Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Lots of Lemons

Sadly, a couple of years ago we had to remove the old and prolific Meyer lemon trees that we had in pots. The replacement tree is not established enough to be bountiful, although it is starting to produce. This autumn we intend to put dwarf lemon trees in the pots on our patio. Luckily, those who have large and established lemon trees nearly always have more lemons than they need and are happy to give them away. Whenever I have lots of lemons on hand I put a few in the fruit bowl and preserve the rest. Preserved lemons, lemon butter, candied peel and cordial are things that I make whenever I can. I also juice the lemons and finely grate the rind and freeze it in containers of varying sizes from one lemon to four lemons or one cup of juice to use for desserts and cakes.

Home made lemon cordial makes a refreshing drink in the hot weather. I make a lemon syrup and then add mineral or soda water, lemon and lime slices, fresh mint leaves and some ice cubes. The dilution ratio is approximately 1 part syrup to 4 parts mineral water, however, use more or less syrup according to your tastes. Keep the syrup in the fridge. Use within  three weeks. I prefer to make smaller batches as it does not keep for a longtime.

Lemon Syrup/Cordial
1 cup of lemon juice and finely grated rind of the lemons (approx 4 large lemons )
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon citric acid

Put juice, rind, sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
Remove from heat, add the citric acid and stir again.
Pour into a sterilised bottle. Makes about 2 small soft drink bottles.

Widely used in Middle Eastern cooking, preserved lemons,can also be used to give many dishes a bit of a lift. Commercial mayonnaise with finely chopped preserved lemon stirred through is delicious with a chicken schnitzel. Preserved lemons are simple to make, however, they need to mature for at least a month before they can be used. The rind is the part that is used, discard the flesh and rinse the rind before using. I usually make 4 -6 jars at a time as they keep for at least a year. I make smaller jars as I like to refrigerate them once a jar is opened. The base technique is to create a salt and lemon juice mixture that preserves the lemons, the spices are optional but add some additional flavour.

Preserved Lemons
20 or more lemons - I used the smaller ones
500 g coarse sea salt
1 cup lemon juice
fresh bay leaves
cinnamon sticks

Wash lemons carefully and dry with a clean tea towel or paper towel.

Put about 2/3 of the salt in a large glass or plastic bowl. Cut lemons into quarters. Give each quarter a gentle squeeze as you put in the bowl with the salt. You want the juice in the bowl with the lemon quarters. Toss it around, gently pressing on the lemons to get more juice from them.

Place a thin layer of salt in the bottom of the sterilised jars.

Pack lemons around the sides of the jars, skin side out and tuck in a few cloves a bayleaf and come cinnamon stick.

Pour any remaining salt mixture over lemons and top up jar with the extra lemon juice. Make sure the lemons are covered. Seal. Place in pantry or cupboard. Leave lemons for at least a month before opening and using. Over time the salt dissolves into the lemon juice. Makes small 4 jars or 1 big jar.

Lemon butter is delicious on toast, as a filling in sponge cakes and mixed in equal amounts with whipped cream as a topping for pavlova.

Lemon Butter
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice, plus the finely grated rind of the lemons (approx 4 large lemons)
125 grams butter, melted
Optional - adds an extra zing
1/2 teaspoon citric acid

Beat eggs and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.

Add melted butter, lemon juice and rind. Stand bowl in a pan of hot water or use a double saucepan.

Cook stirring constantly until mixture thickens and the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Add citric acid if using.

Remove from heat. Allow to cool for approximately 10 minutes, stir to prevent a skin forming.

Pour or spoon mixture into sterilised jars. I use a jam funnel. When cold cover with a Kleerview cover and seal jar with lid.

Label and date. Store in the fridge. Lemon butter keeps for about one month. Makes 3 small jars.

I use candied peel as a decoration on cakes and biscuits or serve it with coffee and chocolates. Sometimes I finely chop the candied peel to make a sort of lemon praline. Stir it into whipped cream and use as spongecake filling or with lemon cake. I have a freshly squeezes orange and grapefruit juice every day so when I want to make the peel I save the rind in an airtight container in the fridge.  As a guide I use the equivalent of 6 -8 oranges.

I do not always cook it for so long in the sugar syrup and the peel is more like glace peel, however, I have found that this does always keep as well.

The lemon cream is also very good with fruit salad.

 Candied Peel

The rinds of lemons cut into quarters (orange and grapefruit are also good)
1 cup sugar ( 2 cups if making lots)

Remove any flesh from the peel.  Leave in larger pieces or cut into strips. I usually cut lemons into 3 strips, orange into 4

Put rind in a saucepan with water. Bring to boil, drain. Repeat this process with fresh water 3 more times. It helps remove the bitterness from the pith. Once the rind has been blanched put peel in saucepan with fresh water and simmer until the peel becomes soft.  Drain.

Return peel to saucepan, add 1 cup sugar. Place on low heat and allow sugar to dissolve. Cook peel for about 30 minutes. You need to watch this to make sure it doesn't burn. Peel should be translucent and 'shiny'.

Remove peel from the pan, place each slice onto a piece of Gladbake and allow to dry.

The peel will crystallise as it cools and drys. When totally dry store in an airtight jar.

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