If you are looking for ways to add subtle flavors to baked goods, drinks, and other dishes, flavored sugars might be just what you are looking for. They are super easy and cheap to make, but the results are amazing.
I always have a jar of vanilla sugar sitting in my cupboard, but lately I have been obsessed with lemon sugar. The idea first came to me out of necessity. My lovely friend Mareike, who has an incredibly productive lemon tree in her backyard, had brought me a huge bag of lemons. Since I didn’t have time to bake with them, I tried to think of easy ways to preserve their amazing flavor. I already knew that I wanted to freeze the lemon juice in an ice cube tray so I could easily portion it for baking or making lemonade. The only question left was how to preserve the lemon peels in a way that would be fast and easy.
Some of the oldest food preservation techniques around work with sugar and salt. While they are often used in combination with cooking processes (think canning jam and smoking meat or fish), you can preserve certain food items by simply packing them in sugar or salt. Since I wanted to use the lemons for baked goods, I decided to go with sugar. The sugar crystals draw moisture out of the cells of the lemon peel through osmosis. That means that most of the fluids in the peel, including the fragrant essential oil, will end up in the sugar and give it an amazing aroma. The lack of moisture in the peels in return makes it harder for bacteria to reproduce and slows down other decay processes, thus preserving the citrus peels.
Ready to give it a try?
Here is what you will need:
- clean, dry jars
- 2 organic lemons
- about 4 cups of regular sugar
- Thoroughly wash and dry the lemons. If you are not lucky enough to have your own lemon tree (or a trusted supplier), make sure that the lemons you are using have not been treated with pesticides.
- Using a vegetable peeler or lemon zester, remove the peel. Try to shave off as little of the white pith as possible, to make sure the peels will not taste too bitter. (I like to use a vegetable peeler so I can chop the pieces to size when I am ready to use them.)
- Add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the jar and start layering the strips of lemon peel with the sugar. Make sure not to put too many pieces into each jar. You will be surprised how much moisture gets drawn out of them. And if the sugar gets too wet, mold can settle in. Leave about two fingers of space in the jar, so you can shake the sugar. Close the lid tightly.
- Check on the jars every couple of days for the first two weeks or so. If the mixture gets too moist, simply add more dry sugar.
The sugar will already have a nice aroma after a couple of hours, and both the sugar and the peels keep for several months, as long as you make sure the sugar that does not get soggy.
The first time I opened my lemon sugar jar, I almost swooned. The fragrance is simply amazing and the preserved peels are great to add some extra lemon flavor to cookies or cakes.
Let me know what you think.
Not sure what to do with your delicious lemon sugar? Check out the zesty lemon cookies.