Last year, my lemon tree yielded one smallish precious lemon and I asked our readers for suggestions on what to do with it. Unfortunately, I had one of those incompetent moments (come on, we all have them once in a while) and I accidentally deleted nearly all the comments from that post. So yesterday, when I decided that I really needed to find a use for the two new lemons the tree has produced (yay!) I was stuck scratching my head and trying to remember the suggestions.
Alcohol was one. Candied lemon peel was another. I'm trying to cut down on the alcohol lately as it seems to be going straight to my middle and jiggling there in a taunting way. So I checked epicurious.com and found a) a recipe for candied lemon peel and b) a use for candied lemon peel. Perfect! I really wanted to use the peel from these lemons as they are of course unwaxed and completely organic.
Here you see my darling lemons.
I can't believe how lucky I am to have such a productive tree. At there moment there are another eight lemons growing and all I have done to nurture the tree is stick it in the lightest spot of the apartment and water frequently.
The epicurious recipe called for peeling the lemons carefully so as not to include any of the white pith. I don't know what kind of miracle vegetable peeler they have over there in the epicurious labs but I don't have one in my kitchen. It was next to impossible to avoid having some of the pith on the peel. Okay, it was impossible for a person of my patience, with my tools. I managed with a couple tiny pieces to almost exclude the pith. For the most part, though, I had long strips with pith on the back. In the photo, I included the naked lemon after shedding its peel. Of course, I didn't leave it in the pot: this was just a more visually interesting shot. (Always keeping you, the loyal readers in mind!)
The epicurious recipe called for boiling the peel of one lemon in two cups of water. I used the peels of two lemons and used enough water to cover them (which was about two cups). I don't see the point in measuring the water at this point as all you are doing is covering the peels with water, bringing it to a boil and then straining the peels and starting over with a fresh lot of water. You do this bring-to-a-boil-and-dump-the-water three times.
Next, the epicurious recipe called for dissolving two cups of sugar in two cups of water. Opening my cupboard, I discovered with dismay that the sugar container in fact contained a scant 1 1/4 cups sugar. So I dissolved one cup of sugar in two cups of water and added the peels.
I brought it to a full boil, then turned down the heat and left it at a merry bubble. At this point, the epicurious recipe called for leaving the mix for 15 minutes. Well, actually, I have no idea how long I left it. I called my sister in Chicago and you know how it goes when you start chatting with your favorite sister. It was probably half an hour later when I remembered the peel. Yikes! All was well, the water had turned into a lovely yellow syrup and the peels were almost transluscent.
I strained the peel, being careful to reserve the lemon syrup. It looked far too good to waste.
The last step in making the candied peel was to toss the pieces in the last 1/4 cup of sugar. And here you can see the result. Isn't it pretty? And I tried a piece and it was excellent. Sweet and lemony and a little crunchy from the sugar. I could hardly wait to use it.
And then I remembered the alcohol suggestion. And I remembered the recipe for a Lemon Drop Martini posted by the Food Whore (my new virtual best friend, though she doesn't know it*). I've been meaning to make her recipe and here, to hand, I had the material to improve it.
With a little arm twisting, I managed to convince the Critic to be my guinea pig.
Shaker, containing lots of ice (love my fridge with the automatic ice machine), 1/2 cup vodka, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup lemon syrup.
Bowl of candied lemon peel.
Martini glass with 1 tsp lemon syrup in the bottom.
Shake the cocktail shaker vigorously for at least one full minute, pour carefully into the glass and garnish with a little bit of candied peel. And you get the gorgeous concoction pictured at the start of this post. The Critic thought it was pretty nice, but he needed several more just to make sure. You can't be too careful when your critical reputation is at stake.
Here you can see the proof that my cocktail was seedless. In fact, my lemon appeared to be seedless. How perfect is that?
And, alas, my middle is even fatter this morning. But it was worth every calorie...
* If by best friend you mean someone who can bitch about everything to you and make you laugh and feel like life is worthwhile...