Lemons are an ideal way to perk up early spring cuisine; from salads to fish and desserts, they are an easy flavor booster to keep on hand. However, I always end up planning a meal around my last lemon, only to find out it has become hard and yields as much juice as a potato. Then I discovered this simple tip for making sure you get every last drop out of your lemons.
Lemons look great just sitting in a bowl on the counter, so that's where they usually live in my kitchen. Well, it turns out, that's about the worst way to store them (go figure!). Cook's Illustrated tested several ways of storing lemons and also discovered that those lovely rinds don't protect the fruit from drying out very well. Cook's tested storing lemons at room temperature and in standard refrigerator conditions. In the refrigerator, they also tested sealing the lemons in plastic bags, with and without water.
The results? The lemons stored in room temperature conditions only lasted a week before hardening. But the ones they sealed in plastic bags in the refrigerator? Those lasted FOUR times as long. A month versus a week on the countertop! The lemons stored loose in the refrigerator didn't fare quite as well, but were still an improvement over the room temperature examples.
And the article makes a point that the lemons should be sealed in a plastic bag and not just shoved in a drawer in their flimsy, open supermarket produce bags.
→ Read more: Preserving Lemons at Cook's Illustrated
So I gave it a try, sealing my lemons in plastic bags. Sure enough — it works!
Longer-lasting lemons mean that I can count on them for meals, right down to their last drop. I miss having their scent and beauty on the countertop, but unless I'm going to use them quickly, they go in the fridge.
Do you refrigerate your lemons sealed in plastic bags? Or have you found another way to keep citrus fresh?
Updated from post originally published April 2011.
(Image credits: Faith Durand)