Lemons

Eureka Lemons from the ranch

Eureka Lemons from the ranch

The lemon (“Citrus limon”) is second only to salt and pepper for its classic seasoning powers. Both juice and rind can deliver the perfect balance of acid and flavor to any dish, sauce or beverage. There are several varieties, classified as either sour or sweet, but the most popular are the Lisbon, Eureka and Meyer.

More sensitive to frost than other lemon varieties , we wrap our Meyer lemon tree with burlap when temperatures dip into the low thirties. The Eureka lemon seems to fare better but perhaps this is because its home is a micro climate born between house and hill.

Toward the end of November and through February lemons seem to proliferate here. When our Meyer lemon tree stops producing, the Eureka begins. I love this time of year– when winter starts to fade and the bright yellow lemons ripen, hinting of spring.

The sweet lemons include the Meyer, which is generally gown by the home gardener. In the Foothills, however, local growers Eric & Yarda Hansen from Pine Hill Orchard, supply the Placerville Natural Foods Co-op with sweet Meyers every winter.

The Meyer lemon, named after Frank Meyer, was first imported to the states from China during the early 1900’s. A cross between lemon and mandarin, its yellow-orange thin skin and juices are so sweet that people have been known to eat both fruit and peel.

At the Market

  • Look for firm, heavy fruits with glossy, thin, flexible skins. The heavier the lemon, the thinner the skin–the juicier the fruit.
  • Light yellow fruits are more acidic than deep colored ones.
  • Avoid hard, shriveled or bruised fruits.

At home

Lemons last about ten days stored at room temperature; in the refrigerator, they last about two weeks. All of this depends, of course, on the lemons’ ripeness when purchased.

Kitchen tips and ideas garnished by experience and handed down by friends & family . . .

Sweet and Sour Lemons

The many faces of lemon zest using paring knife. zester, vegetable peeler, micro-plane

The many faces of lemon peel using paring knife. zester, vegetable peeler, micro-plane

  • Whenever I juice a lemon I first remove the peel (using a vegetable peeler) and save it  in the refrigerator, freeze it or leave it out on a plate to dehydrate naturally. I like to use lemon peel (freshly grated or dried grated) as much as I like to use fresh ground pepper. Following this method I never have to buy this expensive spice at the store.
  • After I’ve removed the peel, if the lemon is firm, I either soak it in a bowl of warm water or roll it with the heel of my hand on a cutting board until soft; then I cut and juice.
  • Rather than freeze fresh squeezed lemon juice in ice-cube trays and transfer when frozen to another container, I simply cut lemons in half, stack in a glass container and freeze. Before using, I thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. The process of freezing and thawing makes the lemons juicy.
  • As you can see from the photo, the paring knife and peeler provide strips of lemon peel, while the zester makes curls and the micro-plane small silvers.
  • To make dried lemon peel, use vegetable peeler to trim the peel discarding any of the bitter white pithLet the strips dry naturally on a plate until they are hard and brittle, usually 3-4 days. Then store for up to three months in a cold, dark cupboard.
  • Use stored lemon peel pieces or finely grind them in a spice grinder.
  • Wooden fruit reamers are quick and easy to use.
  • When using lemon peel, always buy organic lemons and wash the fruit before peeling or grating.  Most conventionally harvested lemons contain pesticides in their skins, are dyed and waxed.  The wax may be plant, insect, animal or petroleum-based. Although carnauba palm is the most common plant-source wax used, other compounds, such as ethyl alcoholethanol or milk casein may be added. It is difficult to determine the source of these waxes, which is why I buy organic. For more information on pesticides and fruits and vegetables click here
  • If you forget to remove the peel and have juiced the lemon, simply save the lemon shells and freezeGrate peel as needed from frozen shells.
  • Grate peel over risottos, steamed vegetables or soba noodles for flavor and color.
  • The tart flavor of lemons make a wonderful salt substitute.
  • Roast thin slices of Meyer, Eureka or Lisbon lemons with root vegetables.
  • Make lemon vinaigrette with Dijon-style mustard, lemon peel, replace vinegar with lemon juice (double the lemon juice) and add extra virgin olive oil with coarse ground sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
  • For a savory compote, combine thinly sliced lemons with dried fruit and white wine.
  • Use dehydrated peels to flavor
    • baked goods
    • roasted or sautéed vegetables or fruits
    • sauces or condiments
    • the sugar bowl (if you have one)
    • rubs used for portabella mushrooms and eggplants

Meyer Lemons

  • Unlike the sour Eureka or Lisbon lemons with their thick, bitter pith, you can eat theMeyer lemon and its thin white pith peel and all.
  • In food processor, rough chop Meyer lemons and add to whole grain muffins.
  • Because Meyer lemons are less acidic than other lemons, use less sugar when making lemonade or marmalade.
  • Sweeten Meyer lemonade with honey, agave nectar or maple sugar.
  • For more acidic flavors,  add lime, Lisbon or Eureka lemons.

Miscellaneous Bytes

  • People often drink hot water with lemon and honey as a cold remedy
  • A couple of teaspoons of lemon juice lowers the glycemic index of a meal or snack*
  • Lemons are excellent sources of vitamin C. Once squeezed, however, they lose up to 20% of their vitamin C within 8 hours at room temperature or 24 hours when refrigerated.
  • To slow discoloration of peeled fruits or vegetables toss with lemon juice or drop produce in ice water with 1 T juice per cup of water.
  • Squeeze lemon juice on dried fruit before chopping to keep fruit from sticking to the blade.
  • Lemons helps remove food odors from the hands
  • Lemons have stain removing properties

*Reference Sources

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