There’s nothing quite like having an abundance of citrus. I think it accounts for about 50% of all joy during the winter months. The pucker-inducing flavor, the vibrant color, the bright fragrance: there’s nothing quite like it. And, if you’re like me, you like to have some of these flavors year-round. I use lime/lemons in so much of my cooking- it’s a weekly, almost daily staple.
However, in the United States, not all citrus produces year-round. It’s a seasonal crop that arrives in the late fall and early spring. Luckily there are three different ways to save Eureka and Meyer lemons (and limes!) so that you can enjoy the acid flavor pop anytime of year. Going forward, I’ll be using the general ‘lemon’ but know these techniques will work with different varieties of lemons.
1. Freezing Lemon Juice and Zest
Using your freezer is one of the most helpful tools in saving lemons. I’m always reaching for lemons to finish a sauce or lemon juice for a vinaigrette. Freezing the juice in 1-tablespoon measured ice cube trays and the zest in a freezer-safe container gives you access to lemon juice and zest anytime. One quick note about the zest. I freeze it on a sheet tray then transfer it to a jar when frozen.
Zest and juice will last at least three months in the freezer but could save for up to a year. There’s really no harm in the older juice/zest. However, the flavor will degrade over time. Use the frozen juice/zest as you would fresh juice/zest.
Owning a dehydrator is one of the top purchases I’ve made for my kitchen. It may seem big and bulky. You may question why this item is taking up so much space when it only has one function. Well, let me tell you, that one function is amazing.
One of my favorite applications is drying citrus. Not only does dried citrus make for a beautiful presentation, it can come in handy for infusing tea and water or bring a bit of flavor to soups and broths.
You can also dehydrate the peels separate from the segments. Use a spice grinder to make your own lemon powder. Use the citrus powder for spice blends, marinades, and soups. Dried lemons can last years. Be sure the lemons have no moisture left and store in a glass jar so that it’s easy to tell if moisture is happening. See the technique for drying lemons.
3. Preserving Lemons
Finally, the conversation-starter preservation. While the first two options of saving lemons left the citrus at status-quo, preserved lemons take the flavor up a notch. Preserved lemons are rather magical (and this article from Serious Eats is a good dive into why).
At the base of this recipe, it’s simply lemons and salt. There are, however, many variations. Some ways to make preserved lemons call for extra lemon juice instead of pressing the juice out of what you’re preserving. Some recipes also call for adding spices and chilis. It’s really up to what you think you would like most.
Best of all, preserved lemons can last well upwards of two years (if they actually make it that long in your kitchen!) After the initial month(s) of fermenting, transfer to the refrigerator and use as desired. Just be sure that your lemons are fully submerged in lemon juice during the fermentation stage. If not fully submerged, mold might start appearing.
Preserved lemons can be used in many of the same applications as traditional lemons. However, the flavor of preserved lemons can be a bit more impactful and have an underlying floral flavor. Use preserved lemons in dressing, grain pilafs, sauces, stews, and dips (think hummus!) Just be sure to add towards the very end of cooking. Any over-cooking of preserved lemons can drastically reduce that wonderful flavor for which you so patiently waited.
Links for different preserving techniques/flavorings:
I did not like tomatoes as a child. My mom grew tomatoes in our garden and I always turned up my nose at them. What a missed opportunity to enjoy something so delicious! As an adult with my own garden, I was excited to grow a big harvest this summer. Unfortunately, both tomato plants died before they produced any fruit! If you’re lucky enough to have a homegrown bounty of fresh tomatoes still warm from the summer sun, I beg you to make this marinated tomato and avocado salad.
In fact, I beg you to make this marinated tomato and avocado salad even if you don’t have a vegetable garden. That is, unless you’ve discovered this recipe in the dead of winter and all you can find are bland greenhouse tomatoes. In that case, bookmark this page and come back in summer when tomatoes have the absolute best flavor. I used pearl tomatoes on the vine for this recipe because they’re the perfect bite size when sliced into quarters. Feel free to use whatever tomatoes you have on hand!
This marinated tomato and avocado salad is a fantastic summer recipe whether you’re barbecuing at home or headed out for a picnic. The tomatoes can chill in the fridge while you prep the rest of your feast, making this a really simple recipe to prepare if you’re in charge of multiple dishes. Dice and add the avocado just before serving for the best results.
While incredibly fresh and delicious on its own, there are many ways you can bulk up this marinated tomato and avocado salad if you need to feed a crowd. Try adding cooked quinoa, couscous, or farro. Or, turn it into a pasta salad by adding cooked and cooled shells or penne. I have big plans to spread this salad on crusty bread for a bruschetta-inspired appetizer.
1 or 2 ripe avocados, diced (depending on your preference and the size of your avocados)
⅓ cup cilantro, chopped
Quarter the pearl tomatoes and place them in a large bowl. Peel the red onion and cut it in half from tip to root. Place the flat part of the onion on your cutting board and carefully slice it into thin half moons. Add the onion to the bowl with the tomatoes.
Combine the chopped garlic, lime juice, olive oil, agave, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine. The marinade should be salty, tangy, and just a tad sweet – adjust the ingredients until balanced.
Pour the marinade over the sliced tomatoes and onion and gently toss to coat. Marinate the tomatoes in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Just before serving, drain any excess liquid from the tomatoes. Tip: if you’re serving this salad with cooked quinoa, couscous, or pasta, reserve the marinade for extra dressing. Transfer the marinated tomatoes and onions to a serving platter and add the diced avocado. Top with chopped cilantro and serve fresh.