Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about lemons.  Aren’t lemons lovely?

As you know, the color yellow is so in right now, and I guess that makes lemons just about the most stylish fruit around these days.

Today I want to share with you  some lemon tips and helpful hints.

{ Tip Number One }

There is no substitute for fresh lemon juice.  Let me say that again in case you weren’t listening.  There is no substitute for fresh lemon juice.  I know there are products on the grocery store shelf that will try and convince you that they contain a reasonable substitution for the real thing, but they are all liars.  Don’t listen to their false claims.  Fresh taste does not live in a bottle.  You must squeeze fresh lemons to get fresh lemon taste.

{Tip Number Two}

The acidity in lemon juice prevents oxidation.  Oxidation is a fancy scientific word that means “turns brown.”  If you squeeze a bit of lemon juice onto cut apples, pears, bananas, or avocados, then they won’t turn brown…or at least they won’t turn brown as quickly as they would without the lemon juice.  Keep this in mind the next time you are making fruit salad or guacamole.

{Tip Number Three}

When it comes to baked goods {cakes, cookies, tarts}, lemon juice does not deliver that great puckery lemon flavor that we all love.  When you bake with lemons, the zing is in the zest.  The zest is the outermost layer of the peel.  The zest contains all the essential oils of the fruit, which are super-concentrated power-houses of lemon flavor.  So, for example, when you make lemon bars, you can add all the lemon juice you want {fresh-squeezed, of course}, and they may have a hint of lemon-ish flavor.  However, if you add some of the lemon zest to the batter, you will get an explosion of lemon tarty goodness in your mouth that will set your awesome lemon bars worlds apart from all the zest-less mediocre not-so-lemony bars.

{Tip Number Four}

Do you know what else lemons are great for?  Decoration!  A bowl full of lemons is a classy centerpiece, especially for a summer party or just to have something pretty on your countertop.  And compared to flowers, they are very cost-effective.  No watering required.

Now for my favorite lemon extraction techniques….

If I only need a little bit of juice, I use a tool called a reamer.  Mine is wooden, but they can also be metal.  I use the reamer in conjunction with a baby sieve set over a liquid measuring cup.  The juice goes through the sieve into the measuring cup, leaving the seeds and pulp behind.

My supplies look like this:


If I need a larger quantity of juice, I use a citrus-juicer.  Mine looks like this:


I use my citrus juicer for limes and grapefruits as well.  It makes very light work when you need a lot of juice.  Mine is made by Black & Decker and came from Target a couple of years ago.


For collecting lemon zest, I use a Microplane, which is a long metal fine-guaged grater on a handle.  It looks like this:


The secret to zesting lemons is to use a light touch and rotate the lemon in quick little turns.  I hold the Microplane in my left hand, the lemon in my right hand, and lightly rub the lemon across the blades.  It took me a little bit of practice to get the rhythm down smoothly.  It goes like this…rub, rub, turn; rub, rub, turn; rub, rub, turn.  Slowly I make my way all the way around the lemon.   Make sure you only grate the outer layer of the lemon skin.  The white stuff underneath is bitter and not tasty.  Your lemon should look like this after it is zested:

The zest looks like this:



So there you have it.  Everything I know and love about lemons.

Are you ready to put all this lemon knowledge to good use?  Below are three of my favorite lemon-based recipes {a drink, a dressing, and a dessert}.  Click on the recipe to download a printable copy.  Enjoy!

Lemon Drop

Lemon Vinaigrette

Lemon Bars

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14 Responses to Lemons

  1. Sandy says:

    We also have had problems recently with lemon zest turning the muffins brown – Actually the muffin looks more like a bran muffin than a lemon poppy muffin. We have been using the same recipe for years, and only recently started seeing the difference. We stopped putting the zest on the top of the muffin because it was burning – it used to turn a nice golden brown. We are going to try different lemons to see if it makes a difference

  2. Elvira Gummo says:

    Lemon oil may be used in aromatherapy. Researchers at The Ohio State University found that lemon oil aroma does not influence the human immune system, but may enhance mood.

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  6. liz says:

    i zested a lemon today for lemon bars and the zest turned brown! never had that happen before. within minutes, still on the grater and brown. and on the lemon where i had grated, starting to brown. but where i sliced in to the skin the rind stayed white?! any idea why….
    by the way, i had already zested 4 other lemons and none of them did it.

    • katherine says:

      Hmmmm. This is so odd! I’ve been racking my brain, and I can’t think of a reason why this would happen other than the lemon in question might have been less than ideal. Given that they other four lemons seemed fine, I would chalk this up to a yucky specimen. Lemon zest should not turn brown, especially immediately. I have zested lemons before in preparation for cooking something later in the day, and even hours after I initially zested them, the color was still yellow. I think you must have just had a semi-rotten lemon. Thanks for asking and hope this helps!

      • carol says:

        I made lemon bars recently and put some zest in the crust. While the crust was baking I made the filling. When I took the crust out of the oven it was full of brown specs that was the lemon zest. It was too late to leave the zest out of the filling so when baked the zest in the filling turned brown too! The bars tasted great but they were UGLY! I talked to an actual baker friend and she has never seen it happen. There was some discussion about the possibility of the vanilla turning the zest in the filling but the crust had no vanilla and that zest browned too. Any thoughts?

        • Sandy says:

          I am thinking that it has to do with certain lemons, because we are currently not having the problem. Unfortunately, I was not paying attention to where the lemons were grown. I wouldn’t point a finger at vanilla extract, either, that has been consistent – only the lemons have changed. Wish I had more….

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  10. Megan says:

    Ksass! I am making these lemon bars TODAY! I’ll let you know how they turn out. Thanks for sharing your wisdom! :)

  11. Sarah Wolfe says:

    Great tips! Thanks for this!

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