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What are some good ways of getting the most flavor out of lemon zest and into sugar+water?

I’ve steeped them in the liquid that was just to the boil and left it to cool.

But I wonder what better techniques might be available. I beleive that the “essence” is oily and doesn’t wash out into water-based solutions easily.

What would Alton Brown do?

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The flavor of lemon zest is in the oils contained in the skin, the best way to extract them is to mechanically extract them, steeping in hot water isn't going to do much for you.

First, grate the zest using the finest microplane grater you can get, the more surface are you have the better. Second, you need to crush and/or grind the zest to get the oils out. If you are using sugar then a great way to extract flavor from the zest is to crush the zest into the sugar, the sugar acts as an abrasive and grinding agent. You can do this in a mortar and pestle if you have one, or if you don't using the back of a spoon to crush it into the side of a bowl works pretty well too. If you aren't using sugar then crushing still works, just not quite as well. You want to keep crushing until you have a strong smell of lemon coming from it, then crush a little longer.

Once you have your sugar and zest crushed up you can add it to hot water and mix .

  • So how does crushing —pressing the oil out— allow it to mox and not just float on top of the water? – JDługosz Feb 9 '17 at 9:27
  • The flavor in lemon zest is in the oils, and oil and water are not going to mix. You could try and emulsify it, that is mixing the oil and water together to form a suspension, however I suspect that's not going to work. Maybe it would help if you explained the result you are trying to achieve. – GdD Feb 9 '17 at 9:31
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    Many lemonade recipes call for lemon zest, sure some of it sits on the top but you can live with that. Try crushing like I suggest, then boiling it all up, let it cool, then add your lemon juice - I bet it will come out well. – GdD Feb 9 '17 at 9:36
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    Time is your friend here too. After crushing, let the sugar-zest mixture stand for several minutes, up to as much as a half hour, to let the sugar absorb the oil that's been released. – logophobe Feb 9 '17 at 15:01
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    In lemonade the sugar, fruit juice and particles should all act as a bit of a dispersant and help the oil overcome its resistance to staying in solution with the water I think you will find. Initially it may have the tendency to want to separate, but a vigorous mixing should overcome this and it should stay in solution, well, at least longer than I would allow a good old fashion lemonade to stay around. A small pinch of sea salt is also considered a dispersant, but that will alter flavor. Hmmm, lemonade, salt, tequila, might work too. – dlb Feb 10 '17 at 0:06

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