The slice-of-sunshine perfection of fresh lemon―juice or zest―puts a little extra bounce in the step of any cook. By: Jason Horn
1. Please handle the fruit.
Most lemons are Eurekas or Lisbons. Eurekas have somewhat thicker rinds, but regardless of variety, look for a lemon that feels heavy in the hand and which, gently squeezed, gives nicely and doesn't seem to have a thick, hard rind (less juice inside). Lemons turn from green to yellow because of temperature changes, not ripeness, so green patches are OK, but avoid those with brown spots, which indicate rot.
2. Power in the key of C
One lemon contains a full day's supply of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, but that's the whole fruit; the juice holds about a third. Lemon juice is also about 5 percent citric acid, making it a natural for slowing the browning or oxidation of fresh, raw foods: apples, avocado, bananas, and other fruits. That power, and the C, makes the lemon a real health fruit.
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3. Preserving lemons for savory zing
Lemons preserved in salt are a fragrant, distinctive flavoring in Moroccan and Middle Eastern stews, tagines, and other dishes. Find house-made preserved lemons at many Mediterranean/Middle Eastern groceries-we prefer these to the factory variety for their fresher flavor. Go easy: They're salty!
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4. Homemade lemon liqueur is as easy as pie. Limoncello is a southern Italian lemon liqueur traditionally served cold as a digestif. It's ridiculously easy to make: Combine ½ cup lemon rind strips with 4 cups vodka, cover, and let stand for two weeks; strain and combine with simple syrup made from 3 cups water and 1½ cups sugar. The higher the proof of the vodka, the more lemon flavor your finished product will have.
5. Makes a versatile household cleaner
Dip a halved lemon in salt for a bit of gentle abrasive power, then scour brass, copper, or stainless-steel pots, pans, and sinks. Rub a cut lemon (sans salt) on aluminum to brighten it. Used lemons tossed in the disposal will deodorize it.
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6. Get the most from every fruit.
Before juicing, roll a room-temperature lemon under your palm to break down the cells inside the fruit that hold liquid. If a fruit is especially hard (and sometimes it's hard to find a good one in an entire supermarket bin), microwave the fruit for 20 seconds. You should get 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice per fruit.
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