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. 

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