How to Reuse Your Lemons Easily and Deliciously


Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

I think the moment in my day that always breaks my heart the hardest is the moment I see a lemon squeezed. Sometimes I’m at a bar and I see a lemon squeezed into a drink, or I’m at the wharf and see lemons squeezed over fish. However it happens, the followup is always the same; that lemon is thrown right into the trash.

That’s the part that kills me.

All that lemon rind.. all that flesh.. all that juice you couldn’t get out with those weak fingers.. it’s an atrocity. A used lemon is a wonderland of potential flavor and good health, thanks to the magic of fermentation.

Fire the Sheriff

Of all the foods I ferment, lemons are the most subtle and easy to care for. They quietly sit in their jar, day after day, emitting only mild bubbles. Next to my lemon jar sits my ginger bug, a ferment that erupts like a gunshot every time I open the lid.

Each of my ferments are active in very different ways, because they’re all breeding different kinds of bacteria.

If you’re not familiar with the fermentation process, you might be saying “Bacteria? What?! Ewww gross!!” It’s not! Fermentation is good! And by the way, you are smothered and filled with bacteria. In fact our bodies contain 10x more bacteria cells than cells that house our own DNA. It’s smart to start having a say over what kinds of bacteria inhabit your internal ecosystem. They help call the shots on everything from health, mood, to what kinds of food you like to eat.

Bacteria are the sheriffs in town, and if you’re not happy with your health or your body, it’s time to fire the sheriff and hire a new one.

Breeding a New Sheriff

It’s very easy to have an impact on what kind of bacteria inhabit your gut, and it’s better to get started earlier rather than later.

These bacteria already live on the skins and inside the flesh of the fruits and vegetables you’re eating. They live on the skin of that lemon you’re squeezing and throwing away.. you monster.

Lemon Time

So after you’ve squeezed those lemon quarters into your drink or your plate, put them into a baggie and pop them into the freezer. Once you’ve accumulated enough to fill a mason jar, pull them out and let them defrost.Of course, if you don’t use lemons much, but still want to try preserving some, you can buy a bag of lemons for this recipe.

Do I Preserve? Or Do I Candy?

It depends on what you want to do with the lemons. Preserved lemons are preserved with salt. The final result makes an amazing topping for pizza, ingredient in curry, or zest in a salad. Pretty much anything savoury can be drastically enhanced with a preserved lemon.

Candied lemons are preserved with sugar. Both salt and sugar are amazing at giving immortality to fruits and vegetables, plus they draw out and foster rapid breeding for all the good bacterias. Candied lemons are more useful for adding to baking, or to a sweet drink.

I use mine to enhance the flavor of my homemade ginger beer. Just cut one candied lemon in half and drop it into beer mixture to soak. Strain it out with everything else before bottling and the goodness will be left behind.

Getting Started

Once you’ve decided whether to preserve or candy, it’s time to get started.

Begin by ensuring that your knife, cutting board, and mason jar are sterilized.

If you’re using lemon quarters that were previously squeezed, you can stip to the step under the picture below.

If you’re using new, whole lemons: Take your lemons and cut the ends off, making sure not to expose the juicy flesh. You should be able to stand the lemon on its head once the ends are cut off. Take the lemon and slice it through the middle most of the way, making sure not to slice the entire way through. What you’ll have is a flowered lemon that opens into four quarters.

Pry open the flowered lemon, and push either salt or sugar inside. The amount of salt/sugar isn’t particularly important. Once that’s done just throw the lemon into the jar.
If you’re using recycled quarters, just use your fingers to mash sugar or salt into the remaining flesh and over the skin. Then add them to the jar. Also, throw a sprinkle of extra salt or sugar into the jar for good measure.
Keep going until the jar is filled to the brim. Once it’s full, use your hand or a blunt object to push the lemons down until the jar looks 3/4 full. Juice should be escaping the lemons and may even submerge them.
If the lemons aren’t submerged by their juice, top the jar up with fresh lemon juice until they’re completely submerged.

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

And that’s it
Store the jar out of direct sunlight and give it a light shake every day. You can also crack the lid every couple days to relieve the pressure of the building carbon dioxide inside.
Resist the urge to cook with the lemons for a full month.
Once they’re done fermenting, pop them in the fridge. They’ll last for months in there, and their flavor will develop further. You can pull out a lemon any time you need one.
If it’s a preserved lemon, I recommend only using the skin — the flesh gets too salty. Cut the flesh off, then slice the skin into small pieces and add it to your meal. I promise, it will be incredible.
If it’s a candied lemon, you can also add the skin to your next baking project. Or you can throw a lemon into your bee. Once you’ve taken the candied lemon out of your beer, you have my permission to compost it. And good on you!

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I’m a well travelled writer who loves nothing more than a well polished video game, an expertly crafted sandwich, and a hot mug of Milo.


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