Saturday, September 8, 2012

Spring Means Lemonade

Oddly, this year winter slammed on the brakes precisely at the right time, and on the dot of September first, it was noticeably spring. Much warmer. Sunnier. Breezier. Altogether nicer.

Right now, the kids are out playing some bastardised form of cricket in what passes for a back yard. They've been at it off and on all day, and much of yesterday. In fact, in the last two days they've spent more time outdoors than they have cumulatively in the three months preceding, I suspect.

Meanwhile, the lemon trees are loaded, and ripening frantically. It's good. Last year, some irritating beastie ate the rinds off all the ripe lemons while they were still on the trees, and I got very few lemons at all. I like lemons. If I'd found the beastie in question, I would probably have breached certain rules of wildlife protection...

This year, though, we have lemons. Oh, how we have lemons. I sent the Mau-Mau out to pick thirty ripe ones. She did so. I couldn't see any difference to the trees. Some of the lemons she'd picked had big, thick rinds, which I didn't want, so I sent her out to pick another twenty. I still can't see any difference to the trees.

I have done two things with all that lemony goodness. One is a large jar of preserved lemons. Not quite the "Moroccan Lemon" thing, but just as versatile and tasty. What I do is this: I get a bag of rock salt, a bag of hot red chilis, and a shitload of  lemons.

The lemons get individually halved and juiced. The skins and attached pulp are reserved. When I've got enough, I get a large jar. I start with a layer of rock salt. Then I put in a layer of lemon rinds. A sprinkling of rock salt. A layer of chilis. A sprinkling of rock salt. A layer of lemon rinds... and so forth. Crush the contents down. You want to shove as much as you can in there.

Once the jar is almost full, I pour boiling water over the contents until they are covered, then seal the jar and put it aside. A month or so later, the rinds and the chilis are both salt-pickled, and full of amazing flavour. Lemon rinds and chilis preserved in this fashion will last ages, and they are absolutely brilliant with seafood or chicken dishes, or chopped up and tossed through cous-cous, etc. Yum.

But what about that lemon juice, eh? Well, that becomes Flinthart's Very Special Excellent Lemonade. It works like this:

  • Take your bowl of lemon juice and pulp. Strain it and squeeze it to get the juice out. For this lemonade, you don't want floaty bits. Might seem contrary to expectations, but... trust me.
  • Once you've got all the juice you can extract, add caster sugar to taste. Make it sweeter than you really think is right, though, because you're going to use this like a kind of cordial/flavouring. Once you've sweetened it, stir in maybe a half-teaspoon of pure lemon oil (if you've got it) or good quality lemon essence (not nearly so nice as the lemon oil.)
  • Now: for each glass of lemonade, you'll need about four tablespoons of this strong, sweet, lemony wonderfulness. Add a few ice cubes, and then gently add plain soda water. Give it a quick stir, throw in a sprig of mint to make it look really groovy, and drink.

Seriously: the best lemonade that money cannot buy, right there.

And just between us grownups: adding a splash of good gin turns it into outright black magic.