Thursday, July 19, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons . . .

Do you remember the commercial several years ago that showed an executive bragging about earning  his company an extra million dollars just by putting one less olive in each jar of olives they produced?  Lately every time Grandma sets foot in the grocery store she notices something else that used to contain a whole lot more than it does now, while costing a whole lot less!

A can of cream of mushroom soup used to be nearly 25% bigger and serve four.  A can of tuna once weighed 7 or 7.5 ounces.  You now need 3 cans where you used to need two.   A couple of years ago Grandma grabbed her usual package of angel hair pasta, got it home to cook dinner for a crowd and discovered that the package, even though it had exactly the same dimensions as the 1-pound package in the cupboard, contained only 12 ounces!  Unfortunately, she discovered the shortage when she came up one serving short at dinner!

In January just one of these lemons cost $0.79.
 Grandma paid $3 for a whole bag full a couple of days ago!

Sometimes, prices just seem flipped on their heads.   Steak can be had most of the time lately for less than ground beef and boneless chicken breast is only pennies more than whole frying chickens!  Lemons (and limes) are still great bargains at this time of year, so Grandma has been buying them by the sackful - big 3-pound bags of lemons and limes!

When Life Gives You Lemons . . . . 

Make Something Yummy!

One of Grandma's favorite things is Lemon Curd.  Expensive to buy when you can find it, Lemon Curd sounds much more complicated to make in most recipes than it really is.  Over the  years, Grandma has tried more than a few Lemon Curd recipes.  This one is the easiest she has found, almost foolproof - and so yummy Grandma has a big tendency to eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon!

Grandma's Favorite Lemon Curd

You can use the same recipe to make Lime Curd, Meyer Lemon Curd, Grapefruit Curd, Orange Curd or any other citrus fruit curd.  Just substitute for the juice and zest called for.

Ready, set, go!  Notice the shape of Grandma's whisk.  This particular whisk
 is slightly pointed on the end, allowing it to get into the edge of the pan.

Beat 3 large eggs (UK medium) and 1/2 cup sugar together in a saucepan.  Add the grated zest (yellow part only) of 1 lemon, 1/3 cup lemon juice (should be about two lemons), a tiny pinch of salt and 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, cut into bits.

Place the pan over moderate to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken, your whisk leaves a trail and the mixture just barely begins to come to a boil.  Note:  Grandma has an electric stove these days, so she uses this Norpro 144 Heat Diffuser to keep the bottom of things from burning!

If you don't like the teeny bits of lemon zest in your curd you can pour it through a fine-meshed strainer.

Pour the lemon curd into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper down over the surface to keep a skin from forming.  (This trick works for all cooked custards and puddings.)  Allow to stand until cool, then put into a covered container and refrigerate.

The Lemon Curd will keep for up to two weeks - if you can keep your spoon out of it.  It is luscious on scones (with or without some Devonshire Cream),  folded into yogurt then layered with berries or used as a filling for tarts and, of course, Lemon Curd filling between the layers of a coconut cake is absolutely classic.  Tune in tomorrow to see what Grandma did with hers . . .

Reader's Write

Hi Granny,
I have a question about measuring lemons.  I have a recipe for lemon pie that calls for the juice of 4 lemons.  A few years back, I brought home some GIANT lemons from FL, wanting to try them out in this recipe.  I thought it looked like too much juice, and it was; the pie came out so sour just a few bites gave me a bellyache!  Any easy way to convert if a recipe is worded like that?  Thanks, Melissa Z.,  Yatesboro, PA

Somewhere, long ago and far away, Grandma heard that the juice of one lemon was equal to about
2 1/2 tablespoons, but just to be sure, Grandma went out to the kitchen and squeezed a whole bunch of lemons and measured the juice.   For every two lemons, Grandma got 1/3 cup of juice, so four lemons would be 2/3 cup of juice.

What did Grandma do with all that juice?  Why, she froze it of course!  Lemon and lime juice both freeze beautifully, as does the zest.  At $3 a bag instead of $0.79 a lemon, this is a great time to stock the freezer.   The easiest way to freeze the juice is in ice cube trays.  Each compartment in Grandma's holds 2 tablespoons.  After the juice has frozen you can repackage it into zipper freezer bags.

Citrus Gadgets  Grandma Likes

 If you don't happen to have a 50 year old aluminum citrus juicer/strainer like the one in Grandma's kitchen, this OXO Good Grips Wooden Reamer is a nice substitute, though you will need to strain the juice to keep the seeds out.  (Grandma has one of these too!)

There are dozens of gizmos to help get the zest off of citrus fruit.  Grandma has owned a good number of them over the years - and thrown most of them away.  And then some smart soul decided to bring a bit of the hardware store into the kitchen.  You might recognize this Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater if you are a woodworker.  Grandma loves hers .

While Grandma was wandering through this and that  at Amazon, she happened across this lovely Nordic Ware Lemon Loaf  Grandma is a cake pan junky and she loves this one!

Luscious Lemon Desserts has a permanent home on Grandma's bookshelves.

 Lemon sweets are the divas of desserts. Assertive and bold, lemons can be flamboyant, tart, and tangy as in the Lemon Granita or sweet, mellow, and velvety like the creamy Lemon Panna Cotta. Over 70 recipes--from the classics to lip-smacking new favorites--are all enticingly presented in Luscious Lemon Desserts. These recipes vary from the simple to the sublime, from the quick and easy to the most elaborate showstoppers. Author Lori Longbotham provides great tips on buying, storing, and using this most popular fruit. Whether it's a fast and fabulous lemon pudding or a Mile-High Lemon Angel Food Cake, the name says it all: Luscious Lemon Desserts. Yum! (From the book description)

Grandma came across Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking while wandering around the other day and added it to her Wish List!  Under $5.
Featured recipes include:
Red Velvet Cake, Chocolate Blackout Cake, Gingerbread Cake, Gingerbread Pear Trifle, Lemon Cheesecake, Quick Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Icebox Cookies, Easier Holiday Cookies, Brown Sugar Cookies, Meringue Cookies, Raspberry Streusel Bars, Double-Chocolate Bread Pudding, Date-Nut Bread, Blueberry Streusel Muffins, Ultimate Cinnamon Buns, Multigrain Pancakes, Brioche, Cream Scones, Apple-Cranberry Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Foolproof Pie Dough, Yeast Coffee Cakes, Cream Puffs , Palmiers, Brown Sugar Fudge, Sourdough Bread, Rustic Dinner Rolls 

Just in case you would like to try your hand at making Scones to go with that lovely Lemon Curd, here's Marion Cunningham, author of numerous cookbooks including The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, baking Scones with Julia Child on Baking With Julia.  Sadly, Marion Cunningham died on July 11, 2012.

Stay Cool!


  1. mmm.. the lemons look delicious, I am going to buy some and make the curd this weekend!


    1. Wait till you see what I did with it . . . well, most of it. There is still a dab or two in the jar to spread on some scones - or maybe just dig into with a spoon.

  2. OH EM GEE. I thought it was ME! I noticed that about the tuna too. Lots of other products, of course (like peanut butter - has a big hump {punt} in the bottom of the jar that never used to be there), but the tuna cans look the same, or so I thought.

    Thought I was going crazy...


    1. Oh no, Felicia - you aren't going crazy! An ordinary tuna fish can used to contain 7 or 7.5 ounces, but now they are down to 4.5 or 5, depending on the brand. The cans look the same, but they are actually quite a little bit smaller. That cream of mushroom soup that so many old-fashioned casseroles call for used to come out of the can in a solid lump that you then diluted with an equal amount of milk to make four servings. Now you can almost pour it out of the can and there are only two servings. I could go on and on . . .

      I think one of the things that has made many people not realize the true state of the economy for a while now has been that they didn't notice the difference at the supermarket. These days you can't help but notice!

  3. Though the young folk I tutor think I'm making this up, I remember half gallon ice cream containers, 19-cent gas, $3000 Cadillacs. Cereal boxes are easy targets. A gentle squeeze near the top will usually reveal solid air.


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