Lemon’s high acidity means it can help slow food spoilage—that’s why a toss in lemon juice keeps cut fruits from browning. But because its natural acidity is always appealing, there are several ways to preserve lemon flavor itself—freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays, for instance, or dry lemon zest. Here are two of the most delightful recipes that make your lemon last, one sweet, the other savory.
Sweet: Lemon Curd
Lemon curd is the mayonnaise of the pastry kitchen—it keeps a few weeks if it’s refrigerated, it adds unctuous mouth feel and a gentle tartness to whatever you add it, and it’s incredibly versatile. Also, it’s easy to make.
3 large lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
Juice of 3 lemons
1/8 teaspoon salt
Peel the lemons carefully with a lemon peeler—you only want the yellow zest, not the white and bitter pith. Process the pieces of peel with the sugar until they are well blended. Cream the butter and beat in the sugar-zest mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, then add the salt and lemon juice. Put the mixture in a saucepan and cook over low heat until it’s thick. Cool to room temperature and store, covered tightly, in the refrigerator. Keeps about a month when refrigerated.
How to use lemon curd:
A dollop of lemon curd topped with one of whipped cream dresses up a pound cake or angel food cake instantly.
A spoonful in a baked tart shell can be topped with whipped cream or meringue for a mini lemon pie.
Make a graham cracker crust, spread it with lemon curd and top with fresh berries.
Use it as a cake filling for yellow or white cake; ice with vanilla buttercream.
Savory: Preserved Lemons
Preserved lemons are gaining popularity in American kitchens along with other Mediterranean seasonings. Their unique zesty flavor adds brightness and interest to many of your regular recipes—wherever you might add lemon juice or zest to a savory dish, just chop and stir in some preserved lemon.
1/4 cup salt
1 cinnamon stick, broken in a few pieces
5 to 6 coriander seeds
3 to 4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf, crumbled
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, if necessary
Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.
Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of a 1-quart sterilized mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt and the spices between layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice—not chemically produced lemon juice and not water.) Leave some air space before sealing the jar. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place for a month, shaking the jar daily to distribute the salt and juice. To use, rinse the lemons under running water and remove and discard the pulp, if desired. Preserved lemons can keep up to a year.
Photos by: Adam Finkle