I could probably fill a book with all the cooking tricks I've learned from my twin sister, Janet. Her recent visit was no exception.
Rushing around to get our dessert ready, I was running down the list of ingredients I would need when I realized... "Uh oh, I don't have any lemon zest."
"Well, don't you store a whole lemon in your freezer?" Miss Smarty Pants asked.
Jumping on the defensive, I informed her that I do freeze lemon juice - especially the hard-to-find Meyer lemons that I hoard when they're in season.
But no, I never thought to freeze the whole citrus.
It turned out to be quite a revelation.
What a super-easy way to ensure you've always got fresh lemon and lime on hand when you need it! Lemon zest is most aromatic and flavorful when first removed and best used immediately.
First Janet washes the lemons really well, then lets them dry and drops them into a freezer bag. Frozen lemons and limes are much easier to grate for zest. And once defrosted they're much easier to juice, as well.
You can also freeze quartered lemon slices by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, place them in a freezer bag and remove as needed.
I discovered later the texture of the citrus will be mushy once thawed, but the juice will still be perfectly fine for use in your favorite recipe.
Lemons add acid - which can heighten other flavors - and a bright, tangy flavor to foods. Lemons are full of vitamin C, folate, fiber and potassium. I also read that lemon peels contain as much as five to 10 times more vitamins than the lemon juice itself.
Now that I've learned my sister's lemon zest secret, I'm sprinkling the frozen lemon gratings into my plain no-fat yogurt in the morning, salads, ice cream and spaghetti sauce.
Then there's lemon curd. Those unfamiliar with it may find the name unappealing. But one taste and most will be pleasantly impressed with the butter-rich cream. Lemon curd makes an excellent filling for tarts, and it can be spread between layers of cake. I also like its lemony tang with scones.
Yes, without my sister, my life would lack lemon zest.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.
CLASSIC LEMON CURD
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 minute. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. The curdled appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. It should be thick enough to cling to the back of a spoon and read 170 degrees on a thermometer. Don't let the mixture boil.
Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest and transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. It will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.