A search for the word “citrus” in the edible landscapes along the winding path that led me to fruit-growing Franconia brings up:
… the citrus trees – oranges and lemons – in my grandmother’s generous veggie garden – shady and citrusy next to the red dust of the backyard … of which nothing now remains but a solitary concrete water tower and grandpa’s old workshop, still standing next to the sun-filled absence of my grandparents’ homestead, its unbaked Kimberly bricks now returned to the red earth from whence they had come some 100 years before. The rampant grass and greenery that is the southern African bush in January now flourishes where that house once stood, its roots nourished by the same rich, red soil that nourished mine, in that land from which you can never be expelled, memory’s myth land.
Just a few stretches of gravel and tarmac from that homestead, much of my childhood was spent in a suburb named Orange Grove, in a gravel street named after the Valencia Orange, in small-town deference to the citrus estate on the other side of the stream that was the boundary.
Valencia Crescent was the world as I knew it, complete with a culinary heritage rooted deep in the solidity of pot roasts, macaroni cheese, trifle, lemon meringue pie, rice pudding, apple crumble, scones and rock buns. There was Coronation Chicken and Aunty Nancy’s Meat Paste in amongst the frivolity of the 1960s and 1970s when cocktail snacks for cheese and wine parties took pride of place in the “Connoisseur Cooking” advertising supplements which arrived in the post every month: cheese straws and cheese dip, stuffed eggs next to melons sprouting cheese cubes and cocktail onions on cocktail sticks. It was a heritage which had also had a place for children’s birthday parties, where everything from the iced butterfly cakes and sausage rolls to the ballerina cake had been homemade by mum.
Part of my own personal heritage, citrus groves and plantations are part of the same agricultural heritage to which the orchards of Franconia belong.
For me, frosty February in Franconia is citrus time, when the citrus fruit ripened in the groves of southern Europe reaches this side of the Alps in abundance….
And this year, like last year,
are a must!
Such a treat for dressings and marinades come the summer and so easy to make.
Preserve them either as single lemons in jam-jar-sized jars, or several lemons in a large preserving jar, with the spice mix of your choice, e.g. cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, whole allspice and whole coriander… and of course sea salt (pure sea salt without any additives).
Quantities: 1 lemon requires the juice of a further lemon and enough sea salt to fill its jar about a third full.
How to do it:
1) Sterilise your jars
2) Wash your lemons and sort them into lemons for the jar and lemons for the juice i.e. any with blemishes get juiced.
3) Slice the lemons for the jar into quarters and place in the sterilised jar(s).
4) Add your spices to the lemon in the jar(s).
5) Pour enough sea salt into each jar to fill it about one third full.
6) Juice one juice lemon per lemon-in-a-jar and pour over the lemon(s) in the jar(s).
7) Top up with enough cold water to cover the lemons, seal the jar(s) and turn them several times to ensure that the salt, lemon juice and water are well mixed. Store in a cool, dark place for about 3 months i.e. if you make them now they will be ready for the start of the summer, turning the jars gently every few days.
Over time, the salt will dissolve to form a wonderful lemony brine which is perfect for dressings, drizzling and marinating with both vegetables and meat (fish, chicken). The thinly sliced rind, too, is great used in the same way. The flesh comes away from the rind easily after 3 months in the brine and is discarded.