Lemon Peels Can Pack a Flavor Punch
Lemon is a popular flavor throughout the culinary world. From baked goods, teas, seasoning blends, and even candy, lemon is a classic flavor. While the acidic juice inside lemons provides the sour pucker, the peel has a more mild citrus profile with much less bitterness. So instead of the peel ending up in your compost or landfill, save it for an easy boost of flavor to recipes! All that is required is a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler and a warm, sunny area or oven to dry the peels.
Tips for Selecting Lemons
When selecting lemons, there are two things I look at in particular; the color and that the lemons are free of blemishes and soft spots. If spots develop once you’ve brought them home, you can cut them out before removing the peel. As far as selecting a type of lemon, it’s a personal preference. Meyer lemons offer a sweeter taste than regular lemons and have a thinner peel.
As for buying organic versus non-organic, it’s a personal preference. If buying organic is not an option, conventional lemons are okay. Whether you buy organic or conventional lemons, be sure to rinse your lemons with slightly warm water and scrub the surface with a soft-bristled brush. If you use a home blend of water and vinegar to rinse off fruits and vegetables, you can certainly do so. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse off the vinegar and allow the lemons to air dry before peeling.
Peel the Lemons Whole Prior to Juicing
I recommend peeling the lemons while the lemons are whole and un-squeezed. It provides a better grip when holding the lemon, and a firm lemon makes removing the peel less of a hassle. Using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, I start at one end of the lemon and peel straight down, creating strips. Use light pressure when removing the peel. If you notice the white rind removing with the yellow skin, apply less pressure. The white rind will add a bitter flavor to the peel.
The photo to the right shows a comparison of a peel with portions of the rind remaining. The peel on the right contains the white rind. If you have feels that have the rind, you can use a sharp paring knife to remove the rind. Angle the blade at 45 degrees, and scrape the knife across the areas with rind, always cutting away from yourself. It’s more of a process of shaving the rind off rather than cutting. You can leave the rind on if you don’t mind a possibly more bitter flavor.
Once Removed, Allow the Peels to Fully Dry
How you dry your lemon peels will vary based on the resources available to you. If you have a dehydrator or an appliance with a dehydrating mode, that is the method I prefer. The temperature is lower than an oven’s minimum temperature and reduces the risk of accidentally burning the peels. I set the temperature to 120 degrees fahrenheit for about 4 hours, or until the peels snap in the middle.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can still use an oven. Set your oven to the lowest temperature, and lay the peels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once in the oven, leave the door cracked open to help lower the temperature. This will allow the peels to dry with a lower risk of burning.
Whether you dry your peels in an oven or dehydrator, what you will be looking for are changes in the peel’s appearance. The edges will begin to darken and curl as they dry, and the peel will start to acquire a leather appearance. When a peel snaps in half, they’re ready. If you notice that the edges start to turn a dark brown color, remove them from the oven to prevent burning. Lower the temperature, and continue to dry the peels while monitoring them.
You Can Also Air-Dry Lemon Peels
If you don’t have access to a dehydrator or prefer a more eco-friendly option than using an oven, lemon peels can dry at room temperature. When air drying peels, use a large plate to lay the peels in a single layer without overlapping. Line the dish with either a paper or cotton towel to help speed the drying time up. Arrange the peels on the towel, and place the plate in direct sunlight.
Rotate and turn over the peels once a day to allow even drying. If the towels feel damp, replace them with dry towels. Depending on the humidity in your area, drying can range from two to four days, possibly longer. As the peels dry, the edges will begin to curl, and the skin of the peel will start to appear leathery. Once the peels snap when bent, they can be removed from the plate and stored for use.
Store Lemon Peels in an Air-Tight Container
Once the lemons peels are dry, place them in an air-tight container. Store the container in a cool area, away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. Be sure to check the container often for any moisture, which can lead to mold developing. One way to reduce mold development is to occasionally remove the peels, and lay them flat to dry off any potential moisture that has developed. If signs of mold do appear, discard the peels in a compost pile. Lemon peels aren’t the only part of a lemon that can be saved.
If a Recipe Only Calls for the Zest, Freeze the Juice
Whether a recipe only calls for the zest or peel of a lemon, or if you only use half of a lemon, the leftover juice can be saved. To save the juice, juice all of the lemons into a measuring cup with a spout. If you wish to reduce any pulp in the juice, strain the juice through a mesh strainer into the cup. Once all of the lemons have been juiced, transfer the juice to an ice cube tray, and freeze the juice overnight.
One other way to freeze your lemon juice is with a silicone tray mold. That is the method I use. Each cell of the mold is a half-sphere and takes about a tablespoon of liquid to fill. Having tablespoon amounts frozen makes it easy to add juice to my recipes. Frozen lemon juice sections are also awesome to add to a cup of water to add some flavor.
Once the juice has frozen solid, release each of the juice cubes and store them in an air-tight container. Label the container, and use the juice within four months of freezing. The lemon juice cubes are a perfect way to add flavor to a glass of water, cocktails, or adding to sauces.
Never Waste the Flavors of a Lemon Again
The next time you use lemon for a recipe, take advantage of all of the flavor potential! Before discarding a lemon in your compost pile or trash, remove and dry the remaining peel, and freeze any remaining juice. Lemon juice enhances the flavor of water, cocktails, and especially cooking. In addition, ground lemon creates flavorful spice blends and boosts the flavor of baked goods. During the fall and winter months, add some dried lemon peels to potpourri blends for an added citrus aroma. What are some of your favorite recipes made with lemons?