Oh, I love-love-love the Internet.
As I started thinking about lemons, I got a bit sidetracked (which happens more and more often these days).
Why, I wondered, are irredeemably bad cars called lemons?
Click, click, click. Wikipedia offered not one answer, but four, ranging from plausible to truly ridiculous.
I wanted to know more.
Click, click, click.
Eureka! That's the variety of most of the lemons we see in the markets in the US (except those who live in California, where wonderful Meyer lemons also are available). Lemon trees grow to 20 feet tall; a mature tree can yield up to 2,000 fruits per year.
Unlike oranges, lemons do continue to ripen after they're picked. Store lemons in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, for up to two weeks; the cold will slow the ripening process.
To get the most juice out of a lemon, roll it back and forth on the counter before cutting, or microwave for 15 seconds. Both of those actions will help break down the fibers in the lemon pulp, releasing more juice. If your recipe calls for both zest (the yellow part of the skin) and juice, remember this handy tip: scrape the zest, then squeeze the rest.
If the lemon were not part of every world cuisine, we wouldn't need so many tools dedicated to extracting its flavor. In the Ninecooks kitchen, I have a five-hole zester, a couple of Microplanes, a lemon squeezer we bought in a Mexican street market, and a wooden reamer. I don't have a lemon trumpet, but I'd love to try one.
One more thing. Another reason I love the Internet is that it puts me in touch with Pantry readers like Elaine, who last October sent me this note in response to this post: "I am of Scottish descent and my mother makes a wonderful lemon curd from a recipe my grandmother brought to the States. I thought you might like to have it." Elaine, I'm thrilled to have your family recipe; thank you for allowing me to share it.
Elaine's lemon curd
You'll probably be tempted to eat this right from the container, with a spoon, the way my husband Ted likes it, but you'll want to use it as a filling for cupcakes or little tarts, too.
1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Grated zest of two lemons
Put all ingredients, except eggs, into double boiler over simmering water. When butter has melted and before mixture is too warm, gradually whisk in the beaten eggs. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened to consistency of instant pudding, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for a while. Then place in a container, cover, and store in fridge.
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