If we had a dollar for every time someone asked, "Is this still good?" whilst rifling around the fridge after Christmas, well, let's just say we'd be spending the festive season somewhere tropical... and entirely catered. And while the old "give it a whiff" test is OK, it's not exactly scientific. That's why we thought it might be a good idea to check with an expert, how long do Christmas leftovers actually last? And how do you use them up before they go off? After all, there are only so many turkey sandwiches we can eat before we swear off it for life. So here is your essential guide to eating, storing and using up your festive leftovers. Merry Christmas!
Keep it fresh… According to food consultant Jennene Plummer, you should store fresh ham in its packaging in the fridge. “Once rind is removed, store your Christmas ham in a calico ham bag – most butchers will have them,” she says. “Cover ham with the rind or baking paper. Wash bag in a solution of two cups water and one tablespoon white vinegar and wring out.”
Lasts for… “Keep in a ham bag in the coldest part of the fridge for up to three weeks – rinse bag in the solution every couple of days,” she advises.
Use it up… Jennene suggests that it’s good to use ham in salads, tarts, pies, pizzas, savoury muffins or scones or instead of bacon with your eggs. Or try this: Roll up the edges of a sheet of puff pastry to make a border. Top with slices of ham, brie, slivers of asparagus. Whisk two eggs and drizzle over. Bake at 200 C for 15 minutes. Serve scattered with a little rocket.
Can I freeze it? Yes, says Jennene. “It can be frozen for up to a month in serving portions. Remember to wrap well, label and date it.”
Keep it fresh… “Once roasted,” says Jennene, “it will last for three to four days, well wrapped or in an airtight container in the fridge.” Just make sure you refrigerate it as soon as possible.
Lasts for… “As a general rule, fresh turkey and other poultry can be kept in their packaging in the fridge for one to two days.”
Use it up… Use turkey in fried rice, pot pies, risotto, pasta dishes or salads, suggests Jennene. Or try this
Toss turkey slices through a mixture of mint and coriander leaves, cucumber ribbons, cherry tomato halves, sliced red onion, snow pea sprouts and drizzle with a favourite Asian dressing. Serve topped with chopped cashews.
Can I freeze it? If freezing your leftover turkey, Jennene says you should remove meat from the bones and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place in freezer bags. Remove all air and label and date. It freezes well for up to three months.
Keep it fresh… Jennene suggests that it’s best to make stuffing and to prepare the poultry or other meat just before roasting. Wrap any leftover stuffing in foil and bake 20 minutes. “It can be reheated in the microwave or oven,” she says. “Test it with a food thermometer to ensure the centre has reached at least 70°C.”
Lasts for… Once it’s cooked, place left-over stuffing in an airtight container in the fridge and use or freeze within three to four days.
Use it up…Add it to crumb toppings, meatballs, muffins or dumplings, says Jennene. “For a quick an easy breakfast, add the stuffing mix to grated potato and sweet potato – add some bacon and chopped green onion if liked. Make it into a large rosti in a frying pan in some hot oil. Cook until crisp. Turn and make four indents. Add eggs and bake at 200C, for 10 minutes.”
Can I freeze it? Absolutely. If you don’t use it within three or four days, just pop it in the freezer making sure to reheat it as above.
Keep it fresh… “Keep fresh meat in the fridge for no more than one or two days before roasting,” says Jennene.
Lasts for… Once it’s roasted, you should refrigerate left-overs as soon as possible, “sliced from any bones, wrapped in plastic wrap or in airtight containers for three to four days,” says Jennene.
Use it up… Leftovers are perfect for sandwiches, tarts, salads, cold meat curries, patties or croquettes. Or try Jennene’s quick recipe:
“For a quick dinner, chop meat finely, heat in a wok with chopped water chestnuts, grated carrot, green onion, garlic, ginger and soy sauce and oyster sauce for one or two minutes. Pile into lettuce cups. Top with sliced chilli, chopped peanuts and bean sprouts.”
Can I freeze it? Yes – leftovers can also be frozen for up to three months.
Roast root veggies
Keep it fresh… “Store your raw potatoes and onions in a cool, dry place and other vegetables, wrapped, in the crisper of the fridge,” says Jennene, “and cook them on the day.”
Lasts for… You can store left-overs in separate containers in the fridge for two to three days
Use it up… Use them for bubble and squeak, frittatas, soup, pies, pasta or salad.
Or why not try Jennene’s idea. “A favourite simple meal accompaniment is to mash vegetables together slightly, press into a pan with melted butter and cook slowly until a crust forms. Invert and serve in wedges – or top with smashed avocado, roast tomatoes, poached egg and baby spinach leaves.”
Can I freeze it? Yes – in separate containers for two to three months.
Keep it fresh… “Look for fresh, cooked prawns with a pleasant sea smell and no discolouration,” advises Jennene. “Keep them cold (use a chiller bag when shopping) and eat as soon as possible after purchasing.”
Lasts for… “Store them on a plate or tray covered with plastic wrap or covered container in the coldest part of the fridge before serving. Use within one or two days.”
Use it up… Use any leftover prawns in omelettes, risotto, salads, crepes, pasta, tarts, stir-fries, soups or sandwiches. Or try this: “Chop finely with some ginger, green onion, garlic and soy, wrap in wonton wrappers and steam or deep-fry,” Jennene says.
Can I freeze it? They can be frozen if done so the day of purchase, but it’s generally not recommended as often prawns have been snap frozen and defrosted already.
Keep it fresh… Store salmon in the coldest part of the fridge in its wrapping.
Lasts for… “Use it up within one to two days of purchase (if buying by weight from the fish shop), or be wary of use-by dates,” advises Jennene.
Use it up… Use on seafood platters, seafood cocktails, sandwiches, quiche, tarts, risotto, pasta, salads, pate or hors-d'oeuvres. Or for a quick brekkie or lunch, “Slice and stir through lightly scrambled egg with chives and capers,” says Jennene.
Can I freeze it? It freezes well for up to two months.
Greens and salads
Keep it fresh… “Purchase these as close to the required day as possible, and store well wrapped in the crisper of your fridge,” says Jennene.
Lasts for… Left-over greens can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. “Leafy salads do not last well if already dressed, maybe just 1 day,” warns Jennene, “but undressed salads, pasta, rice or potato salads will last for 3-4 days.”
Use it up… Use them as accompaniments to summer meals, in sandwiches or rolls. “A classic is to pair left-over roast pork with leftover coleslaw or potato salad in a fresh roll for an easy lunch,” Jennene says.
Can I freeze it? No!
Keep it fresh… Pavlovas are best made on the day to be served but can be made a day or two in advance if necessary and stored in an airtight container away from any moisture.
Lasts for… “There usually aren’t many left-overs with this classic,” laughs Jennene, “but if there is, cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container and store in the fridge until the next day.”
Use it up… “Simply eat it as it is or if you have a lot of leftovers, crumble in a store bought pavlova base with extra cream, fruit and custard to make a delicious Eaton Mess for unexpected visitors,” she suggests.
Can I freeze it? You can freeze unfilled pavlova but once it has been filled, it’s not advisable.
Keep it fresh… Trifle can be made 1-2 days ahead of serving. Just make sure to keep covered in the fridge,” says Jennene.
Lasts for… Store leftovers in the same way for one or two days.
Use it up… “Left-over trifle can be eaten as it is, or it could be folded through softened ice-cream and then refrozen,” she suggests.
Can I freeze it? Trifle on its own doesn’t freeze well (but if you follow Jennene’s tip to mix with ice cream, then yes!)
Keep it fresh… “Puddings and cakes should be made ahead to allow the flavours to develop,” says Jennene. “They’re usually well wrapped and placed in a cool, dry place for up to three months.”
Lasts for… Store leftovers wrapped in an airtight container or fridge and they will last for up to two months because of their alcohol content.
Use it up… “Left-over pudding is great reheated, served with ice-cream, thickly sliced and toasted or topped and baked or try crumbling into softened ice-cream and refreezing,” she suggests.
Can I freeze it? Yep – they freeze well and can be kept in the freezer for six months or more.
Keep it fresh… “Store freshly baked and cooled shortbread in an airtight container in the pantry,” says Jennene.
Lasts for… Stored properly, they will stay fresh for up to four weeks.
Use it up… “Break some into softened ice-cream and refreeze,” suggests Jennene. “Or crumble into glasses for easy trifles, make into a pie crust or use to make a crumble topping for fruit.”
Can I freeze it? “Keep some dough in the freezer for emergency baking – it will last up to two months if well-wrapped,” she adds.