I am a notorious cheapskate.
I started my first restaurant job at 14, and, by 18, the Book of Yields was my grimoire. I learned how to stop profits from vanishing into thin air, how to maximize every return. If you’re in this industry long enough, battling food cost simply becomes a way of life. Particularly in the realm of pastry, where wildly expensive necessities often break the curve—fresh cream and butter, imported chocolate and vanilla, flats of local eggs and fat spring strawberries.
Which is how I stumbled into the habit of making fresh lemon syrup from leftover lemon rinds, just the sort of thing a penny-pinching pastry chef would come up with at home. Home, because in my restaurant days, I’d always zest my lemons before juicing, or else carefully peel them for candy, so I never felt too bad about pitching the pithy rinds. But, living outside the pastry dungeon, my resentment of having to pay retail for citrus has grown to an all-time high, while my need for candied peel has hit an all-time low.
Throw them in a jar with a couple cups of sugar, leave sit in sun till you have lemon syrup, add water, add dark jamaican rum, sit in your hammock and stop giving a shit for a few hours.
I wish I knew of this when I was zesting lemons for limoncello…