Can you tell I love alliteration? Well, I finally feel like a real writer. It is 12:40 and the night is dark and cold. After going to bed early, as tomorrow is a 4:00 a.m. wakeup, I awoke 2 hours later unable to go back to sleep. Rather than toss and turn for another hour, I went downstairs, made a cup of coffee (decaf of course), loaded it up with creamer and sweetner and am up in my office ready to commit everything I know about lemons to paper – computer actually. Normally a tea drinker, I felt coffee more in keeping with the writer thing. Afterwhich, I hope to be sufficiently tired enough to sleep for another couple of hours.
My office rather looks like a lemon – all yellow and white, bright and zesty. When the sun shines in, the room looks as though a thousand watts are lighting it up. It is my favorite room in the house, save the kitchen.
Throughout the ages, lemons have been used in medicines, as bleach, invisible ink and in witchcraft according to “Food Lover’s Companion”. Lemons are one of my favorite things to cook/bake with. They can liven up a flat dish and add excitement to an okay one. Equally at home in both savory and sweet cooking, both the outer skin (the rind or zest) and the juice are useful. With the price of lemons (as well as everything else) on the rise, I was appalled recently when I found lemons were a dollar a piece. While there was a day I would use the zest or the juice and toss the rest away, I don’t do that anymore. I have become both resentful and frugal as the years go on – which is the crux of this blog.
Lemons came to us originally from Southeast Asia and are now grown throughout the world in tropical and temperate climates. California produces most of the lemons in the States. They appear in every cuisine. While some are thin skinned and other thick, I like the thin skinned for their abundance of juice not found in the thick skinned variety which are often used for candied lemon peel. Microwaving them for 20 seconds makes them much easier to juice. While frozen lemon juice or bottled lemon juice may be found in grocery stores, the frozen lemon juice is an acceptable substitute for freshly squeezed, the bottled variety is not. I am assuming it is the high heat needed to pasteurize the product, but it doesn’t end up tasting like lemon juice. Initially high in Vitamin C, it loses much of its power soon after it is squeezed, although I don’t think anyone uses it for its vitamin content.
Meyer lemons have recently become quite popular. Brought to us by F.N. Meyer, for whom they are named, they came from China in 1908 and botonists believe them to be a cross between an orange and a lemon. The flavor is sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons.
Now what to do with your lemons. Both the zest and the juice may be successfully frozen. With very little time and just a bit more effort you can have both the juice and the zest at the ready when you need them. I have no idea why I think it such a pain to zest or juice a lemon for a recipe. But this method solves the problem and makes using them much easier.
The important thing to remember when zesting any citrus is to remove only the bare outer skin. Do not go further into the white part, called the pith, as it is bitter. It is most bitter in limes, which is sometimes why there is a bitter after taste if they have been zested too enthusiastically. There are two tools with which to zest citrus. The box grater and the microplaner. I zested a lemon with each to show you the difference. The box grater produces much less zest and it is wetter. The microplaner produces more and is dryer. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of the microplaner and find it well worth the initial investment which isn’t that much in the scheme of kitchen tools. They come in various grating sizes from fine to large. They are extremely sharp and can grate all kinds of items including cheese, chocolate, nutmeg – you get the picture. I have the medium size.
Zest the lemons and keep them in piles of one lemon each on waxed paper or foil.Place them on a plate or anything flat and place them in the freezer. After they are frozen, I wrap each on in a bit of film and transfer these to a freezer bag where they sit until I need them.
After zesting, the lemons are juiced and placed in ice cube trays. After they are frozen, I transfer the cubes to a freezer proof bag and use them as called for. My ice cube trays are about two tablespoons per cube. Use water to measure how much one cube holds in your trays and you will know how many cubes you need to use. Use a cube in iced tea and a couple of cubes is the start of great lemonade.
I particularly love this method not just for its ease in cooking or baking but because they retain their fresh taste. Often when products are sold, preservatives are used to extend their shelf life. Here nothing is added so the zest and juice retain their original flavor.
I suggest using them within three or four months for the best results. If you are skeptical and wonder what else I can come up with, just try it and see if you don’t find it easier and less expensive than throwing away half of the lemon when a recipe calls for either the zest or the juice. I buy a bunch of lemons at a time, spend a few minutes and have them available at a moment’s notice.
The night is still cold and dark, my coffee is gone, it is after 2:00 a.m. and I am not tired yet so I took a whirl on other blogs. I have always been interested in making a sourdough starter and may try again. I went on YouTube and saw a fantastic, bubbly one and went onto the blog he gave for his. I have failed in the past to make one that I liked or didn’t need a lot of care. I’ll let you know what happens.