Really? If the calendar didn’t say so, I wouldn’t believe it. There’s a layer of snow out there that beats all that we got last winter (when, by the way, it was 20C or warmer at this point). It’s grey. My son has a cold. Everything screams “hunker down!”
But Easter is around the corner. In fact, Palm Sunday is only days away. Spring is indeed here, if only in spirit. And I am going to embrace it.
The brightness of lemon
With Easter almost here, my thoughts turn to lemon. I always make a lemon dessert to end our meal. There is something appealing about the clean, fresh flavour, of course. But it’s also the bright yellow, cheerfully defying the grey skies that makes me smile.
Every year I make candied lemon zest. It’s a great addition to cakes and cookies, as well as a pleasant nibble after a large meal. After finding my first batch to be cloyingly sweet, I began adding citric acid (found at the local bulk store) to balance the flavours. And by using Meyer lemons, I can enjoy their uniquely floral essence for longer, since their season is so short.
Candied Meyer Lemon Zest
2 Cups lemon zest
2 1/2 Cups white sugar, divided
1 Cup water
1-2 Tbsp citric acid
Scrub the fruit to remove any wax. Peel it and cut the zest into strips. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and repeat 2 more times (it helps to have a kettle of recently boiled water handy). It may seem tedious, but this step removes the bitterness in the pith. You need to do it up to 5 times for grapefruit!
Meanwhile, place 2 cups of sugar into a medium saucepan with 1 cup of water, over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the blanched, strained peel and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the peel is soft and translucent.
In the meantime, combine the remaining sugar and citric acid. Just a little. You can add more, so taste as you go until you find a balance that you like.
Strain the syrup into a container to save and spread the strips of peel on a wire rack set over foil or parchment. Once cool, toss them in the sugar and citric acid mixture. Spread the pieces out again, keeping them separate, and leave them to dry for several hours, or overnight. If stored in an airtight container, they should keep for a few months, though I can’t say that they will last that long.
But wait, there’s more!
Don’t throw out the sugar syrup that you’ve poached the zest in. It’s now infused with the flavour and colour of the lemons, and can be stored in the fridge (it will crystallize eventually, but not for months). Before that happens, you can use it in place of simple syrup in cocktails. I like it use it with a little of the lemon juice and some rum, but whiskey works just as well.
1 1/2 ounces rum, whiskey or vodka
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce lemon syrup
Add alcohol of choice, lemon juice and simple syrup to cocktail shaker. Add ice, cover and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of candied peel.