January 22, 2018
How to Cook with Lemons and Limes

How to Cook with Lemons and Limes

by Berkeley Wellness  

The juice and zest of lemons and limesadd tart flavor to soups, curries, salads, and vegetables—and even to baked goods.

Start with the best lemons and limes in the store. They should be firm, glossy, and bright—beautiful enough to be treated as ornaments for your kitchen.

  • Lemons should be bright yellow, not greenish, and limes should be dark green.
  • Limes turn from green to yellow as they ripen, but it’s the immature fruits that have the desirably tart juice, whereas yellowish limes signal a loss of flavor.
  • Meyer lemons should be firm and plump, have even-colored yellow-orange skin without bruises or soft spots.

A very coarse exterior may indicate an excessively thick skin, which may mean the fruit will have less juice. Larger lemons, for example, are likely to be thick-skinned, with less juice. Look instead for heavy fruits with fine-grained skin, which are juiciest. Avoid hard, shriveled lemons and limes, as well as spongy, soft ones.

How to store lemons and limes at home

If you are planning to use lemons quickly, you can leave them in a basket at room temperature. They will keep for about two weeks without refrigeration. Limes are more perishable and should be refrigerated immediately. Both lemons and limes stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper will keep for up to six weeks.

If you have extra lemons or limes on hand and want to save them before they spoil, squeeze the juice into an ice-cube tray, then transfer the frozen juice cubes to a plastic bag and keep in the freezer.

How to prepare lemons and limes

To get the most juice from a lemon or lime, the fruit should be at room temperature or warmer. If need be, place it in hot water or a low oven for a few minutes to warm it, or microwave it for 30 seconds. Then roll the fruit under your palm on the countertop until it feels softened.

There are lots of gadgets for juicing lemons and limes, but it’s simplest to cut the fruit in half and squeeze it in your hand, using your fingers to hold back the seeds.

If you don’t need all the juice at once, you can pierce the fruit with a toothpick and squeeze the juice from the opening. “Reseal” the fruit by reinserting the toothpick.

Recipes often call for lemon or lime zest, the flavorful colored part of the peel. Scrub the fruit, and then use the fine side of a grater or a vegetable peeler to remove the zest. When grating or paring the zest from a lemon or lime, be careful not to remove any of the bitter white pith along with it. To have lemon or lime zest on hand, save the shells after squeezing fresh juice, then wrap and freeze the shells. Grate zest as you need it from the still frozen shells.

A large lemon will yield about 3 to 4 tablespoons of juice and 2 to 3 teaspoons of zest. A large lime will provide 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice and 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest.

11 recipe ideas for lemons and limes

  1. Stuff a roasting chicken with lemon halves and herbs.
  2. To enliven chicken broth, tomato soup, clam chowder, or beef stew, stir in a little fresh lemon juice just before serving.
  3. Use lemon or lime juice instead of vinegar in salad dressings.
  4. Sprinkle cooked green vegetables with lemon or lime juice.
  5. Stir lemon juice and zest into yogurt for a savory dip.
  6. Spoon melted lemon-caper butter over grilled fish.
  7. Add lemon or lime juice to orange, pineapple, or tomato juice.
  8. Squeeze fresh lime juice on corn-on-the-cob instead of butter.
  9. Use lemon and lime zest to flavor baked goods, such as lemon loaf.
  10. Try making a ceviche by curing fish in citrus juice.
  11. Add lime zest to a coconut curry.
Also see these recipes:

Lemon-Dill Beans and Peas

Roasted Bluefish with Lemon-Basil Sauce

Cranberry-Lime Spritzer

Chili-Lime Barley and Vegetable Salad