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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 11/30/2011

Chat Leftovers: Lemon aid

Whew! One holiday down, more to come. I hope everyone had a delicious and thankful Thanksgiving. From this point on at year’s end, it always seems as if time is just hurtling along. So much to do, and suddenly it’s December. Upside: It’s cookie time! Next week brings our annual Christmas cookie issue, always a keeper. Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens.

To ease yourself into a holiday mood, check out today’s story by a writer whose great-grandfather lives on in the pierogi made by her family every Christmas. (There’s a recipe and a step-by-step photo gallery, of course.) Because Christmas baking and gift giving lie ahead, you’ll want to read David Hagedorn’s Sourced column about two local shops that turn out good chocolates. And Tim Carman’s story about congee, a Chinese comfort-food staple, might inspire you to add something different to your cold-weather repertoire.

Don’t forget to save time for today’s Free Range Chat at noon. Got questions? We’ve got answers. We’ve also usually got leftovers, like this one from a previous chat:

Oftentimes I use a squeeze of fresh lemon or a teaspoon of lemon zest for a recipe. I carefully wrap up the remainder of the fruit and put it in the fridge. Needless to say, I forget about it, and it rots. Can you recommend a better method of using/storing a lemon when the recipe calls for only a little?

I hear you. When it comes to letting lemons go south in the refrigerator, I am a frequent offender. But waste is bad, and I’ve been trying to mend my ways.

One thing I’ve started doing is just using the whole lemon instead of trying to save it in the refrigerator crisper — or, as Food editor Joe Yonan calls it, the rotter. I’ve usually got orange juice in the fridge, so I squeeze out the rest of the lemon juice and pour it into the OJ. Or I cut the lemon into pieces and use it to freshen the garbage disposal or to rub the smell of garlic from my hands. You can squeeze out the juice and freeze it, of course, to have on hand for emergencies. I’ve never frozen lemon zest, but according to the folks at Sunkist, zest takes nicely to freezing; wash and dry the fruit first, then grate the zest and freeze in a resealable plastic bag.

If you still want to go for fridge preservation, there are a couple of tricks to make the cut lemon last a tad longer.

Let’s start with the basic act of slicing. If all you want is a squeeze of juice, you don’t have to cut the fruit through. With your palms, roll the lemon firmly back and forth a few times along your counter (to soften it a little), poke a hole through the peel and into the flesh with a skewer, and squeeze. You’ll get juice, and most of the fruit’s interior will remain unexposed to the air. Stash the lemon in a resealable plastic food bag and refrigerate. Even if you don’t remember it for a week, it should still be good. If you must cut, slice off enough of one end to form a small cap, and when you refrigerate the leftover lemon, push the cut end of the cap against the cut end of the rest of the lemon to help retain moisture. Then refrigerate in a plastic bag.

In the fridge, store the bag where you can see it, as a reminder whenever you open the door.

When you get around to using it, always taste the fruit if it has been stored for longer than a few days. It might look perfectly fine, but stale lemons develop an unpleasant taste note. Lemons aren’t as inexpensive as they used to be, but it’s better to go get a new one than to let an old one ruin your recipe.

By Jane Touzalin  |  10:00 AM ET, 11/30/2011

Categories:  Chat Leftovers

 
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