Have you ever wondered what the difference between lemon peel and lemon zest was? When I first started cooking as a child, I had absolutely no idea about zest. What we had was an old bottle filled with dried “lemon peel.” It was old and I in no way wanted to add that to any of my baking.
Fast forward about fifteen years and I discovered the magic of zest. Zest is the colored part of the lemon. You carefully zest a lemon to get just the colored part, leaving the white part, the pith, behind. Zest gives a spectacular flavor without having to add a lot of lemon juice. In fact, before I knew I had celiac disease, this is what my sister and I used to make our lemon bars zippy. I don’t care for lemon bars that taste like sugar. If they don’t have the zip of lemon zest then what’s the point? They may as well be called sugar bars, because the certainly don’t taste like lemon!!!
So, what exactly is my point? What if I told you that you could have fresh lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit zest year-round and not just in January when those fruits are at their peak? You can! Here’s what you need to do:
When you find a good deal on citrus, buy it! Take it home, wash it, and zest it onto a large, flat, movable surface. I like to use a dinner plate. Lining your flat surface with parchment paper will help it not to stick to said surface. When your zesting is done, spread out the zest on the parchment paper on your flat surface and transfer to your freezer for an hour or two. When your time is up and your zest is frozen, take your flat surface from your freezer and store your frozen zest in a food storage bag or other container until you are ready to use it. Freezing it first on the flat surface allows it to harden into more individual pieces and not into one hard lump. This way you can easily break off a piece for some yummy lemon bars, lime bars, Greek-style chicken, etc. Now that’s a good use of zest!!!