All too often we will buy a few lemons or limes to use in a dish and end up with a few that are leftover and go bad before we need to use them again. I found a few ways to help store citrus to prolong the life for my usage. By taking a little time to prep these items ahead I am able to guarantee that I don’t waste money on rotting fruit. And I know when I want to make something that needs citrus zest or juice, I will have it on hand and ready. It also helps for any of my event or party hosting prep. Citrus has a few different layers. The outer layer is the zest. This layer protects the actual fruit from drying out. It contains the most concentrated flavor oils. The next layer is the pith, a spongy bitter coating that insulates the fruit from the outer elements. Then the internal layer of juice filled slices. Most people juice the citrus and chunk the rest, but the entire fruit is edible. Here are a few ways to store citrus in order to get the most out of your fruit.
Short storage: One the counter or in the fridge you will get the smallest storage time as the citrus slowly dries out or begins to mold. Placing them into a container with water will help prevent them from drying out, but you will only get a few extra weeks of storage before they start to get mushy. The juice can be stored in the fridge for short term use. I will often remove the zest then squeeze the juice into a jar for using in tea, lemonade, pies, or baking. This however will only last for up to a month. Another use is to create a fridge syrup by packing the fruit into a jar with sugar. This can be done with or without the zest after you have squeezed the juice from the fruit. The sugar will pull any remaining flavor from the fruit and create a syrup that can be used in anything you want to add a kick of citrus flavor to. The more zest the stronger the flavor will be.
Freezer storage: I will often store zest, juice, and whole fruit in the freezer. You can freeze the zest in an airtight container by cleaning and drying the citrus then using any zester or fine micro plane to remove the outer layer before storing it. You can use a peeler to make larger slices of zest and store in the same manner. Juice the citrus and freeze the liquid in ice cube trays. Then you will have perfect portions that can be popped into a bag and pulled out of the freezer when you need a tiny amount of juice. Finally slice the fruit into small wedges and store in an airtight container to be used later for squeezing fresh over a dish.
Shelf stable: There are several ways to make citrus shelf stable, but it will lose its potency this way. You can dehydrate the zest to make it shelf stable and store in jars. When you need it just add water or juice to reconcentrate. Dehydrate in slices and store in airtight containers and do the same as the zest by adding liquid to rehydrate. Candy the fruit or zest by boiling in a sugar syrup until translucent then coat in sugar and allow to fully dry before storing in a jar on the shelf. I will candy the zest and pulp or the whole fruit for different uses. I have seen a way of layering slices of lemon in a jar with salt for shelf stable lemon, but I have never personally done it. You can also make various flavoring extracts by adding zest into alcohol. The more zest used the stronger the flavor will be. This is the same process as making vanilla extract.
Utilizing these storage and prep habits will take a few minutes to stop and do but will save time later when you are in a hurry and making a dish. When you get in the habit of using some of these methods you will end up with a fresh supply saved for later. These small habits can save on so much waste in your kitchen.