Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to Use Up a Lemon

Although we aren't super hardcore about it, our family tries to eat both locally and in season, as much as is possible.

When you live by Mother Nature's clock as we try to, you have to move fast to get your fill of what is ripe and ready while the getting is good, and, if you're lucky, manage to sock away a little extra for an upcoming rainy day via freezing, drying or canning.

Right now in the Pacific Northwest, we're well into our apple, blackberry, salmon and end-of-the-garden frenzies. Sun up to sun down is filled with food saving chores - harvesting, foraging, juicing, canning, dehydrating, smoking... you get the idea. Apple fatigue is setting in big time. But - and I have to remind myself of this occasionally - if I use what I have now, carefully and completely, then I probably won't need to purchase anything apple-y in the coming year. And if I can apply this attitude to a food that springs forth from my front yard with or without my help, then I certainly could and should apply the same rule to "exotic" foods that have taken a long boat ride (or series of truck rides) to get here to me. A prime example of this sort of rarefied foodstuff is my beloved Meyer lemon.

Up here in the maritime PNW, citrus doesn't grow, ever, at all. Therefore it must be shipped in, usually from California or Florida. So for us, buying citrus is a bit of a splurge both in terms of cost per fruit and the number of food miles racked up to bring it to our neck of the woods. As a result, I attempt to eke every last bit of sunshiney goodness out of every lemon, lime and orange that I buy. This is how I use up a lemon.

The peel:

I usually zest or grate the peel before cutting into the fruit to eat or juice. The zest can then either be used immediately, dried or frozen. Use a pinch here and there as needed to add zing to custards, sauces and vinaigrettes.

Once in a great while, instead of zesting the peel, I'll candy it.

Remove the spent pulp and the pith, reserving both.

Put the trimmed, sliced peel in a sauce pan and blanch at a simmer for 45 minutes. Drain peels and replace water with fresh water. Add an equal measure of sugar to make a simple syrup. Bring to a roil, then reduce to a simmer and let "poach" for about 45 minutes.

Let cool, then drain peel, reserving syrup. Air dry candied peels for 30 minutes, then "shake & bake" them in a bag with granulated sugar.

Lemony goodness!

The Pith:

The pith is arguably the most useless part of a lemon. It's spongy and bitter tasting - yuck. I've found just one use for the pith besides the compost heap - the garbage disposal.

That pith and pulp that you saved from the last step? Put it down your disposal while running some hot water to give your kitchen a burst of lemony freshness. I also think that the citric acid helps clean and break down greasy build up in your disposal and drain, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. ;)

The Pulp/Juice:

Whether you're eating the fruit by the slice or segment, or simply juicing it, odds are this is why you bought the fruit in the first place and already have grand plans for it. Nevertheless, I'll share a few of my favorite uses with you.

Soon to be blackberry lemonade!

Blackberry Lemonade
serves 4

*Juice of 5 lemons, diluted with an equal amount of water
*Simple syrup, made from 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar
*1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries

Put fresh squeezed juice and water into a pitcher, set aside. Simmer 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar together over medium to medium low heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture has reduced and thickened to the consistency of a thin syrup. Let cool.

Add frozen or fresh berries to the cooled simple syrup and muddle/mash a bit. Pour berries and syrup into the pitcher with the lemon juice and water. Taste, adjusting sweetness/tartness ratio to your liking.

Meyer Lemon Drop
Serves one

*1 (generous) shot of "Whipped" vodka
*1 ounce of Meyer lemon simple syrup (byproduct of candying peel)
*Granulated sugar for rimming

Mix vodka and simple syrup thoroughly. Serve either on the rocks or up in a fancy glass with a sugared rim. Sit in a lawn chair and enjoy. ;)


1 comment:

  1. I love this! My favorite drink ever is a lemon drop... Now I have a major craving!