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Cooking with Limes

The two most popular types of limes on the market are Tahiti limes and Mexican limes. Of the two, Tahiti limes (or Persian limes) are the most common. They never have seeds, so there is no need to take precautions for catching seeds when juicing them. Mexican limes called limones in Mexico and Key limes in the United States, are becoming increasingly more available. Limes are more aromatic and slightly more acidic than lemons, but they can often be used interchangeably.

When choosing limes, look for plump limes with smooth, brightly colored rinds. Limes will keep at room temperature for about a week or in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Both grated lime zest and fresh-squeezed juice can be frozen. Pour the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. When the cubes are solid, transfer them to zipper-lock freezer bags and freeze for up to 6 months. You can also freeze grated zest in freezer bags for up to 6 months.

To remove the zest from limes, make sure to remove the zest before squeezing the juice, or it will be a nearly impossible task. Special zesting tools are perfect for the job. Or you can rub the lime back and forth over the small, nubby side of a grater to make zest. Whole limes with the zest removed can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. A medium lime will give about 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest.

If you need to squeeze out the maximum juice from limes, bring the limes to room temperature and roll under your palm to soften the fruit and get the juices flowing. Or, pierce 1 lime with a fork and microwave it on medium power for 10 to 20 seconds. An inexpensive, handheld citrus reamer is excellent for squeezing out juice. Cut the lime in half and firmly twist the reamer into each half. Or use a fork, twisting the tines into each lime half. A medium lime will give 1 to 2 tablespoons juice.

If you need just a few drops of juice for your cooking, you can always use the tip of a paring knife to pierce the lime. Then squeeze out the amount of juice required through the hole. Refrigerate the leftover lime in a zipper-lock plastic bag and use within a few days.

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