Lemons are really wonderful. No one would ever sit down and eat a lemon or drink a glass of straight lemon juice unless it was for a dare. But added to food and drinks, lemon brings an amazing brightness and pleasant acidity to many foods, both savory and sweet.
But when using lemon, there is a dark side of which we must be careful. It is….BOTTLED LEMON JUICE.
Oof, I shiver just to look at it.
Let’s consider bottled lemon juice for a moment…have you ever tasted the stuff straight out of the bottle? And then tasted a real lemon? They don’t taste remotely alike. It’s like bottled met fresh at a party once, and that’s all they have in common. Bottled just tastes kinda dead, and it certainly isn’t doing your food any favors either.
To be fair, there is one thing that bottled juice is good for, and that is canning tomatoes and tomato products (which I will discuss in another post). But if you don’t can, then you don’t need it.
Juicing lemons takes hardly any time at all, and it will really elevate the flavor of your food if you’re not already using fresh juice; this is a case where the effort is more than worth the return.
No special equipment is needed, you can juice lemons with a fork over a bowl if you want to. But if you’re going to take the plunge, I recommend splurging on a reamer that sits above a measuring cup (such as this one from oxo), which is actually really handy for juicing any citrus fruits.
You will notice that in all my recipes, I stress that you must use fresh lemon juice. Now you know why. There are certain foods that I make and take to parties with me that always have people asking me “what’s the secret?” Now you know the secret.
So let’s jump in and make something that really showcases fresh lemon juice: my favorite tea.
Technically, this is an “infusion” and not tea. It is inspired by a drink I used to order in the Bookworm Cafe on Lamma Island when I lived in Hong Kong. It is really versatile and the quantities can be liberally adjusted to suite your taste.
Lemon Ginger Tea
- a 3″ piece of ginger root
- 2-3 lemons, juiced
- 1 quart boiling water
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar
Give the ginger a good scrub under running water (I don’t usually even bother to peel it). Slice it into thin coins, and place into a tea pot or pitcher. Add lemon juice, boiling water, and agave nectar. Stir to combine, and let steep.
The amount of time you let the tea steep will affect how spicy it gets from the ginger…longer time means spicier. I really like the kick of ginger so I tend to let it sit for quite a while before drinking.
Taste the tea and adjust the sweetness and acidity as desired but playing with the agave and lemon juice.
Serve hot OR over ice. It’s delicious both ways.
TIP: If you’re really feeling saucy, how about adding some fresh mint as well?