The cost of limes is making us feel sour these days.
Those lovely citruses, which we count on to define our margaritas, zest our guacamole and give a kick to marinades, cost about 31 cents each in April of last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That little fruit was 56 cents earlier this month.
So that got us thinking: What’s a lime lover to do?
For our answer, we turn to a couple of folks who rely on the tangy delights daily: a chef and a bartender.
We put the query to Marlee Palmer, a manager and bartender at 47 Scott: How can you make a margarita without a lime?
Sometimes, she says, “there’s really no substitute for lime juice.”
So, of course, the restaurant and bar use limes when nothing else will do.
But they aren’t always fresh limes. 47 Scott now buys a high-quality lime juice — which is pricey, but not nearly as pricey as fresh limes these days.
And Palmer said they don’t waste much of the fruit when it is used.
“We make the best use of the limes we have,” Palmer says. “We are zesting all the rind and soaking it in a simple syrup (to make a lime cordial). That gives an intense lime flavor.”
Once they are zested, every last drop of juice is squeezed from the lime for another use.
They have also adjusted the recipes for some drinks.
The basil Collins traditionally calls for ¾ of an ounce of fresh lime juice, and ¼ ounce of lemon juice.
“We just switched the proportions of the lemon and lime,” she said. The addition of the lime cordial gives the drink the lime edge it needs.
Making a lime cordial is a quick, easy task: At 47 Scott, 47 N. Scott Ave., they start with a simple syrup — one part boiling water to 1½ parts sugar, and mix until it’s dissolved. To turn that into a lime cordial, you just add lime zest. For one cup of the cordial, the zest of 4 limes is added to 8 ounces of the simple syrup. The zest is removed after 10 to 20 minutes.
“Much longer and it would be too bitter,” Palmer says.
The waste-not, want-not approach is also being used at Dante’s Fire, where lime is a common ingredient in many of the restaurant’s dishes.
“What we’re doing is extending our limes as much as possible,” said Ken Foy, the chef and co-owner of Dante’s, at 2526 E. Grant Road.
“We are zesting and infusing oils to carry the lime flavor. We are trying to not do as many recipes calling for lime, and we use lime oil more efficiently.”
Like Palmer at 47 Scott, Foy substitutes a lime-infused simple syrup, though his recipe differs slightly: He uses 2 parts of water to one part sugar.
Foy also makes a lime oil with the zest of the fruit, which brings the flavor to the dishes requiring it. He uses both the oil and syrup in the restaurant’s popular Tuna Tartare.
The oil, too, is easy to make.
“Because we want the flavor to carry out, we use a grapeseed or cottonseed oil that will suck up the lime flavor,” he said.
To make a cup of lime oil, use the zest of four limes per cup of oil. Heat the oil slightly (“About 180 degrees for 10 minutes,” Foy says), add the zest, and put in a warm place for about 24 to 48 hours.
“Strain it and bottle the lime oil,” Foy says. “Sometimes we add salt; sometimes we don’t.”