Lemon Aid

homemade limoncello

I know what’s going on.  Your path to life has taken a sour turn.  Your mojo is running out of juice.  Food has lost its a-peel.  And my pith-y jokes…well, they lack a certain zest today.  But it’s okay.  I’ve got the cure for what ails ya.  Because, my dear friend, when life has given you lemons, sometimes you wonder…”What the hell am I going to do with this?  Make lemonade?  Uh hello, that is so 1956.  Laaaame.”  Well today, we are going to save your relationship with the lemon.

Because after all, the lemon is a little culinary powerhouse.  There is nothing it can’t make better.  Not only is it full of vitamin C, and not only is it an awesome little addition to homemade cleaning solutions, and not only does it bring out the delicious flavors of foods it’s paired with, but its own flavor is bright and tart and yummy.  To steal a line from Genie, the lemon is “phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty living space.”

I like to keep lemons in the house, myself.  For one, as discussed on the Foodie Skin Care page, it makes an excellent exfoliant for your home-spa nights—and it’s ridiculously cheaper than an actual pedicure.  Just slice a lemon, dip the slices in sugar and rub the slices on the soles of your feet.  It’ll smooth out rough spots and soften your skin.  Then just rinse your feet in warm water and apply lotion.

Recently, I made preserved lemons for the first time.  Preserved lemon is basically pickled lemon, and it’s a common condiment in North African cuisines.  You just let the lemons sit in a bath of salt, lemon juice and oil or whatever for a few weeks and there you go, instant flavor-izer for things like rice, soups, chicken dishes, etc.  The recipe I like best can be found on the Sunday Suppers blog.

Lemon! Huh!  Good God, y’all, what is it good for?  Absolutely everything!

My other favorite things to do with lemon include grilling them–for instance, adding them to skewers with chunks of chicken and putting them on the grill.  Or adding them to somewhat surprising dishes–like chicken cooked in milk.  Also, it’s been well-reported in the foodie tabloids that lemon has had long-running love affairs with several members of the spicy pepper family.  So keep a good thing going, mix some lemon zest with some pepper flake and make a new favorite pork chop recipe.

And obviously, for dessert, you can’t beat the tart-sweet flavor of perennial favorites like my super-awesome lemon bars or lemon curd.

Although I suppose, if none of that interests you….you could just make lemonade.  Tactical nuclear lemonade, that is, or as the Italians call it limoncello.  I call it, “a hilarious way to surprise your mother when she misunderstands what you said and thinks it’s just juice and takes a big swallow.”

I wouldn’t have made limoncello on my own.  My grandmother actually made me do it.  Yes, that Grandmother.  The one who made me lemon-honey-whiskey toddies when I was a sick child.  Clearly you can see why I love lemon so much.  Grandma has been making her own fruit cordials for years and finally stumbled upon a recipe for limoncello in the newspaper and was intrigued.  She decided, however, that she didn’t feel like zesting all those lemons herself, so she told me to do it.  Being the dutiful granddaughter that I am–and hoping, secretly, that the effort would be rewarded with a couple slices of pound cake–I did.  If you’ve never had limoncello, I can tell you that you will either like it or you won’t.  It’s a lemon liqueur popular in southern Italy and I sometimes think they give it to tourists as a joke.  I myself am not a fan of it on its own but it makes a fantastic addition to other drinks.  Essentially, it’s vodka, or other grain alcohol, lemon peel and sugar.

Homemade Limoncello
Recipe by Cathe Filian, as posted in the Detroit News

1 liter 100 proof vodka
2.5 cups sugar
2 cups water
8 lemons

Clean and zest the lemons.  In a clean, sterilized 1 gallon glass jar, add half the vodka and the lemon zest.  Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 days, and up to 40.

In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook until thick, about 5-7 minutes.  Let cool and then add to the limoncello mixture.  Add the additional half liter of vodka.  Let rest for another 10-40 days.

Strain the zest and bottle the liquid.

Note from Lauren: I also just sliced up the lemons and let them sit in the limoncello as well, in addition to the zest.


Well, there you have it.  Plenty of ways to use that delightful, sunny-hued fruit you keep glancing at yet still passing by in the produce section.  I hope I have been able to e-lemon-ate your worries and you’ll try some of these recipes out!

And I promise, no more lemon jokes.  For the rest of the week.



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