My lemon tree, slap bang in the middle of the vegetable garden, is a beautiful sight right now. It’s heavy with fruit and full of buds, too. This lifestyle we’ve chosen means that I actually have to do something with the lemons, though, and not just admire their prettiness and hand out bags to my friends.
Ordinary tap water doesn’t always taste good, so I’ve taken to squeezing the juice of a lemon into a water bottle in the mornings. In fact, I use lemons for all kinds of things. For example:
- Fresh lemon makes a brilliant cleaner. The low pH of lemon juice gives it antibacterial properties. And it really cuts through grease and dirt. I rub lemon over stainless steel, leave it for a while, wipe it off, and then buff the steel. With salt, it’s also good for cleaning copper and brass – same story: rub it on (the salt is abrasive), let it sit, and then wipe it off and buff.
- Lemons work like a charm to ease sore throats. Heat up the juice of a lemon with a hefty squeeze of honey. Sip it slowly. The high levels of vitamin C help, too.
But even with all of that, I am still faced with a glut, so I start scratching around for ideas. I get pointed to making lemon curd, but the recipes call for four lemons and five eggs. That’s not going to make the tiniest dent on the mound. I will attempt lemon meringue (still my favourite dessert, although my last effort produced a pathetic meringue) sometime.
I want something that will last for a while so that our bounty stretches into the non-bearing months. Lemons do last well, though. The best place to store them is on the tree, and a lot of people seem to use only fallen fruit for as long as possible, which makes sense. They’ll be fine in the vegetable drawer in your fridge for a few weeks.
It’s quantity I’m after right now, so I decide to pickle them. This is what I do:
- Wash and scrub about 20 lemons and cut them into wedges.
- Mix about half a cup of coarse salt, two large tablespoons of sugar, around a teaspoon each of various spices (I use cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, ground ginger, cinnamon and chilli powder), and lots of black pepper.
- Layer the lemon and spicy salt mixture in sterilised jars.
- Top each jar with two pretty red chillis.
- Squeeze enough juice from even more lemons to cover the entire lot (that’s a lot of juice and a lot of lemons … phew).
Now it needs to be left to ferment for three to six weeks. I’ll let you know if the result is worthwhile.
Next, when more fruit falls, I am going to squeeze as much juice as possible (or more accurately, get my family to squeeze it), freeze it in ice trays, and then store the cubes in containers in the freezer. That should keep us going until the next lemon season. Sweet.