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The ultimate guide to lemon uses in cooking. Learn about the different types of lemons, how you can preserve them, and great way to use them in your every day cooking.
I adore lemon season. The fresh, bright, yellow spheres of juicy deliciousness makes me excited every year. I stalk the boyfriend's parent waiting for them to tell me that their lemons are ready.
I just planted my own tree, but it won't produce for a while. So for now I beg for my lemons.
There are so many things you can do with lemons, ranging from beauty to health to food. And you know I'll be focusing on food.
From seasoning to desserts to drinks, this guide to lemon uses in cooking walks you through everything you can do with lemons.
Types of Lemons
There are many, many, many different types of lemons in the world. For purposes of this post, I'm going to list only the most popular ones found in the US.
- Eureka Lemon - These are the lemons most commonly found in the grocery store. With few or no seeds, they are available throughout the year. Use Eureka lemons in dishes calling for lemon juice, like this Strawberry Shortcake.
- Meyer Lemons - Meyer lemons are actually a cross between a citron and a mandarin orange, which is what makes them sweeter than your typical lemon. These are my favorite lemons and the ones I typically use to cook with. Peak season is later winter through early spring. Try making this Lemon Curd with Meyer lemons...it's amazing.
- Ponderosa Lemon - Ponderosa lemons are jumbo, often reaching the size of grapefruits. Peak season is late spring and summer. Use Ponderosa lemons in dishes calling for lemon juice, like these Lyonnaise Potatoes.
- Pink Lemon - Pink lemons tend to be sweeter than regular lemons, with especially fragrant leaves (see ideas for using lemon leaves later in the post). Peak season is typically in the summer. Due their sweetness, these lemons are best used in desserts like these Lemon Meringue Tarts.
- Lisbon Lemons - Similar to the Eureka lemon, Lisbon lemons are very acidic and widely available in grocery stores most of the year. Great used in any dish calling for lemon juice.
- Genoa Lemons - Also similar to the Eureka, the Genoa lemon is a cold-hardy tree that has a peel high in natural lemon oil making it perfect for zesting. Peak season is winter. This would be a greta variety to use for it's lemon zest in any of these lemon zest recipes from Bon Appetit.
- Yuzu Lemons - A Japanese citrus, Yuzu lemons are know for their incredibly fragrant rind. They are typically used as a souring agent in sauce as it is one of the few citrus fruits that keeps it's tartness when cooked. Peak season is September-October, but they can be difficult to find in the US. The juice from these lemons is great used in marinades or this Yuzu Sorbet from Just One Cookbook.
- Villafranca Lemons - Similar to the Lisbon and Eureka lemons, commonly grown in Florida, this lemon tends to have more seeds than it's counterparts. They are typically available all year round. Great used in any dish calling for lemon juice.
- Bearss Lemons - Very similar in resemblance to the Lisbon lemon. Bearss lemons are popular due to the high oil content of the peel as well as the amount of fruit that each tree bears. Peak season is July through December. Great used in any dish calling for lemon juice like these Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.
- Lemonade Lemons - Lemonade lemons are a cross between a mandarin and a lemon, tasting much sweeter than some other lemon types. These lemons can often be eaten on their own and are commonly used to make lemonade (hence the name). Peak season is winter.
For a complete list of lemons: http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/fruits/lemon-varieties-a.asp
Lemons are often used in cooking, beauty routines, for cleaning and deodorizing, whiten clothes, to keep food from oxidizing, and just smelling amazing.
If you want to read more about non-food uses for lemons, check out this post "20 Brilliant And Unexpected Things You Can Do With A Lemon."
I'm going to focus on the different ways you can use lemons in cooking and food.
- Sweet recipes using lemons
- Savory recipes using lemons
- Preserving lemons
Lemon Uses in Cooking
I love that you can use lemons in both sweet and savory cooking. They add the perfect amount of freshness and tang to both kinds of dishes.
Sweet Recipes Using Lemon:
Savory Recipes Using Lemon:
Preserving lemons is such a great way to make your lemons last longer. I typically end up with dozens and dozens of fresh lemons, and just can't use them fast enough.
There are a few different ways to preserve your lemons. One is to make classic preserved lemons, which are placed in a jar with plenty of salt and lemon juice and left to ferment for 30+ days.
Once you taste a preserved lemon, I promise you will fall in love. Here are some amazing recipes using preserved lemons:
Moroccan Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemons - Went Here 8 This
Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemons - Went Here 8 This
Savory Barley Salad with Preserved Lemon - Kevin is Cooking
Slow Grilled Leg of Lamb - Bon Appetit
Another way of preserving lemons is to make lemon curd.
Lemon curd is a mixture of lemon juice, zest, sugar, butter and egg yolks for one of the creamiest, sweet and tangy treats you'll ever have. Recipes using lemon curd:
Great for garnishes or dipping in chocolate, candying lemon slices is another great way to preserve lemons.
A wonderful side effect of making candied lemon slices is the lemon syrup that result from simmering the lemon in sugar for 1+ hours. It's delicious served on these Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes.
Recipes using candied lemon slices:
Creamy Lemon Chiffon Pie - Went Here 8 This
Or just dip them in chocolate and give them as gifts!
Natasha over at Natasha's Kitchen has a great recipe for Canning Lemons as well.
You can also juice the lemons and freeze the juice in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, place the cubes in a freezer safe container and store for up to 6 months. This can also be done with lemon zest. Store single serving (1 teaspoon) quantities in a freezer safe bag for up to 6 months.
When we're making recipes, sometimes they will call for "fresh squeezed lemon juice" or "lemon zest." I've included some tips below on the best ways to juice and zest a lemon, as well as some other tips for using lemons in cooking.
How to Zest a Lemon
Turn the lemon as you finish each side, being careful not to zest the pith. It's bitter and you don't want it in your food.
If you have a ton of lemons, I highly recommend zesting as many as you can and freezing the zest for future use. I freeze it in 1 teaspoon sizes so I can take it out and use it as I need it. It will last in the freezer for up to 6 months before freezer burn will start rearing it's ugly head.
Recipes calling for lemon zest:
How To Cut a Lemon
You can really cut a lemon any way you'd like, but here are the most common ways:
Slices of lemon are great used on top of foil packet fish, chicken and seafood while roasting.
Lemon wedges are most often used as a garnish or used to make lemon water.
Lemon halves are typically used for juicing.
How to Juice a Lemon
There are several different ways you can juice a lemon.
- The good old slice in half and squeeze way. This is typically how I do it. Slice the lemon in half as shown below to allow it to be juiced the easiest:
- A hand held citrus squeezer like the one pictured below:
- A hand held citrus reamer. This is not my favorite way as it takes a lot of effort.
- A citrus juicer. This one is honestly the best (and most expensive) because it strains the pulp and seeds.
How To Use Lemon Leaves
If you've got lemon leaves attached to your lemons, don't throw them away! They can be used in all the following ways:
- Place them in oil or vinegar to infuse them with a fresh citrusy flavor;
- Add them to soups or stews;
- Add them to tea (learn how to make Lemon Leaf Tea from Snapguide);
- Place them in a foil packet with fish/seafood for a bright citrus flavor.
Note that you don't typically eat the lemon leaves, just use them for flavoring.
Health Benefits of Lemons
In addition to their wonderful fresh and tangy flavor and scent, lemons also have many health benefits:
- They are very high in Vitamin C, which is good for your heart health;
- Aid in the absorption of iron, which can help stave off anemia;
- Vitamin C also helps to boost the immune system.
- Lemon water has been shown to aid in weight loss.
To learn about the health benefits of lemons, read this article from Medical News Today.
**Note that I am not a medical professional. Please talk to your doctor to assess the benefits of regularly consuming lemons.
I want to hear from you guys! What is your favorite way to use lemons? Do you have a favorite kind of lemon? Leave a comment below and let me know!