Sunday, May 22, 2011

When life gives you limes

A friend at work recently was responsible for a fancy award dinner.  She decided to make the 28 centerpieces and that they'd look like this:

They looked pretty good, though toward about arrangement number 15 we realized we were going to run short on the limes.  I discovered a hidden talent of stacking limes into pyramids that were hollow.  Who knew I could do that?

The next day at work there appeared in mailroom two ginormous boxes of limes.  We're talking well over 200 limes.  I took home 9 limes that night, and probably another 20 the next day.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, citrus fruits do not grow on trees and such a windfall is exceptionally rare.

On a side note, have you ever remarked how shockingly fast anything marked "FREE" disappears from an office?

Once home with my horde of limes, I didn't quite know what to do with them.  You see, limes and I have a difficult history.  Tempted by their bright green color I often buy 1-2 only to watch them shrivel on the countertop.

I ruled out lime marmalade: too much work, I probably wouldn't eat it, we already have a cupboard filled with jams and jellies, and Gene definitely wouldn't eat it.  I finally decided to make a lime syrup and a lime curd.

The lime curd seems a pretty obvious choice, and I'll show you how to make it in another post, but why lime syrup?  Making my own syrup was an efficient way to use and preserve all these limes as well as create something practical that I'd actually use.  See below the recipe for some suggestions on ways to eat and drink it.

2/3 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup lime juice
Zest from 1 lime (optional)

Combine the water and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil.  Boil gently for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced slightly.  It will be rather thick.  Remove from the heat and add the lime juice.

Allow to cool, then add the lime zest.  If refrigerated, the syrup will keep indefinitely due to its high sugar and acid contents.  But just use it, ok?  Makes about 1 pint.

Could be made with lemons or oranges, as well.

In France it's common to flavor drinking water with a sweetened syrup.  This is mostly for children but adults sometimes do it as well.  The lime syrup looks and tastes a lot like lemonade... in fact, I'm having a glass right now!

The syrup can be used as a mixer for a cocktail - imagine it with gin, vodka, or tequila - or stirred into sparklling water and served over ice for a summery beverage.  You could use it for sno-cone flavorings, granita, to sweeten a smoothie or a fruit salad, or shaken with some vinegar and oil to create a unique vinaigrette.


A word of caution... The French recipes I found for "sirop aux citrons verts" (lime syrup) instructed me to boil the water-juice-sugar mixture down for 20-30 minutes.  I set my timer for 15 minutes.  During that time a friend stopped by and we chatted in the living room while the syrup merrily boiled away in the kitchen.

When the timer went off and I went to check on my syrup, I discovered that I had instead made burnt lime caramel.  It was not tasty and it went into the trash.  What a waste of time and effort to have juiced all those damn limes.

Moral of the story: Content yourself with making a simple (sugar) syrup and don't bother trying to reduce it.  In fact, if you want a thicker syrup, start out with less water and... VOILA!  Reduced.


  1. I'm thinking this syrup would make a lovely skinny margharita. mmmm. Thanks. I'm going to try this on the next sunny day. Erm, that might be awhile.

  2. Or you could watch the syrup...walking away from cooking sugar is always a bad idea. But you generally only do this once, learn the lesson, & forever after watch them like a hawk, so it's all good.