4.23.2016

Life Gave Me Lemons

I will never complain that life gives me lemons. (You know what's coming.)

Yes, this is another lemon post. But that is because life gave me lemons. Lots, and lots of lemons this year.

Have you ever had a grocery bag full of lemons appear on your desk at work? (Yes you, Leah!) Or, ask a friend for a "couple of lemons," only to come home and find 14 of them arranged beautifully in a circle on your patio table, garnished with sprigs of lavender? (That's you, Jennifer!) 

Having grown up in the frigid Northeast, anticipation of a fresh citrus arriving with friends returning from Florida, California, or Arizona, gave me goosebumps. That sunny sweetness was the nectar of the gods. I still get that wonderful feeling when drinking freshly squeezed (squoze?) orange juice.

So, when someone drops off a bag of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, Meyer lemons, or kumquats, I am delighted. If sometimes overwhelmed.

A bag of lemons is 50 or more. My first thought is, "What the heck am I going to do with all these lemons?"

Limoncello. Moroccan preserved lemons. Pasta with shrimp and lemon-tarragon butter. Avgolemono. Lemon squares.

That list combined may only use 12-15 lemons. What about the rest? My answer to that reminds me of Dan Akyroyd portraying Julia Child. "Save the liver!" And, by that, I mean, save all possible parts for future use!

First, the juice: squeeze it and freeze it. Make sure you freeze it in small containers. I prefer 1/2-cup jelly jars as they seal well and don't allow your juice to take on freezer burn. (Ice cubes of lemon juice are common, by they crystallize easily, and take on other flavors in your freezer, even in zip-lock bags.)

Citrus at the Heirloom Farmers Market
But, before you squeeze and freeze, zest your lemons! I use a microplane and place all the zest in a thin layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then I freeze it. Once frozen, I put it into a jar and keep it there frozen for using in stews, soups, marinades, etc.

Long ago, I realized that I needn't be overwhelmed by such abundant gifts. I learned to be grateful. I simply needed to preserve them so they can be enjoyed year-round. And, now that summer is nearly upon us (spring in Tucson can be like summer elsewhere), it's time to make lemonade... because life gave me lemons.

~ David

Lavender Lemonade

1 cup sugar
1 rounded tablespoon dried culinary lavender buds
5 cups water, divided
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, with or without pulp

Place the sugar and lavender in a small saucepan. Using your fingers, massage the lavender into the sugar to help release the floral oils. Add 1 cup of water, and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and place saucepan aside. Allow the lavender and sugar water to steep for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the lemon juice in a large pitcher. When the lavender syrup is ready, strain it into the lemon juice. Then add the remaining 4 cups water. Stir well and serve chilled.

Makes 7-8 cups.

35 comments:

  1. Yum yum yum! I love lemonade. Being from a country with all kinds of citrus trees in our backyards, I've always loved squeezing my own fruit that came straight from the branches. What a nice combo with the lavender, David.

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    1. Thanks, Magda - fresh citrus is, indeed, one of our greatest pleasures here, too!

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  2. I'm going to have to make this! Someone dropped off some lemons at work and I took two of them home, and you know how much I love lavender! Also, thanks for the tips on saving lemon zest and juice!

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    1. Glad you liked the tips - I hate wasting any part of a lemon! Looking forward to seeing you soon!

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  3. Here's an idea. Freeze all that lemon juice uncovered. Not because you plan to consume the frozen lemon juice, but so that it will flavor everything else in your freezer. Lemon-scented chicken breasts! GREG

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    1. And I am sure our guests would love lemon scented coffee, too! :)

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  4. David, I've honestly been thinking about fresh lemonade! It's been forever since I've made it. Now, I have a great recipe to use. GORGEOUS photos in this post!

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    1. Thanks, Marcelle - and the season is getting to be just right for lemonade!

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  5. Homemade lemonade is the best. How lucky for your abundance of citrusy gifts. The lemonade looks terrific and the addition of lavender is wonderful! I sometimes add rosewater (shocker!) but lavender will be a great twist, especially with some adult beverages!

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    1. Ahu - now I will have to try it with rosewater!

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  6. Oh, what a delightful post, David! Loved it... and your photographs are lovely.

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  7. So refreshing, and perfect for the balmy autumn weather we're having lately. Give me lemons anyway!

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    1. Glad yo know you are having balmy autumn weather, and that it hasn't gotten too cold yet, John!

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  8. Here is a suggestion from the frigid Northeast. Sweeten your lemonade using dark amber maple syrup! It adds a great taste and has a bit more nutrients than white sugar. I also will add rose petals- when roses bloom here in June. They have to be unsprayed roses, of course!

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    1. Thanks, Cathy - I love using maple and agave syrup sometimes, as well as honey but, for me, lavender works best with good ol' sugar!

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    1. Actually, Frank, it is one of my favorite problems!

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  10. Hi David, I also freeze the juice but have never zested just to freeze. Brilliant idea, how could I have been wasting that beautiful zest all this time. Great ideas!! Hope you are having a wonderful week-end.

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    1. Thanks, Cheri - glad you liked the freezing tips! The weekend was beautiful here - you must be getting ready to head North, though! Good luck packing!

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  11. I would so rather get lemons than the giant bags of zucchini we get in Wisconsin! But even up here I started freezing lemon juice (or slices for dropping in water/iced tea) last year, since organic lemons are sometimes not to be found. I will have to start zesting first now!

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    1. Well, Inger, we are lucky - and I am glad we get all these lemons... soon you will hear about kumquats, grapefruit, and mandarins!

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  12. Terrific ideas for using all the parts and lemonade to boot! Freezing the zest is something I haven't thought of!

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    1. Thanks, Susan - your comment suddenly reminded me of a lemonade recipe where you blend the entire lemon - skin and all - and somehow it becomes amazing lemonade. Might have to find that recipe again!

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  13. My lemon trees in my garden are my treasure and I appreciate new recipes, thanks David. I add a half a lemon to my drinking water.
    .

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    1. I can imagine, Gerlinde! Looks like we may get quite a few on our own tree this year. Nothing like homegrown!

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  14. This is such a beautiful post David. A story of friendship and love shared through citrus! :) I love edible gifts, particularly if they're of the homegrown-produce-kind. I usually use up most of my gifted lemons in lemon cake, curd or salad dressings but I must try this lovely lavender lemonade. It sounds beautifully fragrant. Definitely perfect for the transition to summer!

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    1. Thanks, Laura - I have never made a lemon cake... I need to check and see if the recipe is on Laura's Mess! I love all the citrus we get - and next week, there is more to come! (Just not lemons...)

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  15. So, I thought I left you a comment last night, but looks like my silly iPad doesn't like Google... Of course. It's quite frustrating sometimes.
    Anyway... I love lemons!
    I'm a bit jealous of your bags of lemons, what I wouldn't do for random bags left on my porch!
    I had a little lemon tree I planted input house in Texas and I think the hardest part was leaving it and not my family!
    I also grew one in a pit for years and it would give us a few lemons every year. One summer weren't away and I asked my brother to water it...he didn't. My tree that I had nurtured for 4 years.. He killed it.
    I really love lemonade too, I think it's my favourite summer time drink. I don't do cold coffee and tea, what sacrilege!!
    I have lavender, I'm going to make this but I'll have to get some lemons :(

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    1. I know - I have the same problem with my iPad, Nazneen! We had a tiny lemon tree in a pot in the Northeast and it barely made it through one winter. Ours is in a pot now, and that keeps it to a manageable size for us. I hope you like the lemonade!

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  16. Wish I had friends like yours with an abundance of lemons. I like your idea of freezing the zest, David…never thought of that.

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  17. David, your lemons and lemonade look gorgeous! We drink a lot of lemonade, so we use 1/3 cup sugar for 2 quarts lemonade. Makes everyone else pucker, but WE like it!

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    1. We have started using less, too, Jean, but not that little! :)

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  18. David, love a bright, lemony post any time! Lots of great ideas, tips and a wonderful recipe! I absolutely love everything lemon, always have and always will!
    Wish I could grow some lemon trees in our garden...
    It is so cold and windy and rainy around here these days, it feels like autumn rather than springtime but I would still love a tall glass of your lovely lemonade now!
    Andrea

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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