much garlic" and "can't even taste the garlic", so it's not too hard to make work.

        3 agree
    • Mmmmmm… Pesto. Our basil harvest is filling out nicely, so I'm looking forward to having myself a nice Pesto Party pretty soon.

  4. It's posts like this, and the meal planning one, that make me want a deep freeze so bad I can't stand it.
    I WANT TO FREEZE EVERYTHING!!!
    (I realize that this doesn't really require a deep freezer, but my current freezer already threatens my life every time I open it. It's like playing very cold Jenga…)

    18 agree
    • I dream of a dedicated stand-up freezer, but we simply have no where to keep one right now, and so we, as well, often take our lives, eyeballs and even toes into our own hands by merely opening the freezer door. (A big chunk of frozen chicky boobs is like a cannonball on toes!)

    • We scrimped and saved after buying our house because we needed a new stove, washer, and dryer (we went 8 months just using the stovetop, no oven, and just under a year with only a mediocre washer and no dryer). When we got to our local Sears outlet with cash in hand for the washer & dryer, we found they were having a massive sale and we were able to buy a stand-up freezer too! Best. Day. Evar. I freeze ALL THE THINGS!

      4 agree
      • I bought my chest freezer off Craigslist for 50 bucks. It's not the most attractive thing in the world (lots of surface bumps and scrapes) but the insides are sound and it works great. Barely costs anything to run and I don't honestly know how I lived without freezing all the things. This fall, I'm going to purchase half a cow. If you're going to buy a used one, make sure the inside of the lid is perfectly flat with no bulges…bulges indicate that the freezer is about to poop out. Otherwise, go used appliances go.

        1 agrees
    • I have a chest freezer, and it's awesome. They do go on sale occasionally, so keep an eye out for a floor model or a deal.
      I am from The Country, USA, and my family butchers their own cows and pigs. And I am a vegetarian despite having access to this humanely-raised meat (pasture, small numbers of animals housed together)! But my husband eats it and my brother recently moved to the same city, so our parents saw a sale and bought us a small chest freezer to store meat. I also use it to to freeze tomatoes from my garden, applesauce, and veggie broth. And we feed our dog frozen green beans with every meal to keep her weight at the appropriate place, so it's helpful to store them there also!
      So as long as you can afford it and have room to store it, I recommend it!

  5. These would also be handy for Thai and South East Asian food which also uses a lot of lime juice and cilantro/coriander.

    Other fresh cut herbs can be frozen like this but an alternative method is to mostly fill the cube space with as much dry herb as possible and then drip on the bare minimum of water the freezing agent. This gives just the herb with no other flavour, widening its uses beyond the recipe you may have had in mind when freezing it – you clearly want as little water as possible so you can just chuck it in a what you are cooking without adding a load of water. You can do the same with garlic or ginger (minced or grated) or if you use them together a lot do a combo. Whatever you do label it, they all look the same once chopped and frozen!

    Ice cube trays are also great for freezing tiny portions of batches home made pureed baby food, there is a time when they are eating such small anounts of soilds you really just need a cube or two.

    For the adults its also great for the last bit of a bottle of wine that didn't get drunk at dinner. You can then add a cube or two of frozen wine to soups, sauces, casseroles etc. Ditto left over gravy or stock.

    8 agree
  6. I use this hack a lot at home. We usually leave the cilantro out though, so that way the frozen lime juice can be used for margaritas and nachos. XD

    Also, this works well with lemon juice for chicken dishes. <3

    Best part is, freezing juice from fresh limes and lemons are healthier for you than using the bottled juice (it comes in a plastic container, for like $1). The plastic container juice contains chemical preservatives, which should be avoided. Especially, if you have an autoimmune disease or asthma.

    1 agrees
    • I do this all the time too! My brother-in-law has a lemon tree and we're inundated with lemons every winter (think multiple grocery bags full). When they're close to the end of their life, I juice them and freeze them in ice cube trays, then transfer the frozen cubes to a ziploc bag.

      The lemon cubes are great when I need lemon juice in a recipe, and they're also a huge help in the summer when I need lemon juice for canning tomatoes and making jams (to add the necessary acidity). I love this trick!

  7. I use the same freeze-in-ice-cube-trays method whenever I make hollandaise sauce. Then whenever I'm in the mood for asparagus with hollandaise I can just grab a cube or two and thaw it in my microwave in a ramekin. It separates a little bit upon thawing. But you can whisk it back to smooth consistency with a fork as you pour it over the asparagus.

  8. Love this – would also be perfect for ceviche!

    We also freeze herbs in little plastic baggies, which seems to work pretty well as long as they're fairly dry so they don't freeze into one big clump.

    1 agrees
  9. Yes! I love this trick for so many things! Other examples – mashed rutabaga, turnips, winter squash, kale or other greens. All of those are great for throwing in sauces, soups, mashed potatoes to add nutrition. Usually I use veggies I'm afraid are going bad. Also, for stuff I want larger quantities of, mainly chicken stock for me, I freeze in muffin tins instead. That's about 1/4 cup per cube.

    2 agree
  10. i need to make a point of starting to do this. we have a big city allotment garden and i try to dry some herbs for winter use, but this is WAY easier. I will still dry some, but i will add the ice cube trays to my repertoire. thanks! (for the wine thing, i use a small tupperware container and just add whatever dregs are left in our glasses (is that gross?) to the tupperware, and then use it when i need it – it might end up with a few layers of different wines, but it works!)

  11. All of you are blowing my mind right now! I need to make flavor cubes immediately. Actually, I've seen this with stock, but not with herbs and lime! What do you recommend if you are using cubes in cold dishes? Do you just let it thaw out naturally in bowl and then add it to your salsa or what not?

    • I was wondering the same thing! I've seen so many food hacks using ice cube trays but always wonder how you go about defrosting/using them…

    • Good question!!

      The Gaffer is much more familiar with the Secrets of the Microwave than I, so he's usually in charge of the defrostation process. He nukes a few cubes in a ceramic cereal bowl for maybe 5 seconds at a time, until he sees the cubes start to melt but not actually get really warm. I tried to do it once, but was strongly cautioned to be patient and never try to heat them more than 10 seconds at a time, else they'll get "Cooked" rather than just re-liquified.

      Otherwise, (and this takes a bit more forethought), you can defrost them more slowly but safely in the fridge or just sitting out on your countertop in a bowl or dish or something.

      1 agrees
  12. I do this with garlic/herb butter! Just mix soft butter with a ton of garlic and herbs and then freeze in a tube shape in glad wrap (saran wrap? Excuse the Australian-ism). Then if I make garlic bread or want buttery veges, i just slice some off. I also suspect the other half cooks with it instead of sparingly using the garlic olive oil i make – some of his steaks are very buttery. Not going to lie – I have a few recipes like this which are just heart attacks waiting to happen

    1 agrees
  13. For thicker sauces (pesto, peanut sauce), I freeze lumps on a wax-paper-lined tray, then transfer them to a ziplock bag. (This also has the advantage of letting me make the portions whatever size I want). Freezing on trays then transferring also works really well for sliced strawberries, halved apricots, and blanched broccoli & string beans. Currants and raspberries do fine frozen in plastic litre baskets, then transferred to bags. I freeze cherries (with juice) in a thin enough layer in a zipper bag that I can then break off a chunk when I want it — same goes for chopped peppers & chopped eggplant, actually. Tomatoes can be cored and then tossed right in a bag and frozen — and the skin will slip right off if you run it under hot water on its way out of the freezer! Yes, I love my chest freezer, why do you ask? :p

    2 agree
  14. I just froze a bunch of yogurt (short side story: we went to a fair, as we were leaving they were handing out containers of yogurt, telling people to go to the truck for a free case – we came home with almost 2 cases worth, and we don't eat that much yogurt). I freeze it in cubes that I use to make smoothies with whatever fruit we have on hand (or frozen too).

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