Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lemon butter magic

Lemons are a much undervalued fruit in the citrus world, as far as recipes go. They're meant to accompany other foods such as fish as a flavour enhancer. What a great job it does with fish too, but as a food in it's own right one can only screw-up the face in anticipation of tasting one!

Yes, lemons are not sweet but they are juicy. Added to sugar, eggs and butter, you have one exceptional spread that will make even store bought bread, taste homemade. I am of course, referring to the magic that is lemon butter.

You may have heard it called by the name lemon curd or lemon spread too, but for my money, nothing says childhood like lemon butter. It was hard to come by, even at a church or school fete. I have yet to taste one bought there however, that didn't have the overpowering raw egg flavour. After all, eggs are a vital component but you need to cook it's flavour out so the lemon dominates completely.

Lemon butter magic

The qualities of lemon butter that I remember as gifts from my childhood, was smooth in texture, glossy and the bight of the lemon is never overpowered by the eggs or the sugar. An overly sweet lemon butter in my opinion, isn't lemon butter - it has to threaten your taste-buds with a mild dose of sour or you won't enjoy the experience. In my research for the perfect lemon butter recipe, I think there are vital facts often missing from the list of usual ingredients.

For example, the number of lemons used in the recipe should depend on the type of lemon you're using. If Meyer is your lemon of choice, then you're going to need an extra one for grated zest. I have Eureka lemons, and in my opinion, it's the best for grated lemon zest. It's flavour is punchy with extra wowzer! So bear in mind, the recipe I have made my lemon butter with, is using Eureka lemons. If you're going to be using Meyer lemons, add an extra (small) lemon's, grated zest.

Recycled "Masterfoods" jars are perfect for small quantities

Don't be confused by the two types of recipes out there either. I've noticed some use whole eggs, while others only use yolks and cornflour (cornstarch). The thing is, they do exactly the same thing but when you omit the egg whites from the recipe - you need the cornflour to thicken the mixture. The theory behind removing the egg whites, is you reduce your chances of curdling so you can cook it in a saucepan directly on the stove. When using a recipe with whole eggs (white and yolk) be sure to make it with a double boiler or a large steel mixing bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

It goes without saying, that you want to grate the zest as fine as possible, and I actually used my hand blender after I cooked it to ensure the zest was really fine.

A note about using the eggs too (and I have yet to find it in a recipe) before adding them into the cooking process, I put them through a strainer first - as I can never get those chunky globs of albumen out, no matter how hard or desperate I whisk. If you have fresh eggs from your own backyard, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. ;)

So onto the recipe:

4 Eureka lemons (grated zest and juice)
4 eggs
1 and 1/2 cups of castor sugar
150g butter - regular with salt is fine, just don't use margarine

This makes roughly over 2 cups. As it only keeps for a month in the fridge I make this small quantity to be consumed.

Set up your double boiler or mixing bowl and saucepan. Place in the butter until it melts. Add everything else except the eggs. After you've cracked them into a separate bowl, beat them lightly then put the eggs through a strainer. Catch the eggs into a separate bowl again - don't place directly into the double boiler mixture just yet. Make sure the sugar has completely dissolved, then using a metal whisk, slowly drizzle the eggs in, while you're constantly whisking the liquid.

Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes (stirring constantly) then take off the heat and run a hand blender through the mixture. Pour into sterilised jars and then cool for 30 minutes before placing in the fridge.

Lemon butter is one of those recipes you cannot boil after you've put it into the jar, to seal the lid, so consume within the month with refrigeration. They also make a gorgeous filling for mini tart shells too.

Now you can enjoy your lemons for the spread, and save your fish for the lemon grass instead. :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In one fortuitous moment...

....the a-frame chicken tractor, went *crack*! It didn't crumple due to faulty construction, it actually stopped a tree from falling on the house. This picture was taken the day after.

24 hours later

Unfortunately, there were two innocent guinea-pigs inside the a-frame at the time. With all the leaves obscuring the view and heavy branches resting above the door, we couldn't get to them to see if they were okay. Our daughter panicked as mum ran for the bush saw, so dad could cut them free.

Dad was not too popular at that stage, feeling terrible himself - but everyone was racing to save the guinea pigs! Eventually we got the branches off the door - the guinea-pigs were scared, but safe, thankfully. My heart is still racing just thinking about it.


But the a-frame isn't in such good shape. This was my first major construction project with wood, and while it pains me to see it taken out by a tree, geez it held itself up well. Not only that, it protected the guinea pigs and the house. What a wonderful little project which has achieved so much!

The wood used to build it was mostly recycled from pallets, it housed our first chickens, grew-out chicks we hatched in the incubator (several batches) and helped fertilise our very first veggie patch.

Freshly on the job 2008

It was beginning to be used as a day-pen for the guinea-pigs until this fortuitous day. Several times I watched them feed, and I thought they needed something a little lower. I said to myself, what a pity I cannot remodel it - I mean, after all that effort it took to build it, I wasn't going to start tearing it down for guinea pigs.

Well, I guess the tree did that for me, LOL. Dave is now in the process of cutting the tree into posts. By the way, this is a baby tree, and in the picture below, he's already removed two-thirds of it. Being a "baby" tree we thought it was safe to remove on our own. In hindsight, we should've practiced on one further away from the house.

Needless to say, it had to fall up a hill to barely miss the house...

At the time, Dave thought he had it under control - I suggested if he kept cutting it on that side, it would fall towards the house. Had either of us known (truly how it would land) I'm sure we would've stopped the process. But the truth is, if you want to learn new things you have to experiment. Take all the precautions you can, research the theory in books and then just jump into it. That's how my a-frame was built - how it was taken out too, LOL.

Where we went wrong: we used the technique of a tree felled with a chainsaw, but we were using an axe! You cannot make the kinds of precision cuts with a chainsaw, with an axe. You learn in hindsight, LOL. Yes, we felt quite stupid on that score - it was an obvious difference.

All I can say is, no lives were lost - I can remodel the a-frame and we learned something new.

In one fortuitous moment...

....I wonder what shape you will take next?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Back so soon?

Spring is just around the corner...can you smell it?

With Spring comes new life and new beginnings. It was calling me back to blog about our every day life again. The mundane and the extraordinary. The good and the bad. Lots of stuff has happened during our absence, but I'll get to that in good time. Right now I just want to introduce you to our new blog.

I can say that our break away from blogging was well spent. It gave us a new perspective on being here for the long term. You can read about our new blog ethos, in the pages we've designed in the linkbar. We've decided to blog according to what we can and where we are in life - it just seemed the most practical approach to a long-term endeavour.

Of course, there's a new look to our blog and even a new address - I know I promised I wouldn't change it, I'm very sorry about that. It just seemed appropriate to change what we felt was necessary. We deliberated for quite some time on this matter. In the end, we wanted to be true to our new changes rather than emulating an older model. Please forgive the inconvenience I know it will cause.

One aspect of our new look however, is something I hope you can help me with. I've removed the blogs I follow from the sidebars, as I felt this was cluttering the page somewhat. It was all good clutter, mind you, as I do love to follow my favourite blogs. But I was wondering how others have gone about removing the clutter, but still have links to their favourite blogs?

Do you guys sign-up to follow blogs to see who has posted instead?

Anyway, just to show I haven't been entirely unproductive in our break, I knitted another dishcloth. Of course I did! I mean, what else do you do in winter but knit dishclothes, LOL?

I had a few stray bits of yarn which wouldn't complete a whole dishcloth, so I just knitted blocks of the leftover colours in plain knitting stitch. I know I'm not the first person to think of this idea, but it was a first for me to put into practice. It's a lovely, large cloth and plain knit is quite a strong weave and simple to do.

Another project keeping us occupied over winter, was finishing our front retaining wall. Can you believe it? It's 95% complete! Pictures will follow later but it's quite an exciting time for us. We're eagerly awaiting the new spring flush of growth, which will kick-start our new garden above the wall.

Well, I look forward to catching up again in the near future - refreshed and content. Bring on lovely spring time and all the new plants which bloom. Happy gardening!