Sour and Sweet

When life gives you lemons, consider turning them into delightful drinks and treats.

THERE’S SOMETHING INHERENTLY positive about lemons. They add life to any dish. They’re also one of the most versatile ingredients, whether in drinks, main dishes or desserts. Lemons can be used as an accent or the main attraction. Adding lemon slices to roast chicken is an easy and quick way to add a hint of flavor and texture. Zesting perks up any dish, but it works especially well in baking and roasting; be sure to use organic, unwaxed lemons and grate just the top layer. Planting a lemon tree in your backyard is highly recommended — our frost-free coastal California climate makes it easy to grow and harvest year round. Here in Marin, Meyers reign supreme — their dwarf rootstock and year-round production make them very popular, with California-native Eurekas coming in second. Lemon trees are happiest in the sunniest spot in your yard in amended, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Water and fertilize them regularly for the first year, then less often but deeply as the tree grows.

Click through to each page to learn more about how to make these lemon-filled drinks and treats.

 

Candied Lemon Peels

This chewy, sweet candy is great by itself, chopped and added to cookie recipes, or as a topping on cakes. You can also substitute oranges or grapefruit peel for different citrus-peel candy.

MAKES 1½ CUP LOOSELY PACKED CANDY

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 lemons
  • 8 cups water, or as needed
  • 2½ cups sugar or more

DIRECTIONS

Peel the lemons lengthwise with a paring knife or potato peeler; try to avoid as much pith as possible. Boil the strips in 2 cups of water for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse and repeat twice to help reduce the bitterness. After that, combine 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar and bring to a simmer until sugar dissolves, then add the lemon peel. Stirring occasionally, simmer the peel until it softens, which can take 15 minutes to an hour. Once the peel is tender, use tongs and remove each peel individually. Cool and let dry on a wire rack. Then roll the peel in sugar and store at room temperature in an airtight container. This chewy, sweet candy is great by itself, chopped and added to cookie recipes, or as a topping on cakes. You can also substitute oranges or grapefruit peel for different citrus-peel candy.

 

Limoncello

This easy recipe uses a little less sugar than is standard. Limoncello is addictive as a chilled after-dinner aperitif. Since the recipe uses only lemon peel, you can juice the lemons and make lemonade, or freeze the juice for later use.

MAKES 1.5 QUARTS

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 lemons
  • 1 750 ml bottle vodka
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water

DIRECTIONS

Peel the lemons in long strips with a potato peeler, being careful to get as little pith as possible. Put the lemon peel in a large glass pitcher and pour the vodka over it. Cover and store at room temperature for 5 days. After that, make the simple syrup by mixing the sugar and water in a pot over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the syrup to the lemon peel vodka and store at room temperature overnight. The next day, strain the mixture, remove lemon peel and discard. Pour in bottles and store in the refrigerator.

 

Best Lemon Bars

This recipe contains the perfect crust-to-filling ratio. The crust is not too thin and the filling is a zesty custard.

MAKES 18 TRIANGLES

INGREDIENTS

Crust

  • 1¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter

Filling

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with 2 sheets parchment paper, 1 sheet going one way, the other sheet perpendicular to the first. Mix the dry ingredients for the crust first, then cut the butter in, mixing it until it resembles a coarse meal. Press the crust ingredients into the parchment- lined pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake the crust about 20 minutes until golden brown. While the crust is baking, whisk the filling ingredients together and then pour it onto the crust when it’s done baking. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for 20 more minutes or until the filling is firm. Cool, and lift the parchment paper to remove from the pan. Cut filling-topped crust into bars and sift with confectioners’ sugar if desired.

 

Lemonade

You can’t go wrong with lemonade. To cut down on the sharpness, muddle ¼ cup of fresh mint leaves and mix them in.

MAKES 1.25 QUARTS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of lemon juice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients until the sugar is dissolved and serve over ice.

Categories: Cocktails, Desserts, Feature Story