How to cook lemons
Lemons are a must-have in my kitchen at all times, regardless of season. Whole lemons, especially meyer lemons, can be roasted and pickled with the rind, while lemon juice and zest is great for dressings, curd, and sauces. Just use caution when cooking, as lemons can react with cast-iron skillets that haven’t been seasoned well enough, causing a color/flavor issue.
How to buy lemons
The flavor of lemons is best when they are allowed to ripen on the tree. Look for lemons with a full, shiny yellow color, void of soft spots or cuts, and give just slightly when pressed.
How to store lemons
Store lemons in the refrigerator crisper for a couple of weeks, or at room temperature for about a week. If storing in the refrigerator, remove the lemon from the refrigerator a couple hours before using. Also, check lemons often. If one starts to mold, pull it quickly, as it can cause quicker decay in the other lemons.
Growing up in Illinois, during the cold, snowy winter months, I would dream of living in a place where February was full of bright pops of citrus color, growing on trees all around you. There is something quite magical about about that process during an otherwise dreary time of year.
When I finally moved to California, one of the first things I did was to plant a patio lemon tree (a lovely grower in California has dwarf trees). I also made a promise to use citrus whenever I could in a meal, which meant quite a few lemon and lime dressings, and dishes that featured citrus. There are a few different varieties of lemons that each work well for different dishes. I prefer Meyer lemons in desserts so I don’t have to add a ton of extra sugar, while I like traditional lemons for their acidic punch in cooking.
Lemons are a workhorse in my kitchen. I’m often using the zest and juice to brighten a recipe or make a homemade dressing. Or, the whole lemon can be used either roasted or preserved. During lemon season, I will zest and juice lemons to freeze in ice cube trays. Lemon juice will last for a few months in the freezer, and can be a lifesaver after the season has ended.