Lemons, lemons... I love them, all my friends and neighbours love them, and yet there are more. Time to make lemon cordial, and lemon peel, in time for Christmas baking.
I bought some bottles, picked a lot of lemons, and used this recipe, which is no different to every other lemon cordial recipe, but happens to come from a lovely local blog.
One and a half litres of lemon juice is a LOT of lemons. More than this. There had already been one trip to the compost... very wearing on the wrists. But once you have juice it is a very quick and easy process, and the cordial is divine, and so is the wonderful lemony aroma in the kitchen while it is warming. I am so excited to have another use for lemons, another preserving skill, another yummy product made entirely in my kitchen from my garden (well, if I had a sugar tree...). Posy demanded homemade lemonade for her birthday party (lemon cordial, water, soda water, floating lemon slices, ice cubes), and now we have something nice for children to drink when they come over, so I don't have to offer fruit juice (yes, those children, who don't believe that water is a beverage..).
All those lemon halves left over? Well, inspired again by Tanya's blog, I cut some up and used Stephanie Alexander's recipe from The Cook's Companion (best cook book in the world for kitchen gardeners, arranged by ingredient. She has never failed me) to make lemon peel. First you slowly bring the peel to a boil several times, in fresh water each time, to take away the bitterness, then bring to the boil in a sugar syrup until the peel is translucent (takes ages), then drain and dry it. I dried mine in the dehydrator because I didn't want them cluttering up the kitchen for days. Then roll them in caster sugar, and store in a jar to
The more I learn how to cook from the garden, the more exciting cooking becomes. I would never have dreamed of poaching apples in lemon syrup, or that you don't need expensive Canadian maple syrup on pancakes, except that I had a by-product to use up. This, I imagine, is how local cuisines develop. From the gardens of cooks who can't bear to waste anything they have put so much time and effort into.
Well, after Lemonade Experiment No 1, a chance word with Rosy's teacher revealed that the Grade Six class were going to be responsible for the Lemonade Stand at the school fair.
'If only I knew someone who knows how to make lemonade.' sighed her teacher. Well....
A week later I was making lemon cordial with twenty-four twelve year olds in their classroom. You have never seen such enthusiasm, such a lot of lemon juice, such a lot of sticky..
The children had brought along bags and bags of lemons from backyard trees, plus lemon squeezers. One of the other mums provided twenty screw-cap wine bottles (she will remain nameless..). One teacher, three mums, the gas cook top from the classroom next door. Five children cut lemons, fifteen squeezed and strained, right at their desks, and four helped to measure and stir and cook the lemonade on the bench next to the sink. We ended up quadrupling the recipe, using six litres of lemon juice, and making sixteen litres of lemon cordial concentrate, which later made up about eighty litres of lemonade with water and soda water. They sold out at the fair.
This was such a fun, if exhausting experience. It shows how simple it is, really, to bring sensible, practical knowledge into the classroom. I was astounded that this all happened in a regular classroom with only a sink and a portable gas cooktop as equipment. And how quickly knowledge can be passed along. One week I read a recipe on the internet, the next day I had a new skill, the week after that twenty four children and four other adults also had a new skill, and something good to do with all those lemons!
My mission is to rescue all this unloved fruit, and find ways to use it. How wonderful if I could manage not to buy fruit, but visit the backyards of all my friends through the year, and turn their garden trash into my pantry treasure. Or even just share recipes. At least one of the other parent-help mums from our lemonade day went off with the recipe to go and make lemon cordial from her own lemon tree. More lemons saved from the compost.