Liking lemons for many reasons

Lemons are available year-round, and if you have a chance to buy in quantity for a lower price, they will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

When shopping, look for fruit that is firm, well-shaped, with smooth, evenly yellow skin. Avoid bruised or wrinkled lemons.

Lemons can be squeezed into a drink, juiced and used in pies, cakes, cookies, vegetables, fruits and main dishes.

There is another use, too – they can be used for cleaning.

For instance, half a lemon can be dipped into salt and rubbed over tarnished copper pots and pans for a shiny new look. Always wash lemon-rubbed areas with soapy, warm water and dry with a soft, clean cloth.

It can be used to clean chrome faucets. Squeeze it on an old toothbrush and scrub away to clean grout. There are many other uses – just go to Google for “cleaning ideas with lemons.”

One of the most popular uses for lemons is making a popular summer drink – lemonade.

This is a simple yet refreshing drink that has been around for many years. Simply stir 1 cup lemon juice and 3/4 cup sugar into 3 cups cold water. Stir well. Chill in the refrigerator and serve with ice and lemon slices.

A popular dessert is lemon meringue pie, and made from scratch, it is one of the best pies around.

Lemon peel enhances the filling, as well as the fresh lemon juice. This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Baked pastry shell, 9 inch

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 to 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Meringue

Separate egg yolks from whites. Set aside yolks for filling and whites for meringue. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For filing: In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, flour, cornstarch and a dash of salt. Gradually stir in water. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly; reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Slightly beat egg yolks with a fork.

Gradually stir about 1 cup of the hot filling into the egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and lemon peel. Gently stir in lemon juice. Pour warm filling into baked pastry shell.

Meringue:

3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

6 tablespoons sugar

Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed about 1 minute or until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed about 4 minutes more or until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks (tips that stand up straight and sugar dissolves.) This can be determined by rubbing a small amount between two fingers, and it feels completely smooth.

Immediately spread meringue over hot pie filling, carefully sealing to edge of pastry to prevent shrinkage. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Lemon bars are another favorite lemon treat. It gets its citrusy flavor from plenty of lemon juice and a dab of shredded lemon peel. And the crust in this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook calls for cornstarch for a lighter texture.

Favorite Lemon Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

3/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup half-and-half, light cream or milk

Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. In a bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden.

For filling: In a medium bowl, stir together eggs, granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, lemon peel, lemon juice and half and half. Pour filling over hot crust. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or until center is set. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Sift with powdered sugar. Cut into 36 bars. Cover and stir in the refrigerator.

Here is an apple pie that tops any apple pie. It has a cream cheese and caramel topping that is delicious, is baked in a cookie sheet and the use of lemon juice in the filling keeps the apples from turning dark.

The recipe is in the Martha Pullen’s Southern Family Cookbook

Apple Pie Filling

6 cups peeled, sliced apples, about 6 apples

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

3 tablespoons lemon, juiced

Pastry:

3 cups sifted flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup cooking oil

1 egg

1/4 cup cold water

Caramel topping:

28 light-colored caramels

1/2 cup evaporated milk

Cream Cheese Topping:

8 ounces cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

For filling: Combine apples, sugar, flour, lemon rind and lemon juice, tossing to coat the apples.

For pastry: Mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter until particles are fine. In a separate bowl, blend oil, egg, and cold water until smooth. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until mixture holds together. Roll out to about 18 by 12 inches. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet. Push up on the sides to form a rim around the pastry. Spread the apple mixture on the pastry-lined cookie sheet.

For the caramel topping: Melt caramels and evaporated milk in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring often. Keep warm.

For cream cheese topping: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat cream cheese, egg and sugar until smooth. Alternately drizzle cream cheese topping with the warm caramel topping in about 2-inch strips at an angle across the pie. If you desire, sprinkle with pecans before baking. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned.

This veggie dish only contains shredded lemon peel, but that tiny bit of peel adds a great flavor to the broccoli dish. It is from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Broccoli and Peppers with Walnuts

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 teaspoons cooking oil

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pound broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets

Medium red sweet pepper, cut into bite-size strips

For sauce, in a small bowl, combine chicken broth, soy sauce, lemon peel and cayenne pepper. Set aside. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add walnuts and garlic; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until nuts are lightly toasted. Remove the walnut mixture from the skillet; set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and sweet pepper; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir sauce and add to skillet. Cook and stir for a minute. Transfer broccoli mixture to serving bowl. Sprinkle with walnut mixture. Makes six servings.

You can make your own cocktail sauce to serve with fish by using this recipe. It is quite easy.

Cocktail Sauce

3/4 cup bottled chili sauce

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce

Several dashes bottled hot pepper sauce

In a small bowl, stir together chili sauce, lemon juice, green onion, horseradish, worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce. Transfer to a storage container. Cover and keep chilled for up to two weeks. Serve with fish or seafood. Makes 1 cup.

(McCoy can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com.)