Zesty recipes for a versatile fruit
Lemons are one of the most versatile fruits used in cooking and an essential staple in our kitchen. Indeed, nothing brings sunshine indoors more than the big white ironstone bowl filled to the brim with fresh lemons on our kitchen counter. From cocktail garnishes to desserts, lemons can be used - and usually are at our house - in recipes for any meal, at any time of day. Lemon juice is in the recipe for our top-selling Maine wild blueberry jam and, blended with parsley, it is one of our favorite scents in our line of dishwashing detergents. Something about the aroma makes us think of cleanliness, freshness, and brightness.
Lemons may have originally been harvested in Egypt or in the southernmost regions of the Mediterranean. The tart, vibrant flavor of the lemon’s acidic juice must have surprised the first people to open and taste this luscious fruit. In fact, we weren’t surprised by reports of dates and honey being added to the juice to make what may have been the first lemonade before the year 200 AD! Primarily grown in North and South Africa and Australia, lemons are also harvested in Brazil and Argentina. Florida, California, and Arizona are leaders in US production, with California contributing 90 percent of the annual US output.
When shopping for lemons, look for ones that feel heavy in the hand and, when gently squeezed, give nicely. Avoid lemons with a thick, hard rind, which can mean that there is little juice inside. Lemons turn from green to yellow because of temperature changes, not ripeness, so those with a little green skin are fine to purchase. If you’re lucky and have a good market nearby, you may find several kinds in the produce section. You can usually find a bountiful amount of the classic, medium sized Eureka lemons in local supermarkets. Occasionally you may find a Limetta, which is a hybrid of the Mexican lime, or if you’re very lucky you may find petite and succulent Meyer lemons, one of our favorite varieties. The Meyer is a little more yellow and slightly more round than a common lemon. The skin is fragrant and thin and may have a slight orange tint when ripe. Meyer lemons also have a delicate, slightly sweeter taste than Eurekas. Both Meyer and Limetta varieties are mixed fruits, lemons crossed with either a lime or a mandarin orange. Occasionally we find Lisbon lemons in our local supermarket. These are seedless, making them wonderful for cooking, but they are not consistently available.
Even if you’re not cooking with lemons you will want to have a supply on hand since they are one of the most versatile fruits around. Here are a few of the marvelous things that lemons can do:
• Coarse salt mixed with lemon juice will remove rust or ink stains from white fabrics. Put a little on the stain, pour boiling water over it, and rinse well.
• Add lemon to water when washing your hair; it softens it and helps to remove soap traces from the hair.
• Remove juice from lemons when in season. Put the lemon juice in ice block trays and freeze so you can always have fresh juice available.
• Bleach discolored skin with lemon juice.
• Mix lemon juice with baking soda and use to clean your pots and pans.
• Use lemon juice to remove soap buildup.
• Mix some lemon juice with olive oil and use instead of furniture polish.
• Add lemon juice to your wash; it will help remove stains and brighten your whites.
• Fish or onion odor on your hands can be removed by rubbing them with fresh lemons.
• To get odors out of wooden rolling pins, bowls, or cutting boards, rub with a piece of lemon. Don’t rinse: the wood will absorb the lemon juice and leave the wood clean and smelling great.
• To clean the surface of white marble or ivory (such as piano keys), rub with a half a lemon, or make a lemon juice and salt paste. Wipe with a clean, wet cloth.
• Applied with a cotton ball, a little lemon juice acts as a facial astringent, eliminating oil and tightening pores for a smoother look. Mix salt and lemon juice into a paste for an all-natural exfoliant.
So head to the produce aisle today, stock up on lemons, and enjoy the scent, taste, and beauty of these tiny bits of sunshine!
4 large fresh lemons (reserve one for zest)
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups lemon curd
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1. Cut each lemon in half, reserving one for zest.
2. Remove and finely chop at least 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and also some zest for garnish if desired.
3. Slice a small bit of the rind off the bottom of each piece of lemon so that the “cup” won’t roll.
4. Scoop out the pulp from the lemon pieces, cover them with plastic wrap, and freeze the “cups” for at least one hour.
For the filling
1. With an electric mixer, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
2. Gently fold curd and chopped zest into the whipped cream.
3. Fill each cup and garnish with a lemon zest curl, mint, or fresh raspberries.
4. The filled cups can be served immediately or frozen and served later.
Fresh Squeezed Honey-Mint Lemonade
5-6 large lemons, plus one lemon for garnish
Approximately 5 cups cold water, plus 1 cup for simple syrup
1 cup sugar
½ cup honey
1. Microwave lemons just until slightly warm to the touch. Slice in half and squeeze juice from lemons.
2. Heat sugar and one cup water in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Add honey and stir until blended.
3. Mix lemon juice and sugar/honey mixture together in a large pitcher.
4. Add 4-5 cups cold water (to taste) and stir. Garnish with sliced lemon and mint sprig.