BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY | FOOD PREPARED AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY BROOKE ECHOLS
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
You’ve probably heard this old adage many times. It’s really not about the tart, sunny yellow citrus. It’s offered as encouragement to push through a difficult time.
But I’d like to look at it literally. I’d like to encourage you to actually make lemonade out of your lemons, with the emphasis on “make.” Pouring powder out of a pre-measured plastic cup into a pitcher, adding water and stirring is not making lemonade. That’s preparing lemonade. There is a difference; one you can taste. Or at least I can. And I want a little more for my 50 cents.
I’m one of those people who can’t drive past a kids’ lemonade stand without stopping. In my neighborhood, this susceptibility can get expensive, since there’s a good chance I’ll see children sitting at folding tables behind their hand-lettered cardboard signs smiling sweetly and/or waving furiously at every car driving by on any given spring Saturday and even on weekdays during summer.
I pull over to the curb, roll down my window and exchange my two quarters for a Solo cup filled about half way with the requisite pale yellow liquid. If the temps are above 85, I’m hot and thirsty (that’s May through October in Central Alabama, where I live), so I’m always looking forward to that first sip.
What I really love – and what I have actually gotten a few golden times – is real lemonade, made by squeezing the juice from real lemons, combining it with real sugar, adding a little water and pouring it all over ice with a few lemon slices floating in the mix for good measure. That’s making lemonade, folks. And it’s really not that hard.
But don’t stop there. There are so many things you can make with fresh lemons. Just look at the long list of reader-submitted recipes we got for this month. Try a few and add a new ending to the aforementioned time-tested advice the next time you give it: “When life gives you lemons, make lemon cheesecake or lemon chicken or lemon pudding …”
Cook of the Month!
Carolyn Massey likes lemons so much, she mail-ordered a Meyer lemon tree a decade ago and now picks her own, fresh off her tree, every late fall and early winter. “One year it produced 23 lemons!” she said. She enjoys using her harvest in lemon pie, authentic lemonade (which her now-grown grandson loved making with her) and this month’s winning recipe, Linda’s Lemon Cheesecake. “My sister-in-law has been making this for years and often gives it as gifts. We all love it because it is so delicious and so, so easy to put together,” Massey said.
Linda’s Lemon Cheesecake
- 18-ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 114-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 graham cracker crust
Use electric mixer to blend cream cheese and milk. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract; mix well. Pour into a graham cracker crust and chill overnight.
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
- 1 box lemon cake mix
- 1 small box vanilla instant pudding mix (dry)
- ¾ cup canola oil
- 4 medium eggs, beaten
- ¾ cup cool water
- 4 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 116-ounce box powdered sugar, sifted
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil and lightly flour a Bundt tube pan. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix. Stir in oil, eggs and water. Beat with electric mixer 2 minutes. Fold in poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon at a time. Bake until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes. In a bowl, stir lemon juice into powdered sugar a little at the time until it becomes the thickness of a drizzle. Drizzle over cake, covering the top, with some running down the sides. Sprinkle zest lightly over top.
Barbara Frasier, Sand Mountain EC
Lemon Chess Pie
- 4 eggs
- 1¼ cups sugar
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon self-rising flour
- 1 tablespoon self-rising cornmeal
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 19-inch pie crust
In large bowl mix eggs, sugar and butter. Add remaining ingredients and pour into unbaked pie crust. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees or until center is set.
Pauline Lowery, Pioneer EC
Lemon Meringue Pie
- Pie crust (makes crust for two 9-inch pie pans):
- 3 cups flour
- 1½ cups shortening
- Pinch of saltMix above ingredients together and set aside.
- ½ cup milk
- 1tablespoon vinegarMix above ingredients together and add to the dry mixture.
Divide crust mixture into two parts. Use one part for a 9-inch pie pan. Bake pie crust in pan for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown in 475 degree oven.Filling:
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 6tablespoons cornstarch
- 3-4 lemons, depending on size
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ¼ cups boiling water
- 3 extra large eggs, separated
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 teaspoons lemon zest
- 19-inch pie crustFor the meringue:
- 1 small jar of marshmallow crème
- Pinch of salt
Grate lemon rind and set aside. Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice into separate container. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Gradually add boiling water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue cooking for 1 minute or until mixture is clear and thickened. Stir small amount of hot mixture into beaten egg yolks. Return this mixture to hot mixture in pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in lemon juice, butter and lemon zest. Pour into pie crust.
Beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add marshmallow crème, beating until stiff peaks form. Spread over filling, sealing to edge of crust. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
H. Gene Klocke, Dixie Electric
Lemon Sawdust Pudding
- 2 cans Carnation milk
- 6 lemons (strain juice)
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 box graham cracker crumbsChill milk in freezer about 30 minutes, then whip until stiff. Add sugar and beat until dissolved. Add lemon juice and whip until mixed completely. Fill bottom of bowl with graham cracker crumbs. Put a layer of whipped mixture, then more crumbs, then whipped mixture, repeating until used up. Chill or freeze in freezer until ready to serve (best served frozen).
Beverly Armstrong, Joe Wheeler EMC
Lemon Herbed Salmon
- 2 salmon fillets
- 1lemon, sliced
- Fresh rosemary
- Fresh sage leaves
- Olive oilLightly grease baking sheet with olive oil. Top salmon fillets with lemon slices, followed by the fresh herbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done.
Robbie Sue Vantrease, Cullman EC
Lemon Tartar Sauce
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 4 kosher dill pickles
- 1/8 cup dill pickle juice
- Pinch of smoked paprika
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepperIn a bowl mix the chopped pickles, mayo, salt and smoked paprika. Squeeze half of the lemon and the pickle juice and add to the mixture. Stir as you add the fresh ground pepper. Refrigerate.
Kirk Vantrease, Cullman EC
Lemon Chiffon Pudding
- 5 tablespoons sifted flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup lemon juiceMix flour and sugar. Cream butter into flour mixture. Beat egg yolks and milk in gradually. Add lemon juice. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold in carefully. Pour into greased baking dish (I use a one-quart dish). Place in pan of hot water about 1 inch deep. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Jamie Petterson, Tallapoosa River EC
- 2 pounds chicken, cut up
- 3 lemons (2 for slices, 1 for juice)
- 2 sticks butter, sliced
- 1 onion, sliced into rings
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 cups water
- Salt and pepperPlace chicken in large casserole dish and salt and pepper it. Put butter slices over pieces of chicken. Squeeze lemon over chicken. Put garlic and onions over everything and put water in pan. Put foil over pan and bake chicken at 350 degrees until chicken is done. Take foil off a few minutes before taking out of the oven to allow the chicken to brown.
Karen Turnquist, Cullman EC
Grandmama’s Glazed Lemon Cakes
- 2 oranges
- 2 lemons
- 1½ boxes confectioner sugar
- 1 box yellow cake mixIcing:
- Lightly grate rinds from oranges and lemons into a bowl (don’t grate too deeply; the white part of the rind will make the icing bitter). Squeeze juice from lemons and oranges and mix with grated zest. Beat in confectioners sugar until smooth.Cakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Spray miniature muffin tins with cooking spray. Fill tins halfway with batter (not all the way to the top). Bake for 12 minutes or until done. Once cakes come out of the oven, dunk each cake while still warm into the icing, making sure you fully coat each one. Place cakes on a wire rack and allow to dry fully.
Laura Tucker, South Alabama EC
Lemon Blueberry Truffles
- 1 box of lemon cake mix
- ¼ cup of sugar
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 8 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup freeze-dried blueberries, crushedPour dry cake mix into a large bowl. Melt butter and combine it with the lemon juice and sugar. Stir ingredients until the dough holds together. Shape into 1 ¼-inch balls. Roll truffles in about a ½ cup granulated sugar. Chill in refrigerator for about an hour. Optional: Dip the truffles in white chocolate for a decadent treat.
Shari Lowery, Pioneer EC