Post # 285 When Life Hands You Lemons

August 18, 2014 at 2:48 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

We’ve all heard the old saying, when life hands you lemons make lemonade.  I prefer the one that says when life hands you lemons, freeze them and throw them at people.  A long time ago, we lived in an area where agriculture was one of the main industries, and citrus was one of the primary crops.  We became intimate with the growing season of the trees, the harvesting of the fruit, the varieties and subtleties of flavor in those varieties.  When I moved to Virginia, I went to the store one time and was totally flummoxed when I had to actually pay for a tangerine.

In the past few years, I rediscovered the flavors of cooking with citrus.  To me the most versatile is the lemon.



Tossing some fresh lemon zest, or juice, into almost any recipe with kick the flavors up a few notches.  Mix olive oil, lemon juice, fresh garlic, and fresh oregano together and you have a salad dressing/marinade that’s killer.  But there are loads of other things lemon can do.

For instance, if you like to dehydrate foods, lemon can turn into a bunch of different things.  Slice the yellow zest in wide strips with a vegetable peeler and dry it out.  From there, you can boil it in sugar, let it dry and you have candied lemon peel that can be used as a garnish or a snack.

lemon 2

If you’re really patient (and proficient with the peeler) you can slice the peel off in one long spiral.  Dry it and candy it and it turns into an amazing garnish for anything.

Take a lemon and slice it thinly across.  Cut different angles to get different shapes.  Poke a small hole in the rind of the lemon slice and dry them completely.  The pith will turn glass-like, but the slice will still maintain the slight aroma of lemon.

lemon 4

Thread a short piece of string through the hole and place the dried slices around the house as decorations.  You can also use these to decorate a holiday tree, create a centerpiece for a table, make a holiday wreath, whatever you like.

Lemon 5

You can add various colors, sizes, and shapes by using other citrus fruit and other sizes of the same fruits to mix up the look and add variety.

If you use a microplane to pull the zest off the lemon and dry it out, you can easily turn it into a powder.  That powder can then be used anytime you need zest.  It won’t have exactly the same pop, but it will provide a subtlety that will enhance almost anything.  Add to drinks, plain water, whatever.  Kept in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer and it will keep for nearly ever.

Don’t forget to freeze the juice from all this zesting.  A standard ice cube tray will handle the juice from about four medium to large lemons.  Ever wonder the correct way to juice a lemon?  It’s really easy with the right stuff.

First of all, you want to juice into a fine mesh sieve to keep all the seeds and junk out.  The sieve should be balanced over a non-reactive bowl.  For instance, no aluminum!  Plastic, ceramic, etc. will work fine.  To get the most juice out of any citrus fruit, there are two schools of thought.  First, though, the fruit has to be at room temperature.  Then you can either put it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, or you can roll it vigorously against a flat service.  What both of these do is break the membranes to release the juices.  Then slice the lemon in half.  Some people use muscle power and squeeze like crazy.  Others use a mechanical device of some kind.  I’ve gone through all the different juicers and here’s my favorite.

lemon juicer

You poke the pointy end into the fruit and start twisting while squeezing with the hand that’s holding the fruit.  It cleans everything out of the fruit.  Once all the lemons have been juice, use a rubber spatula to clean off the juicer into the sieve, then press the pulp and seeds in the sieve to release extra juices.  When you’re done, you’ll have a small amount of fibrous pulp and some seeds in the sieve, and a boatload of juice in the bowl.

Freshest Homemade Lemonade:

  • 3/4 – 1  cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (4-6 lemons)
  • 3 -4 cups cold water

Heat water and sugar together over low heat until sugar is dissolved completely.  Zest one lemon, slice another, juice all lemons until you have one cup (strained as described above.)  Remove sugar syrup some heat and add lemon juice and zest.  Pour into large pitched and add cold water to taste, minimum of three cups, but four if needed.  Add lemon slices and chill pitcher until ready to serve.  Good stuff!

Lemons can also be a fun kind of garnish, too.  Get a small plastic storage container and fill with one inch of purified water.  Freeze until solid.  Place a thick lemon slice on top and cover with water, but not enough to float the lemon.  Freeze until solid.  Add more water to an inch over the lemon.  Freeze solid.  Unmold and store in plastic freezer bag until use.  Float in a punch bowl or pitcher to give drinks a festive look.

lemon 3

A long time ago, I used to live in a small trailer park in my home town located in the middle of the orange groves.  The owners were family friends and treated me like family.  One day, I had gone to the office to collect my mail and the oldest granddaughter was there watching the front sales area where fresh fruit and juices were sold.  She was eating some fruit and offered me some.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a white grapefruit, one of the first from our new trees.”

“Oh, no thanks.  Grapefruit is the only citrus I don’t like.  I don’t like the flavor at all.”

“Really?  This one’s really sweet.”  She handed me a section so I popped it into my mouth.

It was lemon!  Pure lemon!  Unadulterated, straight off the tree, no rind or zest, LEMON!  I gagged, choked, swallowed, and managed to get the thing down my throat and out of my mouth.  She laughed through the whole thing.

But I still like lemons.




  1. When life hands me lemons, I make a Lemon Basil Margarita.
    Muddle lemon slices and basil leaves together Add 1 ounce Simple Syrup and two ounces of a very good tequila–an Anejo works well. Shake and serve straight up in a salt rimmed martini glass.
    It’s like liquid summer!

    • Sell that on street corners, do you? Sort of an adult lemonade stand? 😉

      • Not a bad idea … now, where did I leave my markers and that old piece of cardboard? I gotta sign to make!

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