Lemon Tree, Very Pretty…

…and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon, is impossible to eat.

Here’s just about anything and everything you might ever wanted to know about that tart, little yellow fruit…

Look for a lemon that feels heavy in the hand and which, gently squeezed, gives nicely and doesn’t seem to have a thick, hard rind (less juice inside).

Lemons turn from green to yellow because of temperature changes, not ripeness, so green patches are OK, but avoid those with brown spots, which indicate rot.

One lemon contains a full day’s supply of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, but that’s the whole fruit; the juice holds about a third.

Lemon juice is also about 5 percent citric acid, making it a natural for slowing the browning or oxidation of fresh, raw foods: apples, avocados, bananas, and other fruits. That power, and the C, makes the lemon a real health fruit.

Limoncello is a southern Italian lemon liqueur traditionally served cold as a digestif. It’s ridiculously easy to make (something I still want to do myself!) ~  Combine ½ cup lemon rind strips with 4 cups vodka, cover, and let stand for two weeks; strain and combine with simple syrup made from 3 cups water and 1½ cups sugar. The higher the proof of the vodka, the more lemon flavor your finished product will have.

Dip a halved lemon in salt for a bit of gentle abrasive power, then scour brass, copper, or stainless-steel pots, pans, and sinks. Rub a cut lemon (sans salt) on aluminum to brighten it. Used lemons tossed in the disposal will deodorize it.

Before juicing, roll a room-temperature lemon under your palm to break down the cells inside the fruit that hold liquid. If a fruit is especially hard (and sometimes it’s hard to find a good one in an entire supermarket bin), microwave the fruit for 20 seconds. You should get 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice per fruit.

Those cute little plastic lemons do contain lemon juice, but after the juice is reconstituted and mixed with preservatives the taste is notably off, not fresh, a bit harsh and thin. It lasts for months but doesn’t really add that divine fresh-lemon essence.

Is lemongrass related to lemon?
No, although some of this tough Southeast Asian herb’s exotic citrus character comes from citral, an essential oil also found in lemon rind. Very thin strips can be sliced in salads and added to Thai curries and stir-fries; a whole bulb, bruised, adds perfume to soups or stews. It also freezes well.

Peel is versatile, but wash fruit and consider organic. Read through the following for various ways with lemon peel.

Zester: Round holes yield long, thin strips of lemon rind, perfect for ­garnishing soups or desserts such as cheesecake or ice cream

Microplane: Razor-sharp tiny blades yield finely grated bits that distribute lemon flavor throughout; good for baking or salad dressings.

Chanel Knife: U-shaped blade yields long, curling strips, used as the twist in cocktails. Squeezing releases lemon oils into the drink.

Vegetable Peeler: Long blade yields wide strips of rind that are perfect for candying or making limoncello.

So there you go…all you need to know about the humble lemon.

And when life hands you lemons when it’s cold outside, don’t make lemonade, make Lemon Drizzle Cake!

~~LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE~~

Easy to make * Cuts into 10 slices * Prep 15 min * Cook 45 min * Can be frozen

225g/8oz unsalted butter, softened

225g/8oz caster/superfine sugar

4 eggs

225g/8oz self-raising flour

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

FOR THE DRIZZLE TOPPING

juice of 1½ lemons

85g/3oz caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180C/350F.  Line a loaf tin 8cm X 21cm (3″ X 8.25″) with greaseproof paper and set aside.

Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time, slowly mixing through.

Sift in the flour, then add the lemon zest and mix until well combined.  Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and level the top with a spoon.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until a thin skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  While the cake is cooling in its tin, mix together the lemon juice and sugar to make the drizzle.

Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then pour over the drizzle.  The juice will sink in and the sugar will form a lovely, crisp topping.

Leave in the tin until completely cool then remove and serve.

Will keep in an airtight container for 4-5 days or freeze up to a month.

(Recipe compliments of BBC Good Food Magazine)

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