Recipes engineered for perfection—what exactly does that mean? We take you inside Cook’s Illustrated’s science experiments.
If you buy lemons in bulk and don’t use them right away, you run the risk that they will become hard and dry before you get around to using them. We were curious if there were any way to maximize the lifespan of stored lemons.
To see what might affect lemons’ rate of desiccation over time, we tested three different methods of storage at room temperature and in the refrigerator. First we put them in an uncovered container, then in a sealed zipper-lock bag, and then in a sealed zipper-lock bag with 1/4 cup water added. We recorded the fruits’ weights at the start and end of the experiment and then every few days to measure moisture loss.
All the lemons stored at room temperature hardened after a week. But the refrigerated fruits fared much better: The uncovered lemons (which we kept in the crisper drawer) began to lose a small amount of moisture after the first week and 5 percent of their weight in the following weeks; the lemons stored in zipper-lock bags, both with and without water, didn’t begin to dehydrate until four weeks had passed. As it turned out, the water wasn’t offering any preservation benefits, but the zipper-lock bag did seal in some moisture.
For the juiciest, longest-lasting lemons, then, the best approach is to seal them in a zipper lock bag and refrigerate.
MAKE IT NOW: Our recipe for Lemon Cheesecake is free through February 20, 2013.