When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

…and lemon curd, and lemon meringue pie. You get the point. Well it just so happens that life did give me some lemons, well actually, it was a nice lady behind a market stall. She handed me a bag of sweet, fragrant, citrousy lemons grown in San Remo organically on farms that used to grow flowers in great big green houses. For free. That’s life talking right there. Saying, “Go make me lemonade, puny human!” Any way, just looking back at San Remo from the coast you can see the hundreds of enormous hot houses marching up the hillsides and though many have been abandoned with a down turn in the cut flower market, some have been rescued and there are lemon trees all over the place here, dripping with bright drops of acid yellow in the spring sunshine.

Lovely Lemons

Lovely Lemons

Lemonade

4-6 lemons, sugar, water

My OH makes the most delicious lemonade. He made it for us on the boat one day just after Christmas as a pick me up for the immune system because it is packed with Vitamin C. I made some with my life lemons and although they were incredibly sweet they were not very juicy so I used a few more to get a decent quantity of juice; 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water is the basic ratio for the ingredients. This recipe is very much about flavour and tasting as you go along, or so the OH said when I asked for the actual recipe…

Juice all your lemons and grate the zest off a couple to give an added zing. The secret to perfect lemonade is to start by making sugar syrup. Boil the water in a pan and then add the sugar, stirring until dissolved and then reducing until syrupy. Dissolving the sugar in hot water effectively disperses the sugar in the lemonade, instead of having the sugar sink to the bottom. Add the sugar syrup to the lemon juice. How much sugar you need very much depends on how sweet or sour your lemons are so just taste it as you go and add more if needed. Remember, you can always add more but you can’t take it away so add it slowly; I usually start with half a cup of sugar and then add more if it needs it but I like my lemonade sharp and sour. Pour in two cups of ice cold water and stir, then pop it in the fridge to chill. Serve with loads of ice, and a splash of vodka, or gin, or both. Probably not both…I’m not sure how Life likes its cocktails?

Lemon Curd

3 large egg yolks, lemon zest and juice, 6 tablespoons of caster sugar, 4 tablespoons butter

Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan, whisking to combine. Set the pan over a medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir the sides and the bottom of pan thoroughly. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of the wooden spoon, maybe five to seven minutes. Remove the saucepan from heat then add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until the consistency is smooth and the mixture is glossy. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let it cool for an hour before using in any other recipes or if its for your toast in the morning, pop it into a sterilised jar and put it in the fridge. Keeps for a week or so, if it lasts that long, my Dad eats the stuff with a spoon…

This recipe can be adapted to make Lime Curd as well, just substitute the two citrus fruits. I actually prefer lime curd but it is damned impossible to find limes in the market at the moment.

Lemon curd is a great way to add lemony flavours to lots of other sweet recipes. My favourites are lemon meringue pie, lemony Swiss roll (my Nanny J’s recipe), lemon and sugar pancakes, and little lemon cup cakes.

As for savoury recipes, there’s tons of those too. I use lemon in the Pasta Zucchini I’ve mentioned before, Pasta al limone e basilico (lemon and basil pasta), chicken in lemon, thyme and honey, salmon and prosciutto tossed in lemon-creamed tagliatelle and many more

Limoncello

Organic lemons, vodka, water, sugar

A quintessentially Italian liqueur, served as a digestivo. I love it after an espresso at the end of a meal, though it has been known for us to drink both bars in Portosole out of the stuff on nights out with the boat crews. Ahem. Its served ice cold, straight from the freezer into a carafe stored in an ice bucket. Loads of people make their own here, a little like people in the UK make sloe gin, and so I have had a hunt for some recipes and this one seems to be the most common.

Wash the lemons well with soapy water, rinse and then dry. I’ve recommended using organic purely so that there are less nasty residues on the skin because it is the peel that will be used. Remove the yellow peel with a sharp peeler. Try and avoid the pith because it is very bitter, if there is any on your peelings scrape it off with a spoon or sharp knife. Put the peelings in a kilner jar with half a bottle of vodka, seal tightly and leave in a cool dark place until the peels lose their colour, about 2 weeks (I know, I’m sorry, you’ll just have to wait!).

Two weeks later

Combine one cup of water with two cups of sugar in a saucepan and heat over a medium flame until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat, add a cup of cold water and leave it until the sugar syrup is cool. Strain the vodka from the peels using a sieve and a piece of muslin. Put the other half of the vodka in to the liqueur with the sugar syrup, mix well and then decant into bottles. Seal tightly and label the bottle, include the date, recipe and what kind of lemon you used so that if you vary he recipe you can do a taste test. Leave for a least a week before drinking, serve it neat straight from the freezer or combine it into cocktails. It is delicious with Prosecco, or in gin cocktails.

This recipe can again be altered for other citrus fruits. Blood oranges, clementines, mandarins, go wild and let me know what your favourites are! These liqueurs make excellent gifts for birthdays or the festive season, or mix it up and take a bottle round instead of the boring bottle of wine that’s become a perfunctory guest gift. I can guarantee a night that ends with limoncello will be one you’ll want to have remembered.

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