By Kim Robson:
Where I grew up, we had a prolific lemon tree in the backyard. At least once a season, I’d haul from the garage a fruit-picking contraption like this, with powerful snips at the end of a pole. The snips are activated by pulling a rope, and the fruit is captured in an attached bag. I’d be able to fill several large paper shopping bags full of lemons and still have fruit left on the tree. Then, I’d launch into full juicing and lemonade-making mode. Excess unsweetened juice was frozen in mason jars for a year’s worth of fresh lemon juice.
If you have a lemon tree, or have a neighbor or friend who does, you are liable to find yourself with a surplus of lemons and wondering what on earth to do with them all. Here are a few ideas that go beyond just juicing them for lemonade.
All of these recipes should use organic lemons free of pesticides. Click the headings for links to full recipes.
Store-bought preserved lemons are not cheap, but they’re super easy to make at home. All you need are mason jars, lemons, salt and time. You’ll need about ten lemons for each one-liter jar — six to preserve and four for juice that goes into the jar. Use the whole lemon, rind and all — just rinse in cool water to remove excess salt, then chop them up for your dish. The salt mellows the bitterness of the rind and pith, leaving a sunny lemon flavor. Use them in salad dressings, sauces, grain bowls, chicken tagine, pastas and stews. Kept refrigerated, preserved lemons will keep for about a year.
If you juice your lemons or make those preserved lemons, you’ll have leftover peels. Any citrus peel can be candied —lemon, orange and grapefruit are most common. All you need are lemons, water and sugar. (The boiling peels will make your house smell amazing.) Eat candied peels out of hand, or chop them up and add to cookies or salads. A jar of candied peels makes a great gift, too!
You can use those peels to make marmalade, which can be made from any citrus fruit. Nothing could be simpler: you need lemons, sugar and canning supplies. Also makes a beautiful hostess gift.
Served ice-cold, this sweet and strong lemon liqueur is typically enjoyed after dinner as a digestif. All you need is vodka or everclear, lemons, sugar and a mason jar. Soak lemon zest in the alcohol for at least a week, then add a simple syrup. Store in the freezer. Be careful — its sweetness belies its potency!
Summer’s coming, and I can’t think of anything more refreshing on a hot day than a dish of lemon sorbet. Simply make lemonade to your taste, then run it through an ice cream maker. Don’t own an ice cream maker? Pour the lemonade into a shallow pan and freeze, removing every half hour to stir the mixture with a fork until a granita-like slush is achieved. For an extra wow factor, serve in a hollowed-out lemon half.
A sweet, intensely lemony spread with a velvety smooth, custard-like texture. Combine lemon juice / zest, sugar and eggs in a small pot without heat. Add butter, then warm over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. Chill and store in the refrigerator for up to three months. Use lemon curd the same way as you would any jam.
Zest a bunch of lemon peels and freeze in ice-cube trays with lemon juice. Add to soups and sauces, drop into drinks, or cool down too-hot tea.
As powerful as zest, but in shelf-stable form. Dry strips of zest in the sun or in a dehydrator, then buzz in a food processor. Or use whole dried zests in a potpourri mixture. Use lemon powder to add intense lemon flavor to salad dressings, sauces, fish, veggies, cookies, or pies. Use sparingly because the flavor is concentrated! Keep in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
Still have lemon juice?Here are a few ideas for what to do with it (other than lemonade):
- Meyer Lemon Syrup—great for beverages and baking
- Pink Lemonade Popsicles— add a few raspberries and a touch of milk for a gorgeous summer treat
- Lemon Pie Filling— similar to lemon curd but smoother and with more intense flavor
- Tackle Stains on Whites— lemon juice + salt + sunlight
- Natural Cleaner / Disinfectant— twenty-four ways to use lemons to clean the home
- Have a garbage disposal? Throw a few lemon peels into the grinder to make it smell fresh again.
- Natural Pest Repellant
- Try Green-Mom’s recipes for Lemon-Lentil Soup or Lemon Cream Pasta Sauce or Raw Lemon Cookies
- Lemon-Garlic Soup— guaranteed to chase away a cold or the fluLemon-Sugar Body Scrub