I am such a sucker for citrus. If I didn’t hate temperatures over 73 degrees I’d move someplace where I could have my own huge lemon tree in the backyard and spend all day figuring out ways to use bushels of lemons.
As it is, I have to buy my citrus, so I try to get as much use as possible from every part of it. Recently I impulse-bought about 5 pounds of Meyer lemons and I couldn’t let the peels go to waste.
Here’s some of the ways I used my lemon peels. Similar techniques work well for orange and lime peels as well.
Lemon Peel Management 101
Unless you’re a fan of waxy fungicide residue in your food, I recommend going organic with citrus where you’ll be specifically eating the peel. Give your fruit a good wash before proceeding.
You only want the outer, brightly colored zest of the lemons, not the thicker white pith underneath. I think everyone pretty much knows this, but the zest is where all the concentrated lemon oil is. The pith is pretty much just bitter.
Get the zest off your citrus before you slice or juice your fruit. It is a terrible kind of torture to attempt to zest half an already-juiced lemon. Trust me, I know.
A microplane grater is fine if you are zesting one or two lemons, but when you’ve got a bunch of citrus the easiest way to zest them is to peel strips off the fruit with a standard vegetable peeler.
A good peeler should leave most of the pith behind. If a teeny bit of pith comes along for the ride, as shown in the photo above, it’s not a big deal. Don’t do anything silly like scrape every microscopic fleck of pith of the zest with a grapefruit spoon. You don’t have time for that crap. It’ll be fine.
Once you’ve got your strips of zest, you’re ready to go.
1. Basic Dried Lemon Peel
How To Make Dried Lemon Peel
Lay your strips of zest out on a cooling rack. Try not to let them touch; you want good airflow. Set the zest someplace out of the way for a few days, until the zest is dry and brittle.
I live in a very winter-humid climate and have never had a problem drying citrus like this, so I think most people will be successful just leaving their zest at room temperature to dry, but if you are someplace warm and humid and are concerned the zest might mold, you can dry these in a food dehydrator (this is the one I have) at the lowest temperature setting for a few hours.
Once dry, you can leave the strips whole or, if you prefer, pulverize them in a spice grinder or food processor. The lemon strips or powder will keep at room temperature for a very long time, but the lemon scent and flavor will fade over time.
How To Use Dried Lemon Peel
You know lemon-pepper? Well, with this you are half-way there. Dried lemon peel adds great flavor to fish, chicken, spice blends and sauces, and is good in sweet things like cookies. Try mashing some dried, powdered lemon peel with candied ginger, and dissolving the mix in hot water for a soothing tea in the winter.
2. Lemon and Herb Olive Oil
How To Make Lemon and Herb Olive Oil
Add the following to a 12 oz or pint-size mason jar:
- the zest of two lemons
- a generous bunch of fresh thyme
- a teaspoon of chili flakes
- a teaspoon of granulated garlic
- several whole black peppercorns
Add enough good quality olive oil – about a cup – to fill the jar. Lid tightly, give the jar a shake and store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for longer-term storage. Olive oil in the fridge or freezer get’s thick and clumpy. That’s a normal property of cold olive oil; don’t worry about it. The oil will thin out again as soon as it’s brought to room temperature.
How To Use Lemon and Herb Olive Oil
Any place you’d use olive oil but you want a bit more punch, you can use this lemon and herb olive oil. Use in salad dressings, as a dip for baguette, as a sauce for pasta, or to marinate goat cheese or mozzarella, drizzle over grilled steak or fish, saute prawns in a bit of it, or toss vegetables in this oil after blanching.
3. Citrus and Spice Seasoning Salt
How To Make Citrus Spice Seasoning Salt
Use a spice grinder, mini food processor or stick blender attachment to finely chop:
- the zest of a few lemons
- a tablespoon of fennel seed
- several black peppercorns
After the citrus and spices are finely chopped, add in about a cup of kosher salt and continue to blend until the salt and spices are well mixed and the salt is powdery.
Lid tightly and store at room temperature – the salt will be best after several weeks of aging.
How To Use Citrus Spice Seasoning Salt
This kind of flavor-infused salt is a great way to season up pork chops, chicken breasts, seafood or vegetables.
4. Meyer Lemon Sugar
How To Make Meyer Lemon Sugar
Use a spice grinder, mini food processor or stick blender attachment to finely chop the zest of two lemons.
After the lemon is finely chopped, add in about a cup of organic sugar and continue to blend until the sugar and lemon zest are well combined.
Lid tightly and store at room temperature – the sugar will be best after several weeks of aging.
How To Use Meyer Lemon Sugar
If you like to sweeten your tea, try lemon sugar for a nice change. Use this sugar in baked goods, as a topping for simple butter cookies or caramelize atop a lemon creme brulee. Also try it in savory application where you are adding just a touch of sweetness for balance. For example, if you are going to add a pinch of sugar to balance a salad dressing, try using lemon sugar instead for a bit more depth.
5. Lemon and Rosemary Compound Butter
How To Make Lemon and Rosemary Compound Butter
Use a spice grinder, mini food processor or stick blender attachment to finely chop:
- the zest of two lemons
- the leaves from one 5-inch sprig of fresh rosemary
After the citrus and spices are finely chopped, add in 4 oz. (a stick) of butter and blend until the lemon, rosemary and butter are fully combined and the butter is slightly whipped. If desired, season to taste with a bit of sea salt or Kosher salt.
To store the compound butter, smooth the butter into a log shape on a sheet of parchment paper. Wrap the parchment paper around the butter, and press against the parchment paper to compress the butter into a firm log. Roll the parchment-covered butter into a tube, then wrap the parchment tightly with plastic wrap and store the compound butter in the freezer, where it will keep for 6 months.
How To Use Lemon and Rosemary Compound Butter
Perfect for melting over grilled chicken, pork or seafood, or adding to pasta or potatoes for a light sauce. Compound butter is easy to use: just slice a medallion off the frozen tube of compound butter when you need it. Once sliced the butter will thaw quickly to coat hot foods.
6. Citrus Soy Vinegar Dipping Sauce
How To Make Citrus Soy Vinegar Dipping Sauce
This sauce is similar to Japanese ponzu sauce – a light combination of citrus, vinegar and soy sauce. To make it, add the following to a pint-sized mason jar:
- the zest of several lemons
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons organic sugar
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
Tightly lid the jar, give everything a good shake to combine and store the sauce in the fridge, where it will last for several months.
How To Use Citrus Soy Vinegar Dipping Sauce
This is an excellent dipping sauce or dressing. Use it as-is for chicken, scallop, mushroom or eggplant skewers, or potstickers or spring rolls. Adjust the flavoring by adding chili sauce or sesame oil if desired. Turn it into an Asian-styled dressing for vegetables, noodle bowls or stir fries by mixing in a bit of sesame oil, miso paste or peanut butter and honey.
7. Easy Lemon Extract
How To Make Lemon Extract
As we learned when we made Better Homemade Vanilla Extract, the only real trick to potent baking extracts like this is to use a lot of your flavoring component, and to give it time.
Loosely fill a 12 oz. or pint-size mason jar with strips of lemon zest. Fill the jar with good quality (but nothing too crazy expensive) vodka, seal very tightly, and you’re done!
Give the lemon extract at least a month or two to age in a dark, cool-ish spot. The longer you let it sit, the more potent it will become.
How To Use Lemon Extract
Lemon extract (along with vanilla and almond) is one of the Big Three in my arsenal of baking extracts. Sub lemon extract for vanilla in any baked good where a citrus brightness is appropriate. Think: scones, poundcake, lemon blueberry muffins, etc.
Hop from the baking cupboard to the liquor cabinet and this lemon extract will take on another name: lemon vodka. Used judiciously (because it will be far stronger in flavor than a typical citrus vodka infusion), this extract can be used in mixology as well.
Nice list! I’m not a huge lemon fan, but that oil and the ponzu sauce both look interesting. I’ll have to check at the yuppie-hippie market for organic lemons. Can it be standard lemons or only Meyer?
Another use for lemons I love are the strawberry lemon preserves from “Canning for a New Generation”. Pretty sure my Mom would be happy if the only present I ever gave her for birthdays and Christmas from now on would be a few jars of those 😛
Any lemons work great. I love Canning for a New Generation! I’ll have to check out that recipe specifically.
Yes, you can use standard lemons in anything that lemons are called for. If the recipe calls for Meyer lemons, what I do is use the lemon juice and add a little orange or tangerine juice. You get the same flavor. Not everyone lives in Florida or California, so Meyer has become a fad and isn’t necessary at all, unless you have an amazing palette. I bought some and plain old and could really hardly tell the difference. Somewhere on a website I found the adding orange juice or tangerine juice advice. If you get a whole bagfull, just use an electric juicer and to about a dozen lemons add one tangerine or orange. Hope this advice helps.
Miss Bee says
The lemon and herb olive oil and citrus and spice seasoning look divine. All of your options do actually, but those are my favorites. Thanks for the tips!
Thanks Miss Bee.
Erica – this recipe for lemon-rosemary cookies if just delicious. Not many people think of rosemary in cookies, but its divine and always gets surprised comments. You can also ice these cookies if you like with some regular icing but adding a drop of lemon and zest, rosemary to it as well.
I make the lemon extract or limoncello periodically. I like to use a little of the extract in lemonade.
Great idea! Grown up lemonade. 😉
Thanks for this! I salt preserved mine last year and they were a welcome addition to any soups or lentils I made. This year I will definitely try the rosemary lemon butter too. My meyer lemon tree has finally produced its first three lemons and I want to use them for something that will last more than just one dinner.
Congrats on your harvest!
I can never throw out the peels. I always buy organic lemons and the scent of the peel is just as wonderful as the juice to me. If I don’t use the whole lemon, I zest the yellow part and store it in the freezer, adding to whatever needs it a teaspoon at a time. Love your ideas here! Must try the lemon extract.
Yay for not wasting!
This is a goldmine!!!! At least to me. Thanks! I love your blog.
Your loyal follower,
Thanks very much for reading, Susan.
Great ideas! I’ve dehydrated og lemon peels but the only thing I use them for is tea. I’m expanding my horizons. A lemon poppy seed muffin recipe called for lemon powder extract but I didn’t want to pay the price for one recipe. Now I’ll try pulverizing some peel and see how it works out. Thanks for the ideas. One thing, I wonder if there’s a possibility of botulism in peels stored in olive oil. The NCFHP website recommends storing in the refrigerator no longer than 4 days, then freezing it. My understanding is that no matter how well you clean the garlic, there is enough water in the garlic to allow spores to grow. That could be true of herbs and lemon zest. I know its a slight possibility but maybe the oil should be frozen in an ice cube tray and then the popped out cubes put in a zip type bag for long term storage. There is also a new publication that makes it easier if an acidifying process is employed but the research is only for very specific herbs. Here’s the link – http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/sites/default/files/documents/pnw_664_making_garlicandherb_infused_oils.pdf
I’m not sure if the other items are as much of an issue, but you are right about the garlic.
Unrefrigerated fresh garlic in oil is a recipe for botulism as I learned from “The Deadly Dinner Party” (a good read). So for the Lemon and Herb Olive Oil, it would be very important to keep it refrigerated at all times when not in use.
Great list Erica! I can’t wait to try some of them.
Erica / Northwest Edible Life says
For sure, I knew that garlic in oil at room temperature was a big botulism risk, that’s why I called for this to be refrigerated. I’ll do a bit more research to see if dried garlic also poses a concern for longer-storage and modify the recipe as needed. Thanks!
Thanks for this info, recipe modified to reflect new long-term storage guidelines.
OMG, anyone who knows me knows j’adore lemons! Particularly meyer lemons. I grow them in pots here in Charlotte, NC (zone 7b) and have to schlep them indoors in the winter and back out in the summer, but the effort is worth it! My fav way to use my homegrown meyer lemons is to make limoncello from the rinds and lemon curd with the juice but am always looking for new and fresh ideas. These are great!. Very excited to see this today. Thanks!
Thanks so much, GE.
So…what did you do with the rest of the lemon? I love the post! Thanks!
Lemon bars! Recipe to come… 🙂
When I get a lot of lemons ( and now that I am not in California, I have to buy them) after zesting, I do this.
Squeeze the juice into a measuring cup w/ a spout, add the zest and pout into ice cube trays. Put in zip bags and you have fresh juice w/ zest for cooking or recipes all year. You can make some without the zest as well.
Lemon sugar. I am making that ASAP. Sounds great for my tea .
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
So inspiring me to play with lemons. I’m semi-local to you, in pugetropolis once a week usually, do you find organic meyer lemons somewhere locally? I broke down and ordered some mail order but ouch the price. Thanks for the continued and various inspirations, I’m making sure your sponsors know you sent me to them!
My Yuppie-Hippie market of choice is PCC. They usually have a good assortment of organic citrus in season.
I love lemon! It’s my favorite flavor. I use a lot of lemon and almost always zest them. I have made lemon salt and lemon sugar and just frozen some zest for use in jam making. I am making your Limoncello recipe right now. Thank you for including the ‘how to use’ portion for all of the instructions. That frequently gets left out of the ‘making’ blog posts. These are all great ideas!
I agree – I get frustrated at “inspirational lists” that don’t seem to add what you DO with the stuff once you make it. 🙂
Oh man, that salt sounds amazing! I bet it would be perfect on some seared pork, or even deviled eggs. I save orange zest in the freezer (generally for later cranberry-orange bread endeavors), but for some reason I don’t save lemon zest. Must change my ways!
Yes! Lemon and fennel salt on pork chops is the best. Here’s a post from way back in the early days about how I used a similar herb salt with pork chops.
Before my arm surgery I did a bunch of pork lion chops with lemon salt & rosemary then froze them. Upon thawing they were perfectly seasoned for the BBQ. But honestly, I mostly use the rind as a cocktail garnish. My favorite hot weekend afternoons drink is soda water with bourbon, grand mariner or gran gala, and a lemon rind all over ice. Yum.
My lemon tree roots were eaten by gophers but my neighbors tree lives on and we get a bagful each week, such a blessing! I bought a new Meyer lemon last fall and put it in a pot to protect it from those rodents but it doesn’t seem to be thriving. Any tips? I top dressed it in the fall with my chickens deep litter which seemed well composted. Aphids are attacking it and the new tips are curling. Our natural balance is pretty healthy here so aphids only really hurt the weak plants. I’m not sure what else it needs. I think I got it at Home Cheapo in a moment of weakness so it could be a reaction to their practices.
Lemon and fennel …Yum…in yogurt with spicey Indian food.
Bek - Bek's Backyard says
I candy lemon peels and dip in melted dark chocolate. I love them so much more than candied orange peels. Love the salt recipe, I’ll be trying this one for sure!
I’m going to try that. Sounds lovely. Do you blanch the peels before candying them?
I was going to mention candied orange peels and then saw this comments. I simmer the orange peel strips in water for 15 minutes, then simmer in a sugar/water/corn syrup mix for another 40 minutes. I’ve done candied grapefruit peels but have not (yet) done candied lemon peels. http://www.cheapcooking.com/blog/winter-treat-candied-orange-peels/ for details.
thanks not only for the recipes, but for the way to use the results! That’s what makes this post awesome
Thanks, and my pleasure!
Erika- any way to get your replies in chronological order? I have to scroll through every one to see if there was an answer to my post and then after receiving an email, there isn’t any. I love your blog and know its a lot of work, just curious.
I’m sorry Helen, I don’t think there is a way to view responses in chronological order instead of nested. I do try to answer as many questions as I can. Did I miss one from you?
Just a heads up — I recently learned that homemade herb oils for long term storage (more than a couple of days) can be quite risky. Apparently oil creates a perfect low oxygen environment for the development of botulism spores.
Anyway, I had never heard this before. If you would like to read more about this Colorado State University has an article about herb oils and vinegars: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09340.html
Thanks for sharing this list — I can’t wait to try the lemon salt!
Erica / Northwest Edible Life says
Thanks, I’m going to modify the recipe to emphasize the importance of storing in the fridge and moving to the freezer for longer term storage.
I think you could grow some citrus at your house, especially the improved Meyer would be OK in a warm spot up against your house (but then you’d have to deal with them on their timeline, not yours). I also have a Mexican/key lime, Bearrs lime, Satsuma mandarin, kumquat, variegated pink lemonade lemon and celeste fig in a large coldframe/hoophouse, along with a Haas avocado tree, which may finally start blooming after many years settling in here in zone 8a/b (depending on the year).
I have some candied orange peels waiting to be dipped into chocolate already on the counter, but I’d never thought to try it with lemon. Yes, I do blanch the peels for a minute first. I love having your ideas on how to use these things as I get so inspired to make DIY odds and ends and then they sit unused. I’d like to try the pork chops with lemon salt and fennel, and then make some of the butter to freeze. I also have a jar of your citrus vinegar on the counter from at least last year, and now any unused citrus peels get poured out along our fence line to keep the neighbor cat from visiting on our side. Cats do not like citrus oils, and it seems to be working so far. I have some mandarin zest in a jar from several years ago and now I’ll know to at least double the amount in any recipe if I want to taste anything. Thanks for all the great ideas. The easiest use of lemon is to put a 1/2″ piece, peel and all, into the blender for my kale/green smoothies. I also love just squeezing a bit of lime juice into a glass of mineral water for easy refreshment during a warm day working outside, but I find lime peel is a lot more bitter (like when floating it in a pitcher of water). Would blanching it first help?
P.S. I’ve often said my narrow comfort zone is 68 to 72 degrees, so I laughed when I read your opening sentence.
Denise T says
Geesh. I envy you. It must be so great to be so creative and thoughtful in the kitchen. Cooking and the kitchen are my Achilles heel. Seriously. I bought into the myth of 1970s feminism that education and career would free me form the drudgery of housework and cooking. It’s something I never enjoyed, but now that I’m a mom with two little kids and a huge garden, I’m left scratching my head for better, healthier and more interesting ways to feed the family.
I wish I had an 10th of your creativity! I’m really really good at growing food, but when it comes to dinnertime, it’s “oh mom, steamed (insert veggie) again?” Seems all I can do is steam!
I’m pushing 40, so it might be too late for me to really become creative and a whiz in the kitchen, but looks like i’ll just keep enviously reading your posts and pray for inspiration!
Denise T, don’t give up on yourself. It’s never to late to try and most of the time week night meals are a matter of planning and prepping ahead. If I wait to make the decision when I walk through the door, cooking is a real chore (and I love cooking.) You can do it! Cook up a meal plan, shop from a list, prep a bit and you can make delicious dishes. Steaming is a great cooking method. Maybe you need a dressing to change up the flavors. Make a goal like trying one new recipe a week and see how quickly you have a few go to meals. Get your family to help. Most kids will eat (or at least try) foods that they help prepare. Maybe they have ideas for weeknight meals, too. I have faith in you if you make cooking a priority and have faith in yourself.
Here’s something you might try: “Fine Cooking” magazine is far less fussy than it sounds and every month there’s a primer in how some common dish “works”; ie, meatloaf, stir fry, beef stew, etc. And even better, go to finecooking.com and there’s a “recipe builder” feature where you can design your own recipe in about 25 categories. Mac n’cheese, meatloaf, cheesecake, vegetable soup, whatever.
Yes, it helps you try new things or design a recipe to use up whatever’s in the fridge, but it also teaches at the same time. After you’ve made 2 or 3 of something, you understand how that thing works and you’re free to experiment. And you’ll feel more kitchen-confident in general. Good luck
I am 83 and have a grown daughter now living with me and we both love good, nourishing food. I truly believe you are what you eat, because I take NO medication and exercise on treadmill, swim, play music, active with friends, etc. Here is my way of having time to do all of these things and spend less time on the mundane dinners. I love to cook, bake, etc. but always with high fiber, whole grains, lean meats,fish, etc. But there are a zillion creative ways that are easy to do it. My major time saver is that each week I make a large pot of some comfort healthy food, and freeze it in about 6 zip bags for 2; such as beans; stews; Asian chicken; soups; meat sauce for pasta;etc. in no time I had a whole large freezer drawer outside with prepared meals. I also cook 3 veggies at a time and put them in the fridge in nice containers. When its time to do dinners – I take out a meal such as meat sauce , cook some whole grain pasta and add some of the cooked veggies from the fridge – you cannot believe how this has freed up time for making healthy muffins, swimming, etc. I am happy to share anything you need to know. My friends all love my cooking, even though its a healthy style. One thing I do not do, is give up flavor for cutting back, just use less of the fattening or unhealthy things. I throw a TBS of real butter on our veggies, and that is for our two large servings – makes quite a different. Hope this has helped.
Never too late to learn! I married at 40 and that is when I began to cook. I’m quite the gourmet in the kitchen now, thanks to food blogs and youtube.
I married at 40 and that is when I really learned to cook. Reading blogs helps a lot, too, as I get to see what worked and what didn’t for other people. Practice has widened my cooking horizons by leaps and bounds!
I love love love love love this post. We live in Southern California and have a lemon tree, Eurekas, I think. Our neighbor has a HUGE meyer lemon tree and they never pick them, so we raid that tree for the meyers. Your post has provided me with several additional uses for the peels. In the past, I’ve made limoncello with peels. And the zest I often use in baked goods, such as lemon sugar cookies or muffins. I just made a moroccan tagine the other night that called for lemon peels. Like another reader, I zest the lemons and store it in the freezer so I have it on hand when needed. Thanks for a useful post, not only for the things to make but especially for how to use them.
Oh WoW, what à great list! I have already been making lemon sugar for ages – I top pancakes with it. But lemon extract and butter are definitely getting tried next week. Thanks for this!
Love this! Meyer lemons are so good. I wait until they’re very ripe (kind of orange) and then slice them into medallions, peel and all. Into a freezer bag, into the freezer. Anytime I want lemon, they’re there. Somehow the freezer mellows the pith. Or else I just don’t mind it. I’ll put a medallion into my tea, or chop it and add to my morning yogurt, or (yum) I toss a couple medallions into the cast iron skillet when I’m cooking kale with tamari. Mmmm.
To Denise T: I learned to cook in the 70’s by adopting an imaginary mentor. In those days, there were fewer options (lots of books, no internet) so I picked The Vegetarian Epicure and pretended that Anna Thomas was in my kitchen. (Easy to do since her books are conversational.) I learned to cook without animals, and decades later, added poultry and some fish. That foundation of meatless cookery taught me a great respect for the versatility of the vegetable world.
The biggest help was learning to listen to my instincts as well as tuning in to each ingredient’s qualities. I hope you can play with food. Maybe include your kids and discover together what excites and soothes your palates.
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Extensores penianos devem ser considerados como uma opção
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Pour bien comprendre sa conduite au dénoûment de cette histoire,
il est nécessaire d’expliquer comment son âme s’était
élargie à l’âge où les jeunes gens se rapetissent ordinairement en se mêlant aux femmes ou en s’en occupant trop.
La première priorité est de mettre un terme au gain de
poids excessif chez les enfants, par des modifications
du comportement, des changements environnementaux, la réduction de la densité calorique
alimentaire et plus d’activité physique ( Tableau 5 ) 66 – 68
Des changements semblables doivent s’appliquer chez la plupart
des adultes pour prévenir la trajectoire habituelle du
gain de poids graduel.
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