All Things Citrus: Juicing, Zesting, and Chick-fil-A Lemonade


As promised, here’s my ridiculously long post on all things citrus.  I’ll start at the beginning….

My Grandparents live in the Valley, and my 92 year old Grandpa loves his plants and gardening.  He has citrus trees in his backyard, and I look forward to winters here because that means it’s citrus season!



I visited for MLK Day last Monday and helped my Grandma with all assortment of chores, and even came home with a sweater to mend and leather elbow patches to sew on.

I also came home with bags of amazing citrus fruits.


My Grandpa had packed little bags of Navel oranges, Satsuma tangerines, and lemons for me to take home, but I’m a lemon fiend, so he and I went back out to pick more lemons.


My Grandma even came out to join in.  They’re both camera shy and don’t pose well, so these are the best shots I have.


The trees were seriously loaded.


And so were the bags I came home with.  And with this much citrus on hand, there was only one thing to do.


Time to break out the juicer!

I bought this little guy from Amazon our first winter here when the citrus I brought home from the Grandparents’ proved too much to squeeze by hand.  It cost maybe $20 and does a great job.

Side note: Grandma, for all her crazy quirks and unorthodox ways, never fails to send me home with a tin of cookies.  She’s been making them probably forever, and no one makes cookies like she does.


These gingerbread guys are chilling on a bed of lemon bars.  She calls the little gingerbread dots next to them “brownie points” and says you get one anytime you do something good.


[Clockwise from top left: super dark chocolate brownies, that are more fudge in texture than brownie; oatmeal raisin cookies, a couple gingerbread dots lurking in the corner (she really packs these tins up), lemon bars, and Tollhouse cookie bars (she calls them this, not chocolate chip cookie bars), which she bakes in a sheet and cuts because her hands can’t handle drop cookies anymore.  She’ll tell you that, too.]

Anyway, back to the citrus.  Now that I’ve grabbed a Tollhouse bar from the freezer to chew on while I write….


Even though this is probably the lowest pesticide fruit in the state (I don’t know that he uses any pesticides at all), I still wanted to wash it off since I was planning on zesting the oranges and lemons.  So into the sink it all went.  First the Navels…


Then the Satsumas….


And then the lemons.  I asked Grandpa this trip what variety the lemons were (since he knows the common and latin name of everything in his yard), and he chuckled and said “yellow?”  So no idea; he said it’s just whatever the nursery had however many eons ago when he got the trees.


There are also 3 grapefruit from Todd and Thom’s place in Palm Springs.  Their condo courtyard has grapefruit trees that no one bothers to pick, and the fruit just falls on the ground to rot, so Todd and Thom pick what they want and bring them back.  So we had three of those as well, but they’re not part of this juicing adventure.


I read somewhere on Pinterest that washing produce in 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water cleans off the gunk and makes it last longer, so that’s what I did.  Sinkful of water, half a little bottle of vinegar, mix well.  It did help to get the dirt off the peels, I just made sure to rinse and dry everything before juicing/zesting to get rid of the vinegar/any remaining dirt.

Tangerine juicing 

Here’s what I started with.  Normally I wouldn’t juice tangerines, but whatever variety of Satsuma Grandpa grows is jam packed with seeds and a mess to eat, so after eating some, we usually just give up and juice them.


Full disclosure: I had a couple more clementines/”cuties” from a bag that I went ahead and juiced, too.  You can see one hanging out by itself on the right in the photo above.


See what I mean?  Super seedy!  This picture does not do justice to the amount of seeds lurking in these things.


Look at the color of that juice!


Final yield: one big canning jar, and one little juice glass, into which I popped a couple ice cubes and drank down.  It was sweet and tangy and wonderful, just how tangerine juice should be.  I don’t strain any of my juice, but I find that it has just the right amount of pulp–not too much and not too little.

Lemon Zesting


I’m a big fan of citrus zest, and put it into all kinds of baked treats.  But I was SUPER excited to zest because of a little kitchen gadget I got Ryan for Christmas this year.

I learned about it from Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff in a blog post she wrote called “If You Have a Kitchen But You Don’t Own This, You’re Not Right in the Head.”  She’s an awesome, funny lady, and gives good advice, so when Ryan’s grater finally cracked, I looked up Lee Valley’s website and ordered one of these puppies.  Apparently this zester/grater started out as/is a wood rasp, but a wife of one of the carpenters found it and repurposed it as the awesomest grater/zester ever and the rest is history.  It also makes a quick, beautiful, fluffy pile of parmesan for pasta, if you’re into that kind of thing.

But today it was zesting that interested me.


Look at all that lemony goodness!  My kitchen smelled AMAZING right around now.


Gorgeous little cloud of zest.


You also get a bowl of funny, splotchy lemons.  I kind of like the look.


These lemons yielded this much zest!  And it took no time at all, and just a couple swipes per lemon.  But I had to be careful and slow down after nearly shearing off my thumb knuckle.  No blood in the zest though, hooray!


Look at all those seeds!  The lemons yielded a ton of juice, though.


My hands get angry when I soak them in lemon juice for hours, hence the kitchen gloves.


Glamour shots in rubber gloves!


Look at all that juice!  The juicer is full in this picture, too.  I froze two ice cube trays of the juice (that’s how I like to store it) and used about 3 cups for lemonade (recipe coming, I promise), and still have a ton left to figure out a use for.

Full disclosure pt. 2: Juicing is a really messy process!  And keep in mind the fruits you’re juicing are full of sugar!  Before and after, mega counter cleanings were in order (and probably need another pass through).

Oranges: Juice and Zest

After trying different techniques when zesting the lemons, I finally figured out how best to zest.  I start on the right stem end of the fruit and zest from the left to right end of the rasp in a long stroke, while rolling/rotating the fruit in my hand in one smooth movement while zesting, so you end up about halfway or so down the fruit, and you get a big long strip of zest off the fruit instead of a little spot.  Thus, my oranges, post-zest, looked like this:


Woo!  Zest!


And a ton of juice from just a few oranges!  Fresh juice for breakfast tomorrow!  And maybe some mimosas later : )Image

And now the part you’ve all been waiting for (all maybe, 3 people who read my blog).  The part I’ve been stringing you along to find:

Chick-fil-A Lemonade (Diet Edition)

As a transplant from Georgia, raised in a town full of Chick-fil-A’s, chicken biscuits and lemonade are some of the landmark foods of my upbringing.  Okay, maybe not, but I love me a glass of Chickfila lemonade.  But not the sugar kind, give me diet, please.  If I could whip up a chicken biscuit this easily, we’d be in trouble.  Fortunately I haven’t found a good approximation yet (and believe me, I’ve tried), but the “authentic” recipe for their lemonade is easy enough to make, and find, if you believe what you read on the internets:

Googling “chickfila lemonade recipe” produced the following links:

Source 1:, which yields a small batch, although someone in that blog’s comments

“The real CFA lemonade recipe is 2 quarts of lemon juice then 7 cups of sugar, then 8 quarts of water. My kids used to work there, and yes, Sunkist lemons.”

Alright, so a claim from someone who probably knows (an employee).  But I need confirmation.

Source 2:

Yes, the disaster that is Yahoo Answers.  But someone in the “answer”/comment section backs up the first recipe and claims to have been a Chickfila manager.

So “authentic” or not, I’ve made the internet recipe before, and this sounded identical.  The problem I always run into is that the recipe is always either for a small batch (like the one “Stockpiling Mom” lists, which makes less than half a gallon, or it’s a restaurant sized batch like the Chickfila-associated individuals’ version, which makes over two gallons.

Me, I’ve got a gallon pitcher, and that’s how much I want to make, no more, no less.

Time to break out the maths:

With the ratios in these so-called “real” recipes:

2 quarts lemon = 8 cups lemon
7 cups sugar    = 7 cups sugar
8 quarts water  = 32 cups water
Divided in half:
4 cups lemon
3.5 cups sugar
16 cups (4 qts) water
Getting closer… but still more than a gallon.  Let’s go smaller:
2.84 (between 2 3/4 and 3) cups lemon juice
2.5 cups sugar
11 1/3 cups water
And that’s what I went with.  I actually added 3 cups of lemon juice because I had so much and I’m a lazy measurer.  And I used the measureable Splenda, the kind for baking that you measure cup for cup like sugar.  That basically killed a mostly full bag.  But nobody said this was going to be cheap.  You could totally use sugar, instead, though.  I have before (in skinnier times) and it’s also delicious.
And, would you believe it, this filled my gallon pitcher perfectly!  I scoured the internets (okay, not really, I looked at maybe two pages of Google results for “gallon recipe Chickfila lemonade”), and couldn’t find the ratios for a gallon.  So here they are.  I hope this helps someone else someday.
Not the prettiest picture.  I probably should have poured some in a glass with some ice and accessorized with a cute striped straw and maybe a sprig of mint (because that makes everything fancier), but I was tired and ready for dinner (Ryan made killer shrimps tonight, a la Pioneer Woman), so screw it.  ha
But it is really good, and tasted pretty much dead on like the diet lemonade from Chickfila that I grew up with.  And when your nearest Chickfila is in Hollywood and a ton of traffic and quite a stressful drive away (the town I grew up in had something like 3 Chickfilas, and LA has maybe 2?  It’s not fair), this is an approximation I’m happy with.
The “fruits” of my day.  Heh.  Pun so intended.
Okay, that was more about citrus than you ever wanted to know and I ever wanted to write.  And scene.

4 thoughts on “All Things Citrus: Juicing, Zesting, and Chick-fil-A Lemonade

    • Karen! Oh my god, you’re like royalty in our house! I just emailed my boyfriend and mother because I was freaking out that you even peeked at my post. That zester is seriously the best thing ever. Everyone I know is getting one for Christmas 🙂

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