Where would we be without lemons? Although they’re not often eaten as they are, lemons provide flavoring in a wide range of foods and drinks, and are loved for their refreshing taste.
If you’re bored of water, simply pop a few slices into your bottle to give it a subtle zing. If you’re enjoying a delicious plate of seafood, squeeze a few drops of juice onto it to help you digest it better. There really are so many ways you can use lemons, so it’s important to know how to store them properly.
Like most other fruits, lemons can be frozen. This can prolong their shelf life effectively, so you always have some lemon to hand whenever you need it. Alternatively, you can store them for shorter periods in a fridge or even in a pantry.
It really depends on your individual requirements as to which storage method you should use, and we’ll take you through the ways to achieve each one.
Freezing Lemons For Drinks
When used in drinks, lemons are usually sliced and added straight into the glass for a refreshing garnish. This means it is easiest to cut them into slices before putting them in the freezer.
Once you have done this and your slices are the ideal size for your needs, spread them out on a freezer tray lined with parchment. Freeze them like this until they are fully solid, so they don’t stick together during the process, then move them into a sealable food bag to store.
Sliced lemons can be placed in drinks or served with a plate of food (ensure they are properly defrosted first – see below for details). Lemon slices go particularly well with fish dishes, and also some chicken dishes.
You can also squeeze the juice from a single lemon slice into your drink, as this will give it enough of a kick without overpowering it.
Freezing Lemons As An Ingredient
Many recipes call for lemons as one of the ingredients; for some, lemon juice out of a bottle is fine, but it is usually better to use fresh lemons. It depends on the specific recipe as to how you should freeze the lemons.
If you’re unsure which part of the lemon you will need, or if you have different recipes that require lemons, you can just freeze them whole.
Put them in a food-safe plastic bag and make sure no air can get to them (many will be self-sealing, but if not, you can force out any excess air and then fold over the top a few times and seal with sticky tape).
If you just need the juice, squeeze the lemons with a lemon juicer first. If you don’t have a juicer, you can cut the lemons in half and squeeze each half manually, while poking it with a fork to coax out as much juice as possible.
Once you have the juice, carefully pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze – this way, you will produce conveniently-sized lemon ice cubes for adding to your recipes. You can even pop one into your drink, though we wouldn’t advise any more than one for this purpose as each standard ice cube will contain around 30 ml of lemon juice.
Sometimes, you will need the zest of a lemon in a recipe, and you can easily freeze this too! Having a lemon zester will make this process easier, but you can also use any vegetable peeler or grater.
Take off all the skin in small flakes using your implement of choice from the above options, but try not to get any of the white pith mixed in with it. Spread the zest thinly on some parchment paper and place in the freezer until frozen. Then, transfer it to a sealable plastic bag as you would with lemon slices.
Zest is more hardy than the rest of the lemon, so you can keep it in the freezer for around six months.
You will need to defrost your lemons in a particular way so that they are at their best for using after they have been frozen.
You can’t just take them out of the freezer and then leave them on the counter top for a couple of hours, or you will make a watery mess and they will not be in great condition any more.
What you need to know is how long they should be left for. Usually, lemons only need around 10-15 minutes at room temperature before they are thawed enough to use. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can always use your microwave instead – pop them in for around 20 seconds until they are no longer solid.
When thawing lemons using either of the above methods, we recommend placing them in an appropriate bowl (make sure it’s microwave-safe for microwaving). This will collect all the water that melts off the lemons, so you don’t get wet puddles on your countertop.
If you only need to store your lemons for a few days or weeks, you can simply keep them in the fridge. Refrigerated lemons make a cool addition to your favorite drink, so it’s important to get this process right.
If you’re keeping your lemons intact throughout the storage process, you can simply place them in the crisper compartment of your refrigerator and leave them alone until you need them. Unlike some other fruits, such as peaches and mangoes, lemons do not need to be placed on the counter to ripen before use.
If you are slicing your lemons before refrigerating them, you should seal them inside a plastic container that is safe for use with food. Put the whole tub in the crisper with your other fruits and vegetables. Be aware that lemons last longer in the fridge if they’re whole than if they’re cut up already – around 3 weeks compared to 3-4 days.
Lemons are super versatile and can bring a zesty flavor to almost anything – desserts, savory dishes and drinks. Freezing lemons can extend their shelf life by a few months, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to buy them on occasions where you might need them.
When you follow the recommended freezing guidelines, they will last up to 4 months, allowing you to enjoy their juicy goodness over a long period of time.