Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lemons are Lovely and so are Nasturtiums

Lemons Are Lovely (and so are nasturtiums)

Last year we got two lemons off the little Meyer lemon tree that grows in a half wine barrel just outside the back door, and those were attacked by some little creature that makes a hole in the skin and burrows in. Yuck.  This year we had 16 to 18, all nice and healthy though they varied in size from average supermarket lemon size to "that would be a big orange if it was an orange" size. I sprayed them periodically with insecticidal soap and it kept the beasties at bay. So, recently (especially now that this years blossoms are starting to pop out), I've been reminded that it's time to stop admiring them and start using them. Yesterday I made a batch of lemon curd, from the recipe in Clearly Delicious by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz. Here are the assembled ingredients:
Very simple, yes? The recipe called for 6 - 8 lemons but with these big guys 5 were enough. The recipe itself is also simple, but I guess I don't quite have a fix on what "coating the back of the spoon" looks like, so mine may have cooked a bit too long, as it set up stiffer than I expected (don't worry - it will get eaten). Anyway, here's the recipe:

Lemon Curd - makes about 3 cups
6-8 lemons
2 1/2 cups superfine sugar
5 eggs
2 sticks butter (1 cup)

Grate the zest of the lemons, using the finest side of the box grater. [If you're using Meyer lemons, be careful because the skin is quite thin and tender.] Squeeze the juice and strain it into a large measuring cup. You will need 1 1/4 cups lemon juice.

Cut the butter into small pieces and put into a glass bowl [I used the stainless steel bowl that makes a double boiler], along with the zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Set over a pan of gently simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water, nor should the water boil rapidly. Stir the mixture until the butter has melted and the sugar has completely dissolved.

Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl but do not whisk them. [That didn't make any sense to me so I did whisk them till the whites and yolks were well-blended.] Strain the eggs into the lemon mixture. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly. This will take 20-25 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle.

As soon as the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, remove the bowl from the pan of water. Pour into warmed sterilized jars. Place a waxed paper round, wax-side down, on top. Smooth over to remove any air pockets. Leave to cool. Cover, label, and store in the refrigerator for up to one month [if it lasts that long].

And on to the nasturtiums. I mentioned in my last post that I'd planted seeds I got at the Heirloom Seed Bank in Petaluma, California last month. But we've also got volunteers that reseeded themselves from last year, that are much farther along (as in 5 to 10-foot long vines trailing around the raised beds where they are beautiful but not especially convenient - I wouldn't have put them there, but they seem to have made their own decision). Here are a few in the pitcher from a tiny porcelain tea set that belonged to my grandmother.
 And here are some more, embellishing the salad I had for lunch yesterday. Looks like spring, doesn't it?


  1. Your blog is so pretty and I enjoy your writing. I have a very small lemon tree that I'm hoping will produce as beautiful lemons as you have here! And if it does, making this lemon curd is definitely something I'll do!

  2. Thank you so much, Linda! I wish you luck with your lemon tree (but if it doesn't produce enough, I've made very nice lemon curd from supermarket lemons too). My tree has lots of blossoms right now, so I'm hoping for another good crop, but I've learned from my own limited experience and that of friends with other citrus trees that sometimes they produce well and sometimes not, and sometimes you just don't know why. I've read you should fertilize them on Valentine's Day - I forgot, but will do that this weekend.