Monday, 28 June 2010

Lemon drink ~ warming in winter, cooling in summer

The bright yellow in the bottles is zest.
Attempting to trim the weekly grocery bill yet again I decided to experiment with making lemon cordial.  What I arrived at was one more example of a super-easy recipe which is not only thrifty to make but also DELICIOUS!  Add hot water and it's warming, soothing and delectable; add cold water and it's cooling and refreshing.  If you have your own lemon tree, so much the better.
     The flavour of the cordial varies with the ripeness of the lemons used: riper, softer lemons will make a milder cordial.  
     Other versions of this recipe contain considerably more sugar.  I found the amount given here ample.

Ingredients:
  • Sugar - 1 kilo
  • Water - 8 cups - about 1 and a 1/2 litres
  • Lemons - both the zest and the juice of sufficient lemons to yield about a cup of juice.  If they're smallish you may need up to six.  If they're large juicy ones, you'll need considerably fewer.
  • Citric acid - 25 grams - about 2 tablespoons
  • Tartaric acid - 25 grams - about 2 tablespoons
  • Epsom salts (optional) - 1 tablespoon (or 25 grams, which is more)
Method:
Bring water to boil, add the sugar, and grated rind/zest.
Remove from heat, add the juice and other ingredients promptly stirring well until all has dissolved.
Pour into hot jars or bottles and seal.
It should keep for some months.

Wanting to know more about some of the ingredients I scoured the Internet for further information.  I found the following links in Wikipedia:  (Where would we be without it?!)
  • Citric acid occurs naturally in lemons and limes.  It is used here to increase the  lemon flavour and also acts as a preservative.  
  • Tartaric acid is another naturally occurring acid used as an antioxidant, and contributes additional tartness.  It's the main acid in grapes and also occurs in bananas. 
  • Epsom salts: this is a form of magnesium sulphate and I presume its purpose in this context is to add extra tang.  The article linked to here says that "Epsom salt[s], [were so] named for a bitter saline spring from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where the salt was produced from the springs." (The preceding explanation was added on the 19th Nov 2012.)  Alison Holst, a New Zealand cook of considerable renown, includes it in her recipes.   In case you're wondering where to source it, my supermarket shelves it with the medical supplies.  It's commonly used in baths as a muscle relaxant.  It contains magnesium, which we need in small amounts, but shouldn't have too much of.   
Readers who would like to experiment further might enjoy these recipes from Lois Daish which appeared in the NZ Listener.  She also includes one for Lemon and Barley cordial.  Lois expresses puzzlement with the Epsom Salts which is regularly listed as an ingredient, so it is widely used. 

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A reluctant housekeeper ~ and a more reluctant cook

I've spent time today thinking about what continues to motivate me to write these articles which have turned out to be so much about food and housekeeping.  The truth is that not only am I a reluctant housekeeper but I am an even more reluctant cook, so this apparent preoccupation has surprised even me!  Furthermore I must confess that I actually put these chores off until I know I can't get away with it any longer.  So since motivation doesn't come from enthusiasm in this quarter where does it come from?  The reason is that each time I achieve something domestic I find I'm pleased as well as mildly surprised, and since these tasks can seem burdensome I'm keen to share my discoveries with others.  

But there are other reasons: I love the natural world intensely and continue to be appalled by widespread disregard of the miracle that is our environment.  I abhor wastefulness, and the modern culture of buying everything ready made which is not only expensive but also extremely wasteful: 
  • Everything comes in packaging, much of which is not able to be recycled but goes into landfills. 
  • Much of it isn't produced locally, so doesn't benefit local communities, only big rich food retailing chains.  
  • These foreign products require fossil fuel to be transported from place to place, when they could be produced or grown locally, benefiting us, our friends and our families directly.
  • Ingredients may be obscure or unidentifiable to ordinary purchasers and we have no idea whether they have been ethically produced or purchased by our retailer. 
Making our own food and products is often much more wholesome: it increases our knowledge and control of what we are paying for and consuming, often its cheaper, and amazingly, often actually nicer or yummier!  And it's not difficult to do a lot of these things, in fact it's easy, and very satisfying.  There - that's why!

Remember those yummy Belgium biscuits?  And yes, that's my own plum jam on them!  Anyone for afternoon tea?