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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I roasted my last turkey this past week and used these in the cavity, for our favorite Lemon-Herb Roasted Turkey

I had about 6 of these already-zested and juiced lemon "shells" kept in freezer (a couple of years ago, I posted on using every last bit of the lemon, by saving the shells after zesting and juicing). I didn't even thaw the "shells", but tucked them inside the turkey, still a bit frosty.

With the  herbs in the garden abundant right now, I included a large bunch of rosemary, sage, and thyme sprigs.

To enhance the lemon and herb flavors, I brushed the skin of the turkey with a mixture of about 1/4 cup melted butter, 3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme.

Using the lemon "shells" and garden herbs was a delicious way to bring flavor to the turkey, at zero extra cost.

You know I like to make use of every little scrap of goodness. I only buy about a dozen fresh lemons per year (using bottled lemon juice for most cooking). So, I try to not waste any part of those precious, few, sunshiny jewels.

Using the whole lemon

For most cooking, I use bottled lemon juice. It's more convenient and less expensive than using whole lemons, for me. But when I have a recipe that I'd like to include some of the zest of the lemon, then I make sure I use every last bit of that lemon -- the juice, the zest and the pithy shell.

Often times, I only need one or two components of the lemon for a particular recipe, usually the juice and/or zest. With the remaining part, I simply freeze it. The zest can be frozen in a small container or zip loc bag. The juice can be frozen in a small container to be used within 6 months to a year. And the pithy portion freezes well for about 6 months (picks up freezer odors after about 6 months), and then used inside whole poultry to be roasted.

Keeping fresh-squeezed lemon juice

If you are keeping freshly-squeezed lemon juice in the refrigerator, it should remain fresh-tasting for about 3 days.  Likewise, if you thaw a container of home-squeezed lemon juice, and can't use it all immediately, use the remaining amount within 3 days. In contrast, commercially bottled lemon juice is pasteurized and contains preservatives, to kill bacteria and extend the refrigerated life of the product, for up to one year. If you have a lot of fresh-squeezed lemon juice to freeze, it may be advantageous to freeze in ice cube trays, then transfer cubes to a zip loc bag once frozen.

Storing whole lemons

I seem to have incredible luck with keeping fresh lemons, as mine can keep refrigerated for several months. This last batch of lemons I bought in May, and I just recently used the very last of the bag. I keep them in the produce drawer in an open, and very loose-fitting, plastic bag. The plastic bag holds in a bit of the moisture, but by remaining open and loose, mold doesn't seem to develop. By the time I used the last of this purchase, the last lemon was not as firm as when newly purchased, but it was still in decent-enough shape to zest, juice and cook with.

Once a fresh lemon is cut, place the cut side down, into a glass dish or container and cover. Use within 3 days.

Freezing lemon slices to use in drinks later

While raw lemons will lose some their original texture in freezing, they can be added to drinks, both hot and cold, even after freezing. Slice whole lemons thinly, and place on a sheet of parchment or plastic wrap on a baking sheet, then freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a zip loc bag. One or two slices of frozen lemon adds both flavor and visual interest to beverages. Surprisingly, they do not come out of the freezer all mushy, as you might expect.

I have one more recipe to make this summer, using a couple of fresh lemons, Lemon-Rosemary Finishing salt. I posted about making the Lemon-Rosemary salt late in 2013. This is such a favorite, here. With an abundance of rosemary this year, I can't think of a single reason to not make another batch. Yum! I can taste it in my mind, already!


  1. Good morning, Lili--

    I love every single idea and tip in this post! :) You're making me SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO hungry!

    Do you ever use cracked pepper with lemon on your poultry (or a prepared lemon-pepper seasoning)? This is a flavor combination we like a lot, ever since I was introduced to it in a Frugal Gourmet cookbook 26 or 17 years ago. Our oldest always uses that whenever he makes a big batch of roasted chicken thighs. Simple, but so tasty! :)

    Have a good day! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I usually do a pepper and salt rub, before the butter,herb and lemon baste. But often times my pepper is pre-ground (I'm using up a large canister). I have some whole peppercorns which come out for special recipes, though, and will try those on my next roasted poultry. I also like to add a few garlic cloves and some onion chunks to the herbs in the cavity -- really yummy, and the flavor drips down for the beginnings of very delicious gravy. Do you use garlic in your roasted turkey? I haven't dug the garlic from the garden yet, so this last turkey went without (I'm using garlic granules for the time being). Garlic and turkey may not sound like they go together, but it's a wonderful combination.

      have a great day, yourself!

    2. We're crazy about turkey AND garlic around here, so that sounds yummy to me. I'll have to try it next time. :)

      I roast turkey usually with big pieces of onion, celery, apples, and oranges (whatever's in the fridge produce drawers), along with lots of sage, rosemary and thyme, inside and out.

      I've never invested in a peppermill, so I actually buy cracked pepper in big containers from restaurant supply. I'm sure it's not quite as strong as if I cracked my own from whole peppercorns; but it's cheap and easy, and it really does give a whole different dimension (no pun intended!) to a dish over regular ground pepper. :) We go through a lot of it!

      Sara :)

    3. Sara, one of my favorite kitchen "toys" is a mortar and pestle. If I slam the pestle down onto whole peppercorns in the mortar a few times, I can crush the peppercorns enough to then use a grinding motion to get a roughly ground black pepper. I keep the M & P right next to the stove, never wash it out, just dust it out with a pastry brush when I'm actually concerned old spices could impart flavor I'm not eager to have in a recipe. It's one of those tools that makes me feel like I'm REALLY doing some good cooking. And it's not limited to just one spice, like a pepper grinder. (Although, in theory you could clean out a pepper grinder each time, and grind different spices in it -- I've just never known anyone who actually did that, though.)

  2. I absolutely love fresh herbs for everything! My favorite herbs are rosemary and basil. I do a "dump" chicken recipe by dumping lemon, oil, garlic into a bag of chicken while it's thawing and then bake it. So, so, good! I made rosemary roasted potatoes last night and we loved them.

    I'm panicking a little that winter will soon be here and I'll lose my herbs. I have transplanted some basil and brought it inside and I hope it thrives. I need to do the same thing with my rosemary but they are so big, I just don't know if it will work. Not sure if they would do well in the garage over the winter and I can't put that big pot in my house.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I'm at that point in the garden, too, with deciding what to leave outside and what to bring in, with the herbs. Basil can be very finicky, in my experience, and may not last very long indoors, or may get very leggy. So enjoy it while you can. Growth may also peter out in late fall. So, you may also want to cut and freeze what basil is left outside. I'll be doing a big basil cutting today. I'm in the same spot with my rosemary. The container is huge. I couldn't move it indoors or into the garage, if I tried. So, I may dig it up, or wrap it well for winter. In the meantime, I'm using it every opportunity I get. Rosemary also freezes well, if minced finely first.

      Good luck with yours!

  3. What a great idea! I'm kicking myself -- I made quite a bit of jam over the weekend and used a number of lemons for juice and zest. I didn't think to freeze them, although I do hate just throwing them out -- they are still so fragrant. I do like using one or two pieces to freshen up the garbage disposal. I will add this to my list of things to do in the future. I have also found that lemons keep very well in my crisper drawer, despite the sometimes erratic temperament of my fridge. Lemons are usually pretty reasonably priced here, but I also keep bottles of lemon juice and lime juice on hand. Especially the lime juice -- I never manage to get as much juice out of a lime as recipes seem to think I should. I've switched to using the bottled juice almost exclusively in that case, although Aldi did have a bag of limes for $.69 as part of their grand opening event and I grabbed one. Fresh citrus really does brighten me up when I cut into it and cook with it.

    I have two turkeys in my freezer still, so I think I will try this method soon.

    1. Hi Laura,
      You could probably also freeze lemon "shells" to use in your disposal at a later time. They're still firm when I pull them out of the freezer (just thaw them for a few minutes before tossing in the disposal -- not at all frugal if you break the blade!). And there's enough lemon left after juicing, you can use the shells to scrub out the tub or kitchen sink with a little cream of tartar, to bleach out stains.

      We're now out of turkeys until November! Waaaaa! Oh well, November will come soon enough! Enjoy your turkeys!

  4. My husband has insisted on using bottled lemon juice (much cheaper than fresh he said), and after much debate he got his way. I am leery about keeping juice so long in the refrigerator no matter how much preservatives are used. Now that so many others mention they use it....hmmm I guess it is safe???

    That's the beauty of reading blogs and reviews, and that is hearing other people's opinion.


    1. Hi YHF,
      Well, I buy bottled lemon juice in the 1-gallon jug, and it remains good for at least a year. So far, I've yet t lose a family member! The downside to bottled lemon juice is the lack of Vitamin C. The pasteurization and long-keeping destroys much of it. According to Prevention magazine, bottled has half the Vitamin C content of fresh-squeezed. So, if it's Vitamin content you're after, plus convenience, the best way to get that is to squeeze your own lemons, them freeze that juice.

  5. I keep spent lemons in the fridge until I use them. They will last a month or so this way. I don't know why it never occurred to me to go one step further and put them in the freezer. Next time.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      And I never thought to save the lemon shells in the fridge. Learn something new everyday!


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