Start to Finish: 20 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
Difficulty: Intermediate

When life gives you lemons, you have more options than to make lemonade. Homemade lemon-pepper seasoning flavors poultry, meat and seafood with a tangy zip. Bottled versions are easy to find in most spice sections, but creating your own means you control the ingredients and proportions. Fresh lemons and high quality peppercorns create an especially flavorful seasoning that you won’t get with premixed brands.

  • 6 large lemons 

  • 1/3 cup whole peppercorns — black or a medley 

  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt, such as kosher or sea salt 

Zest the lemons into fine shavings using a micro planer or other fine grater. Crush the peppercorns by placing them into a heavy-duty zip-top bag and beating them with the back of a heavy saucepan or a cleaver. Mix the zest, crushed peppercorns and salt together in a small bowl. Use the mixture immediately to rub on meats or fish or sprinkle over hearty steamed vegetables. Alternatively, store the fresh seasoning in a tightly sealed container for up to three days before using.

If you want to store the mixture for longer, dry the zest and pepper in the oven. Mix together just the lemon zest and crashed black pepper. Preheat the oven to the lowest setting — usually about 175 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a metal baking pan lined with parchment paper. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the lemon zest is completely dried. Remove from the oven, cool and mix with the salt. Store in a sealed container for up to three months. Alternatively, dry the peels, and then grind into a seasoning with the pepper.

Try using other zests to create different flavors; lime and orange are both options. If you prefer a less salty mix, adjust the amount you add. When you zest the citrus, add as little pith — the starchy white substance below the peel — as possible. The pith can be bitter and unpleasant.