I like to use a lot of citrus in my recipes, and that includes lemons, oranges and limes, in addition to more unusual citrus like yuzu and blood oranges. Citrus is a featured flavor in many recipes, but often only a small amount of juice or zest is added to a recipe to accent other elements. A little bit of citrus can go a long way in making flavors pop!
One question I am often asked is if it is necessary to use fresh citrus for baking. Sometimes recipes call for only a teaspoon of zest and it can seem like a waste of a lemon (especially if you have to trek to the store to buy one) to zest a small part of it. I’m lucky that here in Southern California we have tons of citrus readily available just about year round, so it is always easy and inexpensive for me to access it. But when it comes to baking and cooking, you really will get the best results if you use fresh citrus. Fresh citrus juice is more flavorful and brighter (with a higher acidity) than juice that has been prepackaged. Fresh citrus zest has tons of natural oils in it that deliver more flavor – and a more natural flavor – than you can get from using lemon extract, though citrus oils also deliver more concentrated flavor in recipes.
Fortunately, there are a couple of things that you can do can ensure that you have fresh citrus year round – whether you live in So Cal or not. First, you can freeze freshly squeezed juice in ice cube trays and store it in the freezer, so you can defrost as much (or as little) as you need for a recipe. This is especially helpful when you only need a tablespoon or two. Second, you can also freeze citrus zest, so when you do have citrus in the house, you can always zest the rinds and store it for easy use later.