Putting Up Lemons

I’ve been putting lemons up, a little each day, all week.

A photo posted by Phaedra (@phaeriedust) on

Several years back we put in what was supposed to be a miniature lemon tree. We planted it in a maybe five feet wide strip of land bordering our driveway. Of course it was not in fact in any way “miniature” and has grown to the point where we can hardly avoid driving into it. We’ve trimmed it drastically several times, but it’s hardy and growy. I have scratches all down the side of my new car.

When we got it, it was already producing some, so it was quite a disappointment that it didn’t produce at all for two seasons thereafter. We thought it was because it had grown a large sucker, a kind of parasitic take-over. We cut out the parasite and waited, thinking that it might do better, but it still didn’t produce. It caused nothing but problems.

Finally, finally, I decided to google it. At that point my dad, who is also my neighbor, was threatening to dig it out of the ground. Dudes, google everything. So yeah- our giant miniature lemon tree just wasn’t getting the right stuff from our soil. A few treatments of citrus fertilizer later and I’m putting lemons up for days and days. Annnnd feeling a little dumb. And neglectful.

So, what does putting up lemons involve, and why would you want to go to the trouble? I’ll tell ya.

To begin with we picked the lemons over the course of a week, choosing just the ripest first because I planned to immediately preserve them. Then each day I would dust off the handy dandy juicer we got for like $20 on Amazon, push through about 20 lemons, and strain the juice. (Some of my people like pulpy lemonade, so I didn’t strain the first few batches just for them.) I strained the juice through a couple layers of cheesecloth, then poured the strained lemon juice into ice trays and froze them overnight. Once the lemon juice was frozen into cubes I transferred them into labeled freezer bags and tossed them in the freezer. Additionally I zested the prettiest peels and put the lemon zest in a small jar in our freezer for baking throughout the year.

Project time: We didn’t spend much time picking lemons, we saved time by using clippers and hurrying to beat the rain that just won’t stop in California right now. Each day I spent about an hour and a half from beginning to end (set-up, transferring the day before’s cubes to the freezer, juicing, straining, pouring, clean-up) for a yield of about 5 cups juice, which filled a little more than three large ice cube trays. I only zested lemons one day and it took me less effort and time than I expected, even using an old-fashioned hand zester.  A little zest goes a long way, so I’m not sure if I should put up more or not- we’ll see how fast we go through it when we have it on hand! All I know is that I didn’t put up all the lemons last year, as I got bored of the process after three or four days.. and guess what? We were out of lemon before spring. This year I’m not gonna slack. Fresh lemon juice and zest can make so many things absolutely wonderful. Here are a few of those:

Lemonade. There are so many wonderful things about lemonade, and the lemonade made from lemons off our own tree is somehow so sunny and magical and light tasting.

Lemon juice for health: it’s full of good stuff for ya, and you can read about the many ways you can use it for health benefits all over the interwebs so I won’t bore you. Google everything.

Lemons for cleaning: I loved how, after clearing the juicer repeatedly in the sink with the dish disposal, I noticed that the slightly moldy, not wonderful smell that had been in that sink was gone. Lot’s of people use it for varied cleaning purposes so please, google, google.

Lemon juice for cooking, oh yes. So many things are improved by lemon juice. One our favorite ways to use it is to add a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice directly into our bowls of chicken soup. This was an old tradition of my husband’s family, and since I discovered it I never eat chicken soup without a dash of lemon juice!

We love to bake with lemon in this household! I made this the other day and it was really great:

Sunburst Lemon Bars

My daughter Lillie made these fantastic wonderful amazing cupcakes for me for my 40th birthday:

Pink Lemonade Ruffle Cupcakes

My husband tried a new chicken picatta recipe recently too and it was pretty good. I’ll bug him for that recipe.

And hey! Let me know if you find anything else interesting to do with lemon! I have enough to get a little creative this year, I hope.

Today’s Projects:
-Lemons: I’m getting closer to done putting this year’s crop up.. must. not. give up. We DO need all this lemon, I’m pretty sure.
-Reusable Grocery Bags: I have one last bag to make today and then we should have enough to put a full set in both cars. More on those soon!

Today’s Soundtrack: Today’s Top Hits Playlist on Spotify
I’m Reading: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey



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