Two most common questions……why isn’t my lemon tree fruiting? And…..what do I do with ALL these lemons? You’ve either got none or loads……
When harvesting lemons:
- cut them from the tree, leaving a small bit of stem. This helps improve the shelf life of them.
- lemons ripen ON the tree, so only pick those that are already yellow.
What to do with lemon overload?
- lemon rind – grated over tomato or cream based pasta sauces adds a DELICIOUS freshness to the dish.
- lemon juice – go back to your childhood days and makes some fresh lemonade or even some lemon cordial. For an adult only version add some gin or vodka!
- freezing lemon juice – squeeze the juice of lemons and pour into ice cube trays to freeze!
- salad dressing – use the juice in salad dressing, in place of the vinegar as the acid.
- get baking – think lemon tart, lemon cake or lemon pudding.
- get preserving – not as hard as it sounds! Lemon butter and preserved lemons (see below for recipe) are SUPER easy. For something a bit more challenging try a lemon chutney.
- be generous – take a big basket of fresh lemons into your work and offer them around or leave them in the lunch room with a “please take me” sign on them!
- get healthy – into a mug add 2 slices of lemon, a teaspoon of honey and a few slices of ginger – top with boiling water. My favourite soother for a sore throat and blocked nose!
- Irish hot toddy – stud 1 slice of lemon with 2 or 3 cloves, put into the bottom of a heavy bottomed glass or mug, add a teaspoon of brown sugar, 1 shot of Irish whiskey and top with boiling water – stir to dissolve the sugar and muddle the lemon slice a bit. Snuggle up and enjoy this warming drink.
For all sorts of delicious lemon recipes look under “L” in Stephanie Alexanders “The Cooks Companion” or “Kitchen Garden Companion”. Maggie Beer is also a fan of using lemons. Any CWA Cookbook you can find will have lemonade or lemon cordial recipes in them.
Don’t have a lemon tree? Check out this website….. Feral Fruit Tree Melbourne …..really clever way of sharing around the fruit of those trees that overhang onto the street!
How to make preserved lemons
It is really easy to make a few jars of preserved lemons. Save up some jam jars, sterilise* them and use them to contain your delicious homemade preserved lemons! You CAN buy preserved lemons, but I’ve seen them for nearly $10 a jar – home made will cost you less than $1 per jar. Preserved lemons are commonly used in Moroccan and Middle-Eastern dishes.
rock salt or course kitchen salt
lots of lemons
some washed and sterilised* jars with lids
your choice of spices try these combinations:
- whole cloves, cinnamon sticks & bay leaf
- whole coriander seeds & cinnamon sticks
- cardamon pods & cinnamon sticks
- bay leaves & peppercorns
HINT: Wear disposable gloves, the combination of salt and lemon can sting your skin!
1. Wash your lemons well in water – scrub gentle with brush to remove dirt if needed.
2. Cut lemons into quarters and put quarters into a large NON metallic bowl.
3. Into the bottom of each jar you are using place 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of salt (depending on the size of your jar!).
4. Add approx 2 tablespoons of salt for every WHOLE lemons used to the bowl.
5. Massage the salt into the lemon quarters.
6. Pack the lemon quarters into your jars, with the skin facing the outside the jars. Push down hard on the lemons to pack them in. Add your spice selection in between the lemon pieces as you go.
7. Add a bit more salt (from the bottom of the bowl of lemon/salt mix) to the top of the lemons in the jar.
8. And fill up the jar with lemon juice to completely cover the lemons. Dip a clean tea towel in boiling water and wipe around the rim of the jars before putting on the lid.
Leave your jars of preserved lemons for at least 5 weeks in a cool spot (NOT the fridge) BEFORE using them. When using preserved lemons it is only the skin you need, so wash away the flesh of the lemon under a running tape and cut of the white pith. Lastly finely dice the skin and use in cooking.
Once opened, store your open jars of preserved lemons in the fridge and use as you need.
* to sterilise jars, wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry. Put the jars into an oven pre-heated to 120 degrees Celsius and leave for 20 minutes.