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When life gives you lemons

This year there is an abundance of citrus and trees are dripping with fruit including the small one in the pot on our back decking. Friends who live further out from the city have been slapped with fruit fly orders and so are madly cooking and preserving, frustrated that they can’t give away their supply so the talk of what to do with lemons and grapefruit is everywhere.

I have baked roast chicken with two lemons in the cavity a la Marcella Hazan, failed dismally at an attempt to make lemon curd and Raffaele even went outside his cultural comfort zone baking lemon delicious pudding. But still the lemons kept coming.

At the same time, home grown grapefruit screamed out “make me into marmalade!” and I obeyed using my mother’s tried and true recipe which is perfect for preserving the bitter sweet taste to enjoy all year.

I researched lemon chutney but couldn’t see myself using it a lot and the same went for preserved lemons. And that’s when I stumbled across a very old recipe for lemon paste, similar in its process to quince paste. According to wiki it dates back to the 1600s.

A miscalculation in sugar, a nod to the saltiness of preserved lemons and the poor performance of my food processor led to my own version which turned out beautifully and I ate it with fried halloumi. mmmmmmmm! It would go well with mature cheese or goat cheese and I think it would be good in salads, with fruit like mango or strawberries or wherever a little punch of intense and not too sour lemon flavour could improve the dish……. A slice in a dry martini or gin and tonic??

Here are the recipes for my mum’s grapefruit marmalade and my lemon paste.

Ruth’s Grapefruit Marmalade

(it makes a lot so collect up your jars)

4 pounds if grapefruit (2kg)

8 pints of water (4.5 litres)

12 pounds of white sugar (5.5kg)

1-2 lemons

Using a mandolin, food processer or patience and a sharp knife, finely slice the grapefruit and the lemon and put into a large pan with the water. Let it stand overnight. Boil for 1 hour.

Add the sugar

Boil for 45 minutes or longer until it sets on a cool plate. Don’t stir too much or it will crystallise but make sure it doesn’t stick and burn. Pour into sterilised jars right to the top and screw lids on tight making a vacuum with the hot marmalade. (jars can be sterilised in the oven)

Leave to cool.

Lemon Paste

Take 6 lemons. (I used 5 Myer lemons and 1 Lisbon lemon)

Cut them in halves and cover with salted water in a saucepan and boil until the lemons are tender. Drain the lemons and leave to dry and cool.

Put the lemons in a food processer. I put in everything including the seeds so I could maximise the pectin.

Puree to a rough or a smooth consistency depending what you want.

Put the puree back into the pan. Add 200-400g of white sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour into a small baking tin and bake in the oven for at least 2 hours on a very low heat. (Around 130-150 degrees) It should be a solid soft slab. Put in an airtight container in the fridge.

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