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Cooking with Lemons    

Lemons are highly acidic, and this acid will react with different foods in different ways.

For example, the acid will help dissolve connective tissues in meat, which is why lemon juice is commonly used in marinades — it helps tenderize tougher cuts of meat. But be careful not to overdo it: too much acid, or marinating for too long, can have the opposite effect, causing the muscle fibers to get tougher.

The acid in lemon juice can also curdle milk, and while it can cause green vegetables to turn a drab olive color, it will help vegetables such as potatoes and turnips maintain their white color.

Lemon Curd is a thick, soft and velvety cream that has a wonderful tart yet sweet citrus flavor. Traditionally it was used as a spread for scones but today it is used as a filling for tarts, pies, and cakes.

What I like about Lemon Curd is that it does not use exotic ingredients; just eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and unsalted butter. It is similar to a lemon filling or custard in that it is cooked on the stove but yet it does not contain a thickener such as cornstarch (corn flour). We are going to cook the curd in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water (a double boiler). This method does take a little longer, but it helps prevent the eggs from curdling which gives the curd all those annoying little specks of cooked egg. Just make sure that the water in the bottom saucepan is 'simmering' which is defined as the point just short of a boil, that is, when bubbles start to appear. Oftentimes if you find the lemon curd is not thickening fast enough, all you need to do is increase the temperature of the simmering water. Once the lemon curd has become nice and thick (like hollandaise), remove it from the heat and strain to remove any lumps that may have formed. Then stir in the butter and lemon zest and you're done. Cover immediately with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate. You will find that the lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. If you want to make the lemon curd lighter in texture and flavor, you can fold in a little whipped cream once the curd has been thoroughly chilled.

Now, lemon curd has to be made with fresh lemons. Do not use the imitation lemon juice that comes in a bottle. When choosing lemons look for ones that are fragrant with brightly colored oily yellow skins. The best ones are firm, plump, and heavy for their size. Don't buy lemons that have blemishes, soft spots, or are hard and wrinkled. Lemons consist of a yellow outer rind (skin) that can be of varying thickness and graininess, and can have either a bumpy or a smooth texture. This outer skin is where most of the lemon's wonderful tangy flavor is located. Before removing the outer rind (zest) make sure you wash the lemon thoroughly (soap and water is best). When removing the zest do not remove the white membrane (pith) that is underneath as it is very bitter tasting. Once you have removed the outer rind, inside the lemon are small vessels called 'pulp vesicles' which contain the pleasantly acidic lemon juice and seeds. Squeezing the lemon by hand or with a lemon squeezer or reamer releases this clear tart juice.

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