When choosing lemons, oranges or limes look for ones that are fragrant with brightly colored oily skin. They should be firm, plump, and heavy for their size. Avoid fruits that have blemishes, soft spots, dark spots, or are hard and wrinkled.
Zest is the outer colored portion of the citrus peel, it contains the fruits oils and perfumes. The white part the pith is bitter, and can make your dish have a bitter taste.
Use a citrus zester to obtain long, thin strands of citrus zest. A zester has five tiny cutting holes that create threadlike strips of peel. Going lengthwise with the zester will produce long strips and if you go around the fruit you will get long curly zest.
How To Use A Zester – Press firmly as you draw the zester down along the skin of the fruit. If you do not have a zester, use a vegetable peeler or a small, sharp knife to cut long thin slices.
Some recipes will call for grated peel, use your cheese grater or microplane grater for this. Avoid the white part. Use a piece of plastic wrap over the grater to keep the zest from sticking in the holes of the grater. Just shake the zest off of the plastic.
If you are using the fruit for zest and juice, grate the zest first and then squeeze the juice.
Lemon juice may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen in ice cube trays for future use.
1 medium lemon yields 2-3 tablespoons juice and 2-3 teaspoons zest
Candied Orange Zest
3 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
additional sugar for dredging zest strips
Wash oranges thoroughly. Carefully trim zest (orange outer layer of peel) in wide strips using a small knife or vegetable peeler. Cut zest strips lengthwise into thin julienne strips.
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of the water to a boil. Add the orange zest, and boil about 3 minutes. Drain and repeat the boiling for a total of three times, changing the water each time. Drain.
In the same saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the remaining 1/4 cup water. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil, and add the orange zest. Simmer over low heat until all the liquid has evaporated, and the zest is covered with the thick syrup, 8 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to caramelize sugar.
Remove from the heat, and using a fork, take the strips from the sauce pan and place on a sheet of wax paper. Separate and spread out the strips on the wax paper and allow to cool slightly. Then roll the strips in sugar until well coated and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.