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When life gives you expensive lemons

(article, Kim Carlson)

Have you priced lemons lately? Then you know they've gone through the supermarket roof. 

I disregard seasonality and buy lemons throughout the summer because, well, I'm addicted to my vinaigrette: garlic, salt, a squeeze of lemon, vinegar (usually red wine), and olive oil. But lately I've begun to think twice before throwing a few in my basket.

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This week, the Seattle Times explains why lemons have risen in price; basically, Ventura County, California, which is the biggest supplier of lemons in this country, was hit by a frost in January 2007, diminishing the 2008 crop. 

[%image lemons float=left width=400 caption="Lemons are spendy."] 

That, coupled with poor crops from other countries that import lemons to the U.S. and rising fuel costs everywhere, has resulted in steep prices — and put the squeeze on lemon lovers like me.

So it's timely that on Gourmet.com this week, food editor Ian Knauer shows how to squeeze a lemon to extract the most juice.

First, he suggests (and this is important) bringing your lemon to room temperature. 

Then, halve the lemon lengthwise, rather than horizontally. This seemed to me like great advice — until I remembered my lemon squeezer. 

[%image reference-image float=left width=400 caption="A lemon squeezer and a traditional glass juicer."] 

I love, love, love my lemon squeezer. It's basically a bright yellow, hinged metal tool that works like a garlic press: You nest a lemon half in the "bowl" on one side, then squeeze to extract the juice, which drains through holes in the bowl while the seeds, helpfully, stay put. 

The lemon squeezer is fast, it's easy to clean (I just rinse it well immediately after using and set it in the dish drainer to air-dry), and it's effective. Or so I'd been thinking.

But now I wondered. The lemon squeezer doesn't accommodate lemons sliced lengthwise, as Gourmet.com suggested. Was I going to have to alter my lemon-juicing methods? 

I set up an experiment: two lemons, one lemon squeezer, one traditional glass juicer, and a measuring cup.

First, let me admit up front that I forgot to warm the lemons, so the amount of juice overall that I was able to extract was less than what Ian Knauer probably could've produced. Rats.

Still, what I found was reassuring. 

Using the lemon squeezer, I extracted about 40 milliliters of juice from a horizontally cut lemon.

Next, with a lemon cut lengthwise, and using the glass citrus juicer, I was able to extract — are you ready for this? — 40 milliliters of juice. 

Yes, the exact same amount either way.

However, the second method took a lot longer, because I had to fish out the many seeds that were floating in the juice. 

|[%image juice1 float=left width=306 caption="Using the lemon squeezer, I extracted about 40 mL of juice."]
|[%image juice2 float=left width=306 caption="Using the glass citrus juicer, I extracted the same amount — 40 mL — of juice."]|

So, happily, I get to keep my beloved squeezer without worrying that I'm not getting the most out of my lemons. 

And dear reader, if you happen to have a lemon squeezer that you love, you can, also without regret, keep yours, too.

Now time for some lemonade . . .


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