When life gives you lemons…
Squeeze the day with these juicy cocktail and snack recipes.
By B.C. Rausch
Lemons in Lowcountry? Absolutely. South Carolina is a prime growing area for Meyer lemons (as well as Mexican limes and Satsuma oranges). Citrus grows well here because the trees are sure to get the four to six hours, and often more, of direct sun they need each day. Planted in the ground or in containers, citrus trees will thrive with good doses of TLC and organic plant fertilizer.
We don’t know too many people who eat lemons as they do an apple or orange, as they literally will leave a sour taste in your mouth. But they’re a terrific garnish with meals or in a wide array of foods and beverages – with or without alcohol.
A great source of vitamin C and fiber, lemons also contain many healthy plant compounds, minerals and essential oils. Using lemons may lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and kidney stones. At 88 percent water, lemons are a great source of hydration, low in calories and high in pectin, a soluble fiber that can lower blood sugar levels by slowing the digestion of sugar and starch.
Now that you know how good lemons are for you, here are several ways to get all that goodness into your system.
Meanwhile, across the street in Moss Creek, Hannah Welch, bar supervisor and mixologist, presents a few “stronger” summer coolers in the community’s clubhouse bar. First, of course, she makes a batch of good, old-fashioned lemonade.
“Personally, I like to add a little sugar to put the homemade feeling into the lemonade,” Welch said.
Moss Creek – Lazy Lemonade
1 ounce raspberry vodka
1 ounce Citron vodka
1 cup lemonade
1 splash cranberry juice
Pour vodka in a pint glass with ice. Fill remainder of glass with lemonade; add a splash of cranberry juice for color. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a maraschino cherry.
Moss Creek – Fresh Lemonade
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup simple syrup (1 cup water and 1 cup sugar combined and heated to dissolve the sugar and create a syrup)
Combine in a pitcher and add water to dilute until desired taste.
Moss Creek – Lemon Drop Martini
3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 ounces vodka
1 ounce triple sec
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Shake, shake, shake! Sugar the rim of a martini glass, strain and serve with a lemon wedge garnish.
Moss Creek – Whiskey Sour
2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Serve in a rocks glass with ice, maraschino cherry and lemon garnish.
Raise the bar
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert. Lesli Shelly of Odd Birds, a café and market in the Bridge Center just across the Hilton Head bridge in Bluffton, has shared her “secret” recipe for scrumptious but light, classic lemon bars.
Odd Birds – Classic Lemon Bars
1 cup + 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of table or fine sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
 Heat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment, leaving overhang on the sides.  Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir to combine.  Press the dough evenly into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust just starts to brown.
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon of table or fine sea salt
3 whole large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
Zest of two (2) medium to large lemons
2/3 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
 While the crust bakes, whisk the flour, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs and yolks until completely combined, then whisk in zest and lemon juice.  Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter pieces and vanilla bean paste until combined. Strain and pour over hot crust just from the oven.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until the filling is just set. Let cool for 15-20 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate. Slice and enjoy. Of course, if you don’t feel like turning on the oven at home, just call ahead and place an order for these Classic Lemon Bars.
Sip & savor
In summer there’s nothing better than a cool beverage made with lemons. At Odd Birds, owner Lynn Vinall and barista Adrian Goen have been experimenting and taste-testing for months to concoct the perfect combination of tart and refreshing.
Odd Birds – Cucumber Basil Lemonade
3 cups boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice, strained
1/4 ounce fresh basil leaves
2 ounces cucumber, sliced
Combine sugar, boiling water and basil. Stir to dissolve sugar and steep basil until the water cools, approximately 1 hour. Strain the basil out. Add 1 cup of the liquid to a blender with the cucumbers and blend together until the cucumber is minced. With a fine mesh strainer, strain the cucumber water back into the rest of the liquid, add lemon juice, stir and chill. Serve over ice.
Double your pleasure
Lenny Giarratano, the executive chef at Moss Creek, has two favorite recipes that use lemons liberally.
Moss Creek – Sicilian Lemon Granita
Zest of 10 lemons
Juice of 10 lemons, plus enough bottled lemon juice to total 4 cups of juice
2 cups sugar
5 cups bottled spring water
 Using a micro planer, zest the lemons. In a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in zest and remove from heat. Transfer to another container and cover. Allow to cool to room temperature.  Once room temperature, add lemon juice and then strain through fine sieve to remove zest. Refrigerate until cold.  Process in ice cream maker until spoonable. Immediately serve or transfer to freezer. Serves best on the first day or two.
Chef’s note: For western Sicilian style, do not process in ice cream maker; instead, freeze in metal bowl, stirring every 30 minutes for 3 to 4 hours, until granular, yet still slushy.
Moss Creek – Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette
8 ounces lemon juice
2 egg yolks
16 ounces olive oil
1 ounce white vinegar
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 teaspoon black coarse pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
 Peel zest. Blanche zest for 15-20 seconds and reserve.  Add zest, yolk, and a tablespoon of boiling water to the blender; puree until this mixture doubles in volume.  Add mustard, sugar, lemon juice and puree just for a moment before beginning to add oil slowly, with the blender running, until all is incorporated into the mixture. Quickly add salt, pepper and vinegar, and shut off blender as soon as final ingredients are blended in.