Loony for Lemons

Nibbles & Sips

I am on a major lemon-loving kick and this is not the first time!

Let’s flash back to two summers ago, not long after we moved into the Dollhouse, where I went on about various lemon drinks in I’ll Drink to That: Lemon Edition.


I’m over the Shandy phase, preferring a good Arnold Palmer or Earl Grey Lemonade instead. The San Pellegrino Limonata is still an amazing soda and I almost picked up a 6-pack at the store yesterday but opted for LaCroix Lemon instead.

Now, if you’ve ever had a LaCroix fizzy water with a hint of flavor, you’ll know it’s not going to hold a candle to a full-fledged soda, but it wasn’t horrible, either. Of course, my favorite use for the LaCroix Lemon so far has been to spike it with a shot of Limoncello in a tall glass full of ice. Much more lemony that way with a slight hint of alcohol.


Speaking of Limoncello, though, I still have several bottles in the chest freezer from Fall 2010 when I made my own (see the Drink Diary wrap up for more on that). It keeps great and I might be using up some of it if this current lemon kick continues.

jwalker_lemoncupcakemartiniwmint-224x300And it looks like we celebrated National Lemon Cupcake Day in 2012 with a cocktail I might need to revisit. (Actually, I’ve been thinking above revisiting the blog’s past cocktail posts but in video form, especially the 50 Shots of America series.)

I’ve been starting each day, this month, with hot water and lemon–something I decided to try while on my staycation at the beginning of June and it’s stuck. Supposedly it’s good for your digestion, and the liver, and wakes up your metabolism or some such, I just find it incredibly refreshing.

Lemon Oreos are back on store shelves and, yes, I’ve indulged. I also picked up a package of the Lemon-filled Oreo Thins this week and–while I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the thin format, not the biggest fan of crispy cookies am I–I think I like them!

When we ordered Chinese take-out last week (Todd wasn’t feeling well and needed soft foods due to a broken tooth, etc.) I ordered Lemon Chicken. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turns out it’s the same chicken as you get in Sweet & Sour but instead of the sickly-sweet, pineapple-studded red sauce you get a delightfully tangy lemon sauce. And they send a pint of it (the sauce), which is way more than is needed, so I saved the rest and may make more rice just to have with the sauce.

Lemon Egg Cup

Lemon Egg Cup

And while looking through past blog-mentions of lemons, I even found a lemon craft from the early days of The 64 Arts (2010!).

How far will my current lemon obsession take me and how long will it go on? Hard to say… According to an herbalist this is the season for bitter flavors, so it’s a natural inclination. Plus lemons are generally so light and best tasted cold, and that really suits my preferences this week (as you’ll see in next week’s menu recap). I have plans for a lemon-pesto noodle dish at the end of the week that I’m really looking forward to, as well.

Do you ever go on weird food kicks?

I’ve always (well, for at least the last 15 years) believed that cravings are our bodies way of telling us what we need. Even a pizza craving could be beneficial if what you’re lacking are amino acids from tomatoes, for instance, and that’s your #1 tomato vehicle. Or you like your pizza’s topped with triple cheese, maybe it’s calcium your body is low on.

So I’m giving into the lemony goodness around me. Sure, lemon cookies may not be the best option (we’ll chalk that up to a combo with the stress I talked about last week), but it’s more about the whole picture, right?

I’ll Drink to That: Lemon Edition


The last time I saw an old-fashioned lemonade stand was actually just a couple months back during the local Parade of Homes. An enterprising youngster in one of the more developed neighborhoods was selling bottles of water as well as lemonade to thirsty parade-goers.


Lemonade is one of those perfect hot-weather drinks, doing well on it’s own whether left sweet and tart or combined with other fruits (strawberry, for instance) or even herbs (rosemary and basil both go very well in lemonade). Mix it with iced tea and you have an Arnold Palmer, and if the tea is Earl Grey then you can have your own version of the Earl of Sandwich’s Earl Grey Lemonade. And if you mix lemonade with beer, you end up with something called a Shandy.

Shandy is a bit of a thing these days and my friends farther to the north tell me Del’s is the brand to drink. I came across the Leinenkugel Summer Shandy first, though, and decided to give it a try. Now, the first time I tried it I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I didn’t hate it, either. I suppose it was a disconnect since I didn’t know what to expect and whatever I did expect this wasn’t it. The second time I tried it, that puzzling first taste over with, I actually enjoyed it more.

Now, considering it’s been three weeks and I haven’t finished the 6-pack, you can probably guess it’s not my favorite beverage ever, but then beer isn’t at the top of my spirits list anyway, so I suppose it’s following along with that.

Speaking of lemonade, though, I stumbled upon Pellegrino’s Limonata the other week while shopping and I thought it was more like the slightly-flavored fizzy water like the Perrier versions, so picked up a 6-pack for something a little different. Obviously I didn’t pay too much attention to the label as this is actually a sparkling lemonade and I’m in love. There was a grapefruit version next to it and I’m sure that’ll be among the next grocery run, but for now I’m rationing out the Limonata so I don’t over-indulge.

Of course, for true indulgence, I go straight to the freezer to pull out a bottle of limoncello. When we were at Disney for our honeymoon I didn’t do much day-drinking though the thought was there. One of our last afternoons, though, I purchased a limoncello from the cart in EPCOT’s Italy pavilion and it so refreshing. Having made my own limoncello I think I appreciate it a tiny bit more that I used to, but since I don’t usually have a surfeit of lemons, I’ll leave it to the masters once our homebrew batch is expended. (Unless we decide to plant a lemon tree, here–that might change things a bit!)

What about you–are you a fan of lemon in the heat of summer? Do you like yours sweet over ice, mixed with something else, or as far away as possible?

An Ap-peel-ing Idea


For those who don’t already know, I have a creativity-focused blog, the 64 Arts, that lets me flex the right side of my brain on a regular basis. Last March, while exploring the art of Cutouts (from paper to peel), I created a cute lemon cup that might make a nice addition to your Easter table this year.

Originally posted on the 64 Arts on March 24, 2010…


How Ap-Peel-ing

a Little Lemon Bowl

To make the lemon bowl, start by trimming each end of the lemon so you have a flat surface for the bowl to sit on.

You can buy a fancy garnishing tool (I do have them) but it may not always fit your project’s size. I just used a sharp pairing knife and cut a zig-zag all the way around. If I were doing more than just messing around, I’d probably measure and mark off equal increments–instead I just winged it. Inside each little point I cut a little window to dress up the lemon bowl.

The lemon should easily come apart at that point, but I did have to go back over a few places where I hadn’t completely cut through. Next you want to scoop out the lemon pulp and sections as best you can. A grapefruit spoon can be useful for this but the paring knife did really well, too. Make sure all the little windows are clear of pulp, rinse it and pat it dry.

I’ve fridge-tested my samples and they’ve done well in the refrigerator for several days. I even popped one in the freezer for a night just to see how it held up. It did great! They will dry out if they’re in there too long, but 3 or 4 days shouldn’t hurt. The little points did curve in a bit but that seems to be making the overall structure that much stronger.

Now, what to do with it?

Sorbet comes immediately to mind. Fancy dinners sometimes include a palate-cleansing course but you don’t need to go to that trouble. Some Italian ice, granita or even a minty ice cream would look great and taste even better when served in these fun lemon cups.

Still too cold for an icy dessert? Candies or nuts would be fun in them or, with Easter right around the corner, how about displaying your eggs in their own little basket?

Lemon Egg Cup

When I was a little girl and we lived with my grandmother, we would do the customary egg-dying the day before and make sure every family member had an egg with their name on it. We’d leave the eggs in their cartons out on the counter when we went to bed and, in the morning, I’d wake up to them all arranged on a huge silver platter with that cellophane grass all around. It’s still one of my fondest childhood memories.

How cute would it be, then, to have personalized eggs at each place setting for the big family dinner? Placed in little lemon or lime cups that are so much more fun than those paper stands the dying kits come with and definitely eco-friendly. Plus, the pulp doesn’t have to go to waste if you turn it into fresh lemonade to serve with dinner!

The Lost Art of… Marmalade?

Blueberry Toast with Mixed-Citrus Marmalade

Blueberry Toast with Mixed-Citrus Marmalade

On our second trip to the farmers’ market (Todd came with, this time), I spotted kumquats and thought making marmalade would be a good way to use the fruit and have it available for more than just one meal. Now, I’d made marmalade in the past, but it had been maybe 10 years since, so I wanted to check what I thought I remembered (namely that it didn’t require added pectin) and how much sugar per pound of citrus and so forth.

Would you believe that I went through 6 cookbooks before finding marmalade instructions? We have an entire bookcase of cookbooks and not all of them are general-use, so it’s not like I was looking in the specialty books and striking out, these were the massive tomes of all-purpose food knowledge. And while my “textbook” from Culinary School did have a definition and basic method listed, it still wasn’t telling me what I needed to know. Even Joy of Cooking only had a Red Onion Marmalade (which, by the way, is stretching the definition just a bit).

It’s no wonder, then, that the one book to finally come to my rescue was Forgotten Skills of Cooking. It had a whole section on marmalade and even featured a kumquat one. I ended up cobbling together several recipes to fit my time constraints (it was already Sunday and I wanted to use the finished marmalade Monday night, so doing an overnight soak of the seeds and membranes wasn’t practical) and did a mixed citrus marmalade using up some leftover lemons (from Lemon Curd-making the day before), tangerines from Christmas and a couple of pink grapefruits, too.

What I ended up with, after analyzing the various recipes I’d found, was a basic formula that can be used for any sort of citrus you’ve got:

Marmalade Formula

Per pound of citrus (weighed whole) you’ll need:

1 quart water plus 1 cup for the pot
2-3 cups granulated sugar, depending on the kind of citrus you’re using and how sweet you want your finished marmalade to be

And it really is that simple–which is probably why only 7 of our 95 cookbooks mention it at all. (The other reason being that most people buy their marmalade, of course.)

The reason you don’t need additional pectin is because you get that from the seeds and membranes of the fruit, itself–you use everything in some way, shape or form.

Marmalade Procedure

Break Down the Citrus Break down the fruit into its basic components: juice, seeds and peels. Juice each lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit, reserving the juice and placing the seeds in a cheesecloth-lined bowl. Remove the membranes from the squeezed-out fruit halves and add those to the seed-pile. Since kumquats don’t really juice so well, just slice those and remove the seeds, and slice the other citrus peels into bite-sized strips.
Combine and Simmer The initial simmer. Combine the reserved juice, the peels, water and the seeds and membranes tied up in their cheesecloth sack in a deep stock pot. Choose one deeper than I did to prevent boil-overs in later steps–learn from my mistakes, folks! Simmer this mixture, covered, for an hour or so. Don’t let it boil or your marmalade could end up very bitter. Unless, of course, you prefer your marmalade with a lot of bite, then boil it covered through the next step.
The Volume Decreased by Half Cook and concentrate. Right now you’ve got a lot of liquid and some still-tough peels in your pot. Remove the cheesecloth bag with the seeds and membranes (you’ve already harvested the required pectin from them). Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, at a low boil and uncovered, until the liquid has reduced your preferred amount and the peel is as soft as you want it to be.
Adding the sugar before the final boil Add the sugar and cook until set, approximately 15-20 minutes. Here’s the tricky part. According to Forgotten Skills you can test for doneness by placing a small amount of the marmalade onto a cold saucer and see if it gels. This didn’t work for me so I kept cooking the marmalade (on medium-low) for another hour or more (honestly, I lost track). It still hadn’t passed the set-test as described, but I pulled it off the heat and let it cool, anyway, figuring something had to have happened by now.
The finished Marmalade I started with 2.5 pounds of citrus and ended up with 2 quarts of marmalade. I’ve never been into canning so I just divided the spread between 4 pint containers and popping them into the fridge once they’d had a chance to cool off a bit on the counter. If you don’t go the sterilized jars and heat sealing method, you’ll want to store any marmalade you’re not going to use in the next couple of weeks in the freezer.

About the setting thing? I needn’t have worried. The next day You could stand a knife in the marmalade and it wouldn’t even wobble. And despite it’s dark color (probably from the extra cooking time), it wasn’t bitter at all. Added to warm, buttered toast, it’s quite tasty!

Oh, and the main reason I purchased the kumquats and the redfish fillet on the same day? Monday’s dinner was marmalade redfish and it was wonderful!

Season the redfish (or any other firm, white-fleshed fish like cod or monkfish) with salt and pepper and place, skin-side down, on a bed of sliced lemons. Heat half a cup of marmalade with a tablespoon of white wine, just until pourable, and spoon over the fish. Broil the fish 10-15 minutes until done (the flesh is opaque and flakes easily when pressed with a fork), moving it a few inches farther away from the heat if the pieces of peel in the marmalade start to get too dark.

Marmalade Redfish

Marmalade Redfish

Limoncello, Week 12


Oh, well, another week of nothing doing on the Drink Diary and–

Wait. What was that? It’s week 12? We’re finished?!

Well, almost, there’s a little finishing up that’s needed:

Limoncello, Week 12

Limoncello, Week 12

First we had to strain and filter the Limoncello to remove the zest and anything else that might be hanging around in there other than deliciously-flavored alcohol.

Starting with a fine-mesh strainer over a large measuring pitcher or bowl, pour the Limoncello through the strainer. I did this twice (mostly because I bounced the strainer and a few pieces of zest got back into the mix, but whatever). Return the de-zested liquid back to the container.

Then, line the strainer with a coffee filter (this one for a 4-cup machine fit perfectly inside my strainer) and slowly pour the Limoncello through it again, this time getting out any sediment that may have settled.

Two things I noticed:

  1. One coffee filter was good for about half a batch (or one 750mL bottle’s worth) of straining.
  2. After the initial 300-400 mL have strained, the filter needs a little help. Swirling the mixture around, gently, seems to help–the sediment moves around and doesn’t stop the clean liquid from passing.

Fingertips really are best for this–much easier to tell if you’re about to snag your filter and have to start all over again–just wash your hands well before starting. Granted, even diluted we’re still dealing with some decent-proof alcohol, here, so not much is going to stand a chance.

You can strain this multiple times if you’ve got the patience. I’ve never been so strong on that, myself, so I just gave it one good filtering and bottled it.

Now it’s going to hang out in the chest freezer for a week before we sample it. After 84 days, I suppose we can last 7 more!

Also, this week, we started our quickie batch. I’m giving it 2 nights of just the Everclear and zest and will add the sugar syrup on night 3, give it a full day then strain, filter, bottle and chill.

With 4 bottles of Limoncello soon to be in my possession (plus the bottle we purchased from the liquor store)… whatever will we do? 😉