One of the easiest ways to use up a glut of lemons is to make- preserved lemons! Who’d thunk it!
Preserved lemons are used in a lot of North African and Indian cooking. The have an intense lemony flavour and though the flesh can be used in sauces etc it is really the peel you are after. So how to make them? Well you simply wash your lemons and quarter them. Layer the lemon quarters in a sterile jar with lots of salt (don’t use salt with iodine as it inhibits fermentation), pushing down to release the lemon juice. Fill the jar with lemons and salt, you can also add black peppercorns and bay leaves for extra flavour, making sure they are packed in tightly (without air bubbles like the large one you can see in my photo- eek!). If the lemons are not covered by their own salty juices you can add a little brine (salt water) to ensure they are covered. Screw on a lid and leave at room temperature to ferment. That’s it!
Leave for at least four weeks, the lemons will soften and the flavour will intensify over this time. When you’re ready to use them rinse the lemons, discard the flesh or reserve for a sauce or dressing, trim any white pith from the peel and slice finely. Delicious in so many recipes!
EDIT: If you are having trouble getting your lemons to stay under the juice/brine rustle up one of those little table-like plastic stands that are used to stop take-away pizza from sticking to the pizza box lid. Put the flat surface down on top of your lemons then screw on the lid. The lid will push on the little ‘legs’ and force the lemons under the liquid and keep them there! Simple but effective!
I just came across this wonderful resource called Share Sydney– it’s tips and tricks for getting started in the share economy (aka collaborative consumption). There’s also a Share Sydney event at NG Gallery on the 24th of August 2013.
Of course you can’t deal with a citrus glut without making marmalade. It’s the perfect way to use up citrus fruit whilst also preserving them. I turned to ‘Pam the Jam’, author of the River Cottage Preserves handbook, for a couple of worthy recipes.
I decided to make a standard Orange Marmalade using Naval & Blood Oranges, and a Lemon & Honey Marmalade. I’d never seen a lemon marmalade before and I can imagine using it to top a cake as well as on your standard toast. Honey is expensive so I just used the most basic cheap honey I could find. I only needed one cup for the recipe so it wasn’t too indulgent. I made both marmalades using the whole fruit method, though I cheated a little and sliced the fruit using my food processor and then boiled it using my pressure cooker, so it was a much faster process than the recipe suggested.
I’ve been collecting jars lately and I really love these ball mason jars. They are just so pretty and practical! Can you see the difference in colour between the Orange Marmalade above and the Lemon & Honey Marmalade below?
So another cheeky citrus recipe I pulled out of my hat was limoncello. I use lemons, their juice and their zest, all the time. I probably wouldn’t make something like limoncello if we weren’t drowning in lemons as there are so many other ways to use them up. But I’m glad I did.
Limoncello is delicious and quite versatile. I love to sip on it, or pour it over ice-cream. It can be quite expensive to buy so if you are a fan it’s worth making yourself.
Like cumquat brandy the recipe is quite simple- peel the zest from your lemons, add sugar (I used about a cup for a 1 litre bottle), and top up with alcohol. I used vodka as it was easier to find than grain alcohol (ethanol) and the decision to make limoncello was a spur of the moment thing. If you want to stick with tradition seek out the grain alcohol but don’t expect it to be easy to find! Shake each day for the first week to dissolve the sugar, then once a week after that for two weeks, then store. Strain the zest out before serving.
I look forward to trying the traditional recipe next winter! Have you made limoncello and if so, what alcohol did you use?
Have you ever seen a cumquat? They’re not all that common but they are a beautiful plant to have in the garden. The little golden fruit hang like baubles on a Christmas tree. They’re so pretty I have been known to snip off a small branch and place it in a vase in the house. In China the trees are decorated for Lunar New Year and often given as gifts.
We recently returned home from a weekend at my parent’s house with a basketful of cumquats. What to do? Cumquats are unique amongst citrus in that the peel is sweet and the most palatable part of the fruit, the flesh being much too tart to eat without the peel. I wanted to do something special with the fruit but due to its size I didn’t want to do anything too fiddly. Cumquats are generally eaten whole, the peel counteracting the sour flesh, or just the peel is eaten. I decided to do something where the fruit remained whole- less work for me!
Cumquat brandy was the answer. I had some brandy sitting in the liquor cabinet, leftover from last year’s Christmas cake, and plenty of sugar in the pantry. That’s all you need! You wash and dry the cumquats, prick them a couple of times with a darning needle and place in a sterile jar or bottle. Add sugar (I used a little over 2 cups for a litre bottle), then fill the bottle with brandy.
You need to shake the bottle every day for week, then once a week after that for a fortnight, to dissolve the sugar. Then you can let it sit (out of sunlight) for a couple of months to allow the flavours to develop. You can strain the cumquats from the brandy and serve as a dessert, dipped in dark chocolate would be delish! And of course you are left with an amazing syrupy cumquat brandy!
Have you ever tried cumquat brandy? Or do you have a favourite homemade liqueur?