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Making the most of the lemon harvest

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

Step One

The last ripe lemon has fallen off the tree! There are lots of small green ones coming on but I'll worry about them when they ripen. I've been experimenting with lots of lemony recipes and have made carrot and lemon jam as well as lemon relish and various lemon jellies. As someone recently gave me a pumpkin I'm about to have a go at pumpkin, lemon and ginger jam. Sounds good...I think.

My friends know I love lemons and have an oversupply of them just now. It’s not unusual, anyone with a lemon tree in this area knows it’s been a good season and they’ve been falling off the trees in abundance. As I hate to waste them I’ve been dreaming up new recipes. The freezer is overstocked with frozen juice, lemon slices and whole lemons. The fridge is full of lemon curd, preserved lemons, lemon relish and various lemon-based jams and preserves. Neither of my neighbours have lemon trees so I’ve been able to offload some there.

The lemon and elderflower jelly is a success, but wish I had access to an elderflower bush so I could have added flowers in the finished product. Elderflower cordial worked well and gave that fragrant hit I was hoping for. Today I’ve made lemon, apple and thyme jelly. And it’s beautiful. Lemon predominates with a subtle hint of apple and thyme.

Here's how I made it.

Start by roughly chopping up some lemons. As many as you want, I’ll get down to mentioning quanities later. Place in a heavy stainless steel saucepan large enough to contain them easily. Use the whole fruit, seeds and all. It’s a good way to use up less than perfect fruit which may have a few fruit-fly stings. Cut out and discard any discoloured or bad bits. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for a minute or so, stirring and pressing down with a wooden spoon. Then turn off the heat and leave to cool while the water absorbs all the lovely lemony flavour and juice. I added a teaspoon of citric acid but it’s not essential, it just helps the pectin to work and adds even more tang.

Strain through a fairly fine mesh into a clean bowl or large jug. Return the lemon pieces to the saucepan with a finely chopped apple and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Leave the skin on and use the whole apple, pips and all. If you don’t have fresh thyme use a pinch of dried. Add a cup and a half of water and bring to simmering point. Leave to simmer for about ten minutes or until the apple is soft, stirring occasionally. Strain the liquid into a bowl. Give the saucepan a quick rinse to remove any residue of apple or lemon.

Put 2 cups of the lemon-infused water into the saucepan along with the apple and lemon liquid. Add three cups of white sugar and a couple of fresh thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often. Check for setting point by spooning a little onto a cold saucer. Leave to cool and check to see if it’s firm by tilting the saucer. It should stay firmly in place and not be runny. If not done, continue simmering for a few more minutes and check again. 30 minutes should be ample, mine was ready at 15 minutes.

Pour into hot, sterilized bottles. Wipe the top of each bottle with a clean paper towel and put the lids on tightly.

The remaining lemon-infused water can be used as a base for more lemon jelly or added to your next batch of marmalade. Remember not to put large quantities of citrus in the compost. Small quantities, cut up small, are fine.

The only time I recommend using white sugar is when making jelly, as it helps to keep the finished product clear. If you’re not fussy about that it’s fine to use raw. You do need to use sugar as it helps to preserve the jelly, which should keep for up to a year. Once the jar is opened store in the refrigerator.

Using fresh lemons with the seeds pretty much guarantees the jelly will set well. If you are nervous about that, add some extra pectin such as Jamsetta – following the guidelines on the packet. As an added bonus your stainless steel saucepans will really shine after you’ve cooked anything lemony in them!

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