Citrus Frugality: Don’t Waste Lemon Zest
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I’m not exactly a frugal person. I sometimes try to be. There are those rare days when I remember to turn a stale loaf of bread into crumbs or pudding *before* it turns green. Or days when I empty the fridge into a soup pot and pat myself on the back for avoiding waste. But most of the time I am too focused on the exciting new thing I’m cooking to remember what’s aging in the fridge.
There is however one ingredient that I hate to see go to waste: lemons. A lemon is such a bright and cheery thing. The thought of all that sunshine going to waste makes me sad.
Lemons have two useful parts when it comes to cooking and baking: the juice and the rind or zest. Very often I only need the juice. It breaks my heart to squeeze out the juice and then see that unused daffodil of peel peeking out of the garbage can. And so I make sure that never happens.
Before cutting a lemon I always harvest its rind (except if the lemon is going into someone’s drink. Can you imaging being served a refreshing beverage with a peel-less wedge of lemon floating in it? Whoever made that drink would beat me in a frugality contest any day!). I either grate it up on a rasp or I use a paring knife to remove long wisps (being careful not to take the white pith along with the zest). Then I can juice the lemon and not worry about the white husk that is thrown away.
Now, if you’re like me and you use A LOT of lemons, then you will quickly find yourself swimming in rind. What to do with it all? I preserve the lemon rind in four different ways:
- I put the finely grated zest in a bag in the freezer. This can be used in any recipe that calls for lemon zest. Just let it defrost for a moment or two on the counter before adding it to anything so that it will spread around better and not be a frozen clump. Uses for the frozen zest: Throw a bit into white cake batter (or even chocolate cake batter), muffins, cookies, breads and veggie dips for an extra zing of flavor. I also like to mix it with the tea leaves in my tea ball.
- I scoot the larger rind cuttings from one lemon into a cup of sugar in a sealed jar. After a few days the sugar starts to take on some lemony notes which it then passes on to anything it sweetens.
- When I have too much time on my hands (note: This has not happened since baby M was born!) I set the oven to 200ºF, line a pan with foil and put the longer wisps of lemon rind on the pan. After awhile, they become totally dry. I then chop them into smaller pieces and put them in a pepper mill along with some sea salt and black peppercorns. Homemade Lemon Pepper!
- I warm the long pieces of zest from one lemon over low heat in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup of olive oil. Once everything is nice and warm I remove it from the heat and let the oil steep. I usually cover it and leave it steeping overnight. Then I strain the oil into a container with a tight-fitting lid. This oil is lovely drizzled into soups just before serving or as the oil used to lightly pan-fry fish. It’s also pretty spectacular drizzled over roasted asparagus.
Now that you’ve read all my lemon zest ideas I bet your mouth is watering. Well, I have some more inspiration for you. Head over to Live Pretty. Katie (from katiescucina.com) and I are doing a Google+ Hangout with two of the Living Pretty gals tonight about…you guessed it…lemons! In honor of our chat they’ve been posting some lemon recipes. They all look and sound incredible but the one that I actually tried and actually swooned over is for Lemon Zest Pasta. And yes, the zest from your freezer will work beautifully here!