With their shiny yellow skin and sour refreshing flavour, lemons are an essential part of many cuisines and are one of the few indispensable fruits that are not eaten on their own. They vary from large to small and can have smooth or knobbly skin. When buying lemons choose those that are heavy for their size, smooth-skinned ones will produce less zest but have more juice than large knobbly-skinned specimens - so choose according to your needs. When removing the zest from a lemon, take care to just remove the coloured outer layer of the skin; the white pith has a bitter flavour and should not be included in recipes. To preserve the freshness of the skin, most citrus fruit is soaked, washed and waxed before packing.
Waxed and unwaxed lemons are available. Unwaxed lemons are ideal for slicing and adding to drinks or using as a garnish and when the zest is required. If a recipe uses lemon juice waxed lemons are the best choice. If you prefer to use unwaxed lemons but only waxed are available, simply lightly scrub the peel first to remove the wax. Preserved lemon slices in lemon juice are sold in jars and are handy for adding to drinks or to be used as a garnish. Available all year.
Uses: Use the grated zest for flavouring a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes, including cakes, puddings, biscuits and casseroles and sauces. Use the juice in marinades and fruit puddings. Lemon slices can be used to garnish sweet and savoury dishes and drinks. Lemon juice can be used to prevent fruit from browning once it has been sliced - the acidity of the juice prevents oxidation.
To store: Keep whole lemons at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Store halved or sliced lemons in the fridge in clingfilm for 3-4 days.
To prepare: To gain the maximum amount of juice, remove lemons from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature before squeezing. To remove the zest, use a zester, grater or potato peeler.