Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lemon Season

The lemon trees are loaded. Normally at this time of year, Mili requests the glass tomato sauce bottles that I have diligently hoarded throughout the year, and sends them back a few days later full of tart-sweet fragrant yellow lemonade-spiked-with-bergamot. I’m sure that will happen over the next few days, and I’m equally certain that no matter how I try to squirrel a few bottles away for the long summer days to come, we will manage to finish the lot before April is out.

The Grand Folks have two big lemon trees and one bergamot tree in the large orchard beside their house. The orange and mandarin trees have already given us their bounty: lemons are the season’s last citrus. Next will be the mespila, or loquat – a taste for which fresh I have never been able to acquire, but I have just discovered some recipes for jam, so perhaps I can turn the boxes of fruit that we always end up with into something other than compost.

But back to lemons.

“Marmalade, Manamou,” said best Beloved at breakfast. “Go and get lemons from the trees and make a big batch of lemon marmalade…” and “Lemon curd, too!” requested Alex.

“Lemon curd?” I said. “Last time I made lemon curd no-one ate it!” But my son and my husband insisted that I was wrong, and that lemon curd is one of their favourite spreads for toast.

News to me.

But I love it in tarts and as a filling for cakes, and it’s dead simple, so I picked the lemons and got started. On a low heat, I melted 50grams of butter in a heavy saucepan. Then added 110 grams of caster sugar and the zest and juice of two big yellow lemons, two whole eggs, and one yolk, well beaten. I stirred the mixture constantly until it thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, then took it off the heat. It’s cooling now, in a bowl. If Best Beloved and Alex are right, it will be scoffed before it needs to be stored. But if, as I suspect, they’re merely caught in lemon madness, then I need to put it in a sterilised jar where it can stay happily in the fridge for a week or two.

I noticed the other day that the elderflower tree on our hill is in bloom, so if next time I want to add a new twist to the lemon curd, Darina Allen at The Ballymaloe Cookery School, suggests that at the beginning of the process I add the flowers from eight fresh

elderflower heads, and serve the finished product with crème fraiche, meringues, and strawberries. Hold me back!

Since curd only uses a couple of lemons at I time and I have about forty, I’ve preserved some in salt for Moroccan dishes to come. Tomorrow I must buy some vodka and repeat past years’ success with limoncello, research and experiment with cheesecake recipes, and start thin slicing for marmalade.

But for now, time for elevenses. Excuse me while I make some toast.

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