When Life Gives You Lemons

I’ve been buying Christmas presents for my family for years, and frankly, I’m beginning to run out of ideas.  I started thinking about what to get my parents after a friend told me she had been making home-made raspberry gin as a gift.  This immediately seemed like the perfect present for my mum, who I have previously bought flavoured gin from Demi Johns.  This time, I would make it myself!

From then on, an idea began to emerge for both of my parents: a hamper full of home-made treats.  The gin was by this point all under control, nestled in the back of a cupboard to infuse, but what to make my dad was left wide open.  You can take a look at the recipe for the raspberry gin here – you can do it with a lot of different fruits and is super easy.

It wasn’t until I was reading through my Lorriane Pascale recipe book (I find reading recipe books very calming, I’m not entirely sure why) that I found something perfect for my dad.  Giving Limoncello as a gift is a bit of a joke in my family, which all started when my dad bought my mum a bottle for her 50th birthday as a last minute present.  It did not go down well.  After that though, my dad developed a bit of a taste for the lemony liqueur, so when I came across a recipe for it in Lozza’s book, it was a light bulb moment.

She recommends that the Limoncello is left to infuse for between one day and three months – I want mine to have a really good lemon flavour so I made mine last week so it has two months to turn into the perfect Limoncello – I hope!

Lorraine Pascale’s Lovely Limoncello

Ingredients:

  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 200ml cold water
  • 8 lemons
  • 600ml Vodka

Method:

  1. Zest your lemons! You need something better than a standard grater for this.  I used a micro plane grater as they are a lot easier and faster to use.  Finely grate the zest of the lemons (I ended up using 9 because a couple of mine were on the small side) into a bowl, then set aside.
  2. Put the sugar and water in a pan over a medium high heat and cook for a few minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sugar dissolves. Then, bring to the boil and let it bubble away for about two minutes then take it off the heat.
  3. Carefully pour the vodka into the syrup, then stir in the lemon zest. Pour the mixture into a sterilised jar or bottle and leave for up to three months.  When you’re ready to serve/present, strain the liquid through a fine sieve to get rid of the zest and decant into a bottle – best served freezer cold.

Now here’s the problem: what do you do with nine zested lemons?  Well, when life gives you lemons…make lemonade!

I know, it’s a summer drink but I wasn’t about to let all those perfectly good lemons go to waste.  I would have baked, but most lemon-based bakes require the zest more often than the juice.  The only sensible option was having a go at home-made lemonade, and this recipe makes a bucket load of the stuff!

Cloudy Lemonade

Ingredients:

  • 350g white sugar
  • 350ml lemon juice (about 10 lemons’ worth)
  • 2L water (approx.)

Method:

  1. More sugar syrup! Put the sugar in a pan with 250ml of water.  Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.  Take the syrup off the heat and leave to return to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  2. While the syrup is cooling down, start juicing your lemons. I had nine left over from the limoncello, but I added in an extra lemon to take it up to the 350ml.  Squeeze the lemon juice into a measuring jug – you can allow the pulp to go in but avoid the pips!  Set aside.
  3. Once the syrup is cooled, remove from the fridge. I transferred the syrup into an extra-large pan to accommodate all the water, then added the lemon juice.  Add the water in 250ml measures, tasting as you go, until you get the desired level of dilution.  I used the whole 2 litres and the lemonade was still sweet and strong.  If you like, you can switch some of the still water for sparkling to make fizzy lemonade.
  4. When your lemonade tastes just how you want it, pour it into a big jug with some ice and a few fresh wedges of lemon or lime. Pour any excess into clean bottles and save – this will make about 2 litres and it’ll keep in the fridge for at least a week.

It might not be the time of year for lemonade but it is so refreshing and it’s always great to offer a home-made batch of it to friends and family.  My limoncello is now sitting next to my raspberry gin in the back of a cupboard, infusing away until Christmas – who knows how they’ll turn out!?

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