A Time For Lemons

I play a lot of golf, which puts me in the company of a lot of men, few, in my experience, who understand anything about cooking; other than pulling out a pair of tongs and a daggy apron, to tend the snags on the barbecue. At the edge of the 17th fairway at my club there’s a lemon tree, usually laden. Each time we pass the tree I fill my bag with lemons; every time, one of the group will say to me, “what do you do with so many lemons?” My answer is always the same: “There’s nothing in the world of cooking that’s not better with a lemon.” This includes, of course, the zest.

Such a statement needs support: I use the juice of lemons on any grill, on any fish or seafood, in any salad, in jams (finely sliced and left in the mix), in tonic (and gin), in slow cooked chicken, in tarts and soufflés, in syrups, sauces and sorbets. The list is all but endless. Jane Grigson’s marvelous book, Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book (Michael Joseph, 1982), notes that lemons are also an antidote for scurvy, a rather nasty disease prevalent in the days of sailing ships and long journeys. She writes: “Sailors were given lime or lemon juice, after ten days of salt provisions, and, as rum had been added to the juice to preserve it, the occasion was a happy one”. My mum wasn’t a sailor, but when heavy colds struck, that mix of lemon juice, honey and brandy was just what was required to assist sleep patterns.

Right now, the tree on 17th is laden, and as well as those wonderful options, it’s time to turn lemons into lemonade, a line that has been drifting around as an antidote for those moments when things aren’t as you’d prefer. Wikipedia reports that what has become a motivating phrase was first recorded in 1915, in an obituary written by Elbert Hubbard for a dwarf actor, Marshall P. Wilder: “he picked up the lemons that fate had sent him and started a lemonade stand.”

It’s not often we go pop in these columns, but we couldn’t help note that Beyoncé’s latest album carries the title Lemonade. The dozen songs, all intensely autobiographical, delve into the issues of infidelity (the lemon) and fidelity (the lemon becomes lemonade), that surround her marriage to the rapper Jay Z.

She writes, in Don’t Hurt Yourself:

We just got to let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be baby
Uh, this is your final warning
You know I give you life
If you try this shit again
You gon’ lose your wife

In the connected 60-minutes movie/album, available through iTunes, (the preview on YouTube has managed 12.5 million views) she makes it clear what the title’s all about in the song Redemption, providing not just a recipe for lemonade, but a recipe for life, both handed down by her grandmother:

Take one pint of water, add half pound of sugar
The juice of eight lemons, the zest of half a lemon.
Pour the water from one jug then into the other several times.
Strain through a clean napkin.
Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind…
…I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.

At TMix+, we’re pretty happy with Beyoncé’s ingredients, but there’s more to lemonade than shuffling syrup from one jug to another. You need to cook the mixture to get the balance between the sweetness of the sugar and acid of the lemons. We also added ginger to give the whole show a kick, without the need for the rum/brandy, but that does remain a viable option! Recipes for lemonade have been around for hundreds of years, with the lemon and sugar cooked gently in a pan, but the Thermomix does it all in the background. When it’s all done, the sweetness overcomes the tart, but the tart remains as a memory of how it all began.

Best of TMix+

We know our subscribers have been collecting recipes from TMix+ since we launched in November last year, but with Christmas approaching we thought it best to offer more than 100 of those recipes to the book market.

Great Recipes for the Thermomix (RRP $34.95) will be in bookstores from October 3, but pre-orders will gain a 20 per cent discount on the cover price (plus $5 postage and handling), and will receive books before the book goes to the shops.

The book, of 212 pages, is broken up into ten sections: Soups, Starters, Mains, Pasta & Polenta, Breads, Sweets, Cakes & Buns & Scones, Biscuits, Preserves, and Odds & Ends.

And yes, our lemonade recipes are included.

While we’re into lemons, I thought it appropriate to refer to an article in The Smithsonian online, which delves into the origins of an American favourite, pink lemonade. So, where did the pink come from?

There are two versions canvassed, neither of which makes strong appeal to those of us brought up on the clean version. Both come from the world of the circus. A 1921 book, The Ways of the Circus (Harvey W. Root), describes a canny solution to a potential disaster: In 1857, a circus entrepreneur, George Tonklin, was preparing the batch of the day, when he ran out of water. Being a quick thinker, he dumped a tub of dirty water into the mix. Problem was the water had just been used by a performer who had just “finished wringing out her pink-coloured tights”. No problems for George, he marketed the mix as strawberry lemonade.

The second option, less likely, given its source is 55 years later, in a 1912 article in the New York Times, describes another circus adventure in which “red-coloured cinnamon candies were accidently dropped into a vat of traditional lemonade”.

If you must go pink, we suggest neither wrung out tights, nor candies, but the juice of blood oranges, now at the height of their season.