Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lemons - Dehydrated Dish #1

I bought a dehydrator a couple years ago for a specific project, drying soaked and sprouted grain, which I have long since abandoned. This happens pretty often with me and cooking projects. Usually the abandoned equipment gathers dust until I eventually give it away. Not so the dehydrator. It's become one of my most used small appliances. Here begins a short series on easy dried bits.

The first thing I really got into making with it was lemon salt and sugar. It's easy and quite versatile. In fact, I'm posting it since I will be referring to it constantly as an ingredient in other posts.

The method:

Zest 2 lemons for every 1/2 cup of sugar or salt that you want. A microplane grater makes short work of this. I usually do 4 lemons total, half for sugar and half for salt. I like the texture better with course sea salt and turbinado sugar, but it would work with finer grinds. Save the juice (see below).

In a small bowl, mix the zest with the sugar or salt until it's evenly distributed. It will probably clump up. Once mixed, spread on a solid plastic dehydrator tray. Mine came with a couple inserts for making fruit leather and that's what I use here. Separate the clumps and make sure the zests are spread out as much as possible so that they dry evenly.

I dry it on the setting used for nuts and seeds (105 F), since I don't want to ruin the lemon oil with too high of a temperature. It will usually be dry by morning, so 8 - 10 hours max.

Remove the salt when the zests are dry and crumble when touched. They can be ground up finely in a food processor, but I usually just leave them a little rough for texture. As you can see, I store them in glass mason jars and they keep this way for at least a couple months on the shelf. The flavor starts to go after that.

Lemon salt is good for finishing dishes, making margaritas, and for adding a hint of lemon. Lemon sugar is good in everything! Limes and oranges also work well, but I've found lemon to be the most versatile flavor.

Juice the lemons while you are at it and freeze the juice into ice cube trays for lemon cubes. Once frozen, pop the cubes out of the tray and store in a freezer bag. They're great in tea or for brightening up soups, pasta, and sauce dishes. Microwave lemons for 15 seconds to get them to juice easier. Juice them over a strainer into the tray to avoid getting seeds in there.

Between the salt and the lemon cubes, we will never be caught without "fresh" lemon flavoring again.

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