Making the most of: lemons

When life gives you lemons, make more than just lemonade

We all know the age-old saying about making lemonade out of lemons, and we can certainly all agree that life has dealt us more than a fair share of lemons over the last few months. As an imported fruit, lemons are one of the few expectations when we aim to stock up on Canadian-grown produce at the grocery shop. Whether your palate favours sweet or savoury tastes, you'd be hard-pressed to find a dish that isn't made better with a splash of lemon juice or a touch of its aromatic zest.

As refreshing as lemonade is on a hot summer day, there is so much more to the tart fruit than simply a pitcher of that childhood favourite. Here's a few ways to get creative with the citrus that you thought you knew so well.

Infuse sugar or salt

Making infused sugars and salts with lemon peel (or any citrus peel, for that matter) is supremely easy. Just combine zest with sugar or salt (more zest equals more intense lemon flavour) and let cook at a low temperature in the oven (200 degrees fahrenheit max.) to help dry out the zest. Transfer to an airtight container and use as desired.

Lemon-infused salts and sugars also make for an easy, but fun, host gift for any friends having you over for dinner this summer.

Add lemon zest to salads

If you ask me, nothing makes a salad pop more than adding in some thin strips of lemon zest. Biting into a little slice of zest is akin to eating a ray of sunshine and it's a great way to balance out the fatty or heavier elements of a salad, such as cream-based dressings or rich cheeses. When candied, lemon zest also makes for the perfect garnish on top of desserts like berry shortcake, cheesecake or saskatoon berry pie--with a dollop of whipped cream on top, of course!

Preserve them

photo by stonesoup via Flickr.

Preserving lemons is an underutilized method for using the citrus fruit that yields an interesting flavour. It doesn't take more than lemons, some extra juice, salt, but most importantly, time. After sitting for one month, the lemons takes on a charmingly funky taste and it can be minced up and used in a variety of ways (primarily savoury applications) in the kitchen.

Dehydrate and use as cocktail garnishes

There are few cocktail garnishes as striking as a dehydrated slice of lemon. The key to perfect dehydrated lemon slices is slicing them thinly and evenly, and as low of a temperature as your oven can go for about four hours. Admittedly, this lemon slices don't add a ton of actual flavour to a cocktail, but, damn, do they ever look sexy.

Make ceviche

This classic South American seafood preparation is another clever way to use up fresh lemons in your kitchen. Starting with the freshest (and most sustainble) seafood possible such as scallops, prawns and snapper, all you need to do to create a base ceviche is chop your seafood of choice and douse it with lemon juice. The acid in the juice "cooks" the raw seafood almost instantaneously. Add thinly sliced chilies, cucumbers, fresh herbs, some salt and a drizzle of oil to the mix, and you've got an al fresco meal that will impress your pals.

Make limoncello (and then make a spritz or two)

Making limoncello--a vodka-based lemon liqueur--at home is something more people should try their hand at. Find a good quality, high-proof vodka to use as your base and you'll be off to the races. The intensity of the liqueur's lemony flavour will depend on how long you let the lemon peels infuse into the vodka, so if you love lemon, then give it an extra few weeks to mature.

Once you've got the end result, mix equal parts limoncello and bubbly together to create a bright-tasting spritz, a.k.a. the perfect summer sipper.