There’s nothing quite like having an abundance of citrus. I
think it accounts for about 50% of all joy during the winter
months. The pucker-inducing flavor, the vibrant color, the bright
fragrance: there’s nothing quite like it. And, if you’re like
me, you like to have some of these flavors year-round. I use
lime/lemons in so much of my cooking- it’s a weekly, almost daily
However, in the United States, not all citrus produces
year-round. It’s a seasonal crop that arrives in the late fall
and early spring. Luckily there are three different ways to save
Eureka and Meyer lemons (and limes!) so that you can enjoy the acid
flavor pop anytime of year. Going forward, I’ll be using the
general ‘lemon’ but know these techniques will work with different
varieties of lemons.
1. Freezing Lemon Juice and Zest
Using your freezer is one of the most helpful tools in saving
lemons. I’m always reaching for lemons to finish a sauce or lemon
juice for a vinaigrette.
Freezing the juice in 1-tablespoon measured ice cube trays and the
zest in a freezer-safe container gives you access to lemon juice
and zest anytime. One quick note about the zest. I freeze it on a
sheet tray then transfer it to a jar when frozen.
Zest and juice will last at least three months in the freezer
but could save for up to a year. There’s really no harm in the
older juice/zest. However, the flavor will degrade over time. Use
the frozen juice/zest as you would fresh juice/zest.
If going this route, I highly recommend investing in a
microplane and even potentially a juicer. I love having
a hand-held press, primarily for the ease of storage. However,
there are other (bigger) citrus
juicers on the market or
an attachment for your kitchen aid.
2. Dehydrating Lemons
dehydrator is one of the top purchases I’ve made for my
kitchen. It may seem big and bulky. You may question why this item
is taking up so much space when it only has one function. Well, let
me tell you, that one function is amazing.
One of my favorite applications is drying citrus. Not only does
dried citrus make for a beautiful presentation, it can come in
handy for infusing tea and water or bring a bit of flavor to soups
You can also dehydrate the peels separate from the segments. Use
a spice grinder to make your own lemon powder. Use the citrus
powder for spice blends, marinades, and soups. Dried lemons can
last years. Be sure the lemons have no moisture left and store in a
glass jar so that it’s easy to tell if moisture is happening.
See the technique for drying lemons.
3. Preserving Lemons
Finally, the conversation-starter preservation. While the first
two options of saving lemons left the citrus at status-quo,
preserved lemons take the flavor up a notch. Preserved lemons are
rather magical (and this article from
Serious Eats is a good dive into why).
At the base of this recipe, it’s simply lemons and salt. There
are, however, many variations. Some ways to make preserved lemons
call for extra lemon juice instead of pressing the juice out of
what you’re preserving. Some recipes also call for adding spices
and chilis. It’s really up to what you think you would like
Best of all, preserved lemons can last well upwards of two years
(if they actually make it that long in your kitchen!) After the
initial month(s) of fermenting, transfer to the refrigerator and
use as desired. Just be sure that your lemons are fully submerged
in lemon juice during the fermentation stage. If not fully
submerged, mold might start appearing.
Preserved lemons can be used in many of the same applications as
traditional lemons. However, the flavor of preserved lemons can be
a bit more impactful and have an underlying floral flavor. Use
preserved lemons in dressing, grain pilafs, sauces, stews, and dips
(think hummus!) Just be sure to add towards the very end of
cooking. Any over-cooking of preserved lemons can drastically
reduce that wonderful flavor for which you so patiently waited.
Links for different preserving techniques/flavorings:
Source: FS – Healthy – Vegetarian
Saving the season: Lemons