Every January, I order a ten pound box of unsprayed Meyer lemons from the Lemon Ladies in California. I spend the next week or two transforming those lemons into marmalade, lemon curd, preserved lemons, dehydrated slices, syrups, and even infused vinegars. These preserves satisfy many of my lemon needs and help bring a much-needed bright spot into an otherwise dreary time of year.
Now, I realize that spending $65 on citrus isn’t in the cards for everyone. However, that doesn’t meant that you have to write off all lemon preservation projects. There’s a lot you can do with regular grocery lemons that will be delicious and won’t break the budget.
First off, if you’re making marmalade or using the zest in some way, organic lemons are best (but no judgment here if you can’t swing it). When you’re selecting the fruit, make sure to search out the lemons with the very smoothest skin. That almost always leads you to lemons that have thinner pith layers, which will make for a better marmalade or preserved lemon.
You also want to look for lemons that have a touch of green on the tips. Many years ago, I went on a press trip hosted by Sunkist and they taught us that lemons are always picked with some green remaining on the skin. They yellow up during storage and shipping. A hint of green means that they haven’t been off the tree as long as some of their compatriots.
When you’re ready to use your grocery store lemons, put them in the sink. Bring a kettle of water to a boil, let it cool for a moment, and then rinse the lemons with it. When they’re cool enough to handle, give them a good scrub with a vegetable brush and rinse with warm tap water. This process will remove any traces of the wax that lemons are typically coated with to extend their lifespan.
Now you’re ready to preserve. You can make just about all the recipes listed in this post with your grocery store lemons. You can make Kaela’s citrus salts. You can juice them, heap the peels in a jar, and cover them with distilled white vinegar to make an effective cleaning fluid.
How are you all preserving your citrus this year?