A Mom's Guide to Saving on Groceries

The Whole Lemon 08/30/2008

When I’m using a lemon, I use the whole lemon. I keep a bag of them in the refrigerator, in their mesh bag, with a grocery bag around them to keep them from getting dried out. Unless I can get them locally grown, or when my Meyer lemon tree is producing. Meyer lemons… they are in a class of their own. The skin is thinner, the fruit is much sweeter. They are hands-down my favorite.

First thing that should be done is to wash the lemon in warm sudsy water, with a clean washcloth. This will remove any wax, or pesticide residue that might be on it.

Next, I roll the lemon. Eventually I will want that juice, and this makes it easier to squeeze. Meyer lemons are softer, and even if you have arthritis you will be able to squeeze them with one hand, no rolling necessary. If you roll them after the yellow zest is removed, sometimes they split, and you lose a bunch of juice.

Either I grate the zest on a microplane (SO worth the money, which isn’t much, really) or regular grater, or I slice off the skin with my knife, leaving the white part. That white “pith” is bitter, and should not be used. Right then, I take the strips and using my knife like a filet knife, I turn it to a 45-60 degree angle and filet any remaining white pith off. Then I put them into a bag in the freezer, where they will sit happily until I need them.

If all I want is the zest (rarely) I put the lemon into a bag in the refrigerator. Usually I use the juice right away. There are always lemons in that bag, and I use them in water, or to make lemonade in individual servings. Or “lemon soda.” Both of these uses require a lemon syrup, recipe to follow:

Remember those strips in the freezer? Take them and put enough for 2 lemons (of course this is an approximate measurement, but it will be fine, don’t worry.) and 1 ½ C. of sugar into a pot. Add 1 C. water. Don’t stir. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer like that for about ½ hour. The water will reduce, and the syrup will be thick and yellow. The strips of peel will be translucent.

You can add 1 tbsp of corn syrup or a little honey to the pot, as well, to keep the sugar from being able to crystalize when stored. Different molecules have trouble clumping together to form crystals- problem solved.

When the syrup cools, I strain the syrup through a small strainer into a bottle with a pour spout. Any jar will work fine, too. Sometimes I add a little vanilla to the cooled syrup, or a little mint. KEEP THE PEEL.

After the peel have drained out, I roll them in sugar, let them dry for a bit on a pan, and then keep them in a jar so they stay moist. This is CANDY, which your grandmother will fondly remember from girlhood. Nobody makes this anymore, but it is delicious. On the off-chance you’ve tried it and didn’t like it, there was probably some of the white pith left on, making it bitter. Try it again… you might be pleasantly surprised! Makes a great garnish, too.

If you want to candy whole slices of lemon, I suggest using Meyers, because there is much less of the pith. Continue in the same manner.

Both the syrup and the candied peel make great hostess, housewarming and Christmas gifts. You can use oranges in the same way, and Clementines are the tangerine’s answer to Meyer lemons. An added bonus: they are seedless.



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