I have often, in the past, made flavoured vinegars by the infusion method, but have fairly frequently been a little disappointed by the end result. I want a powerful flavour, not a hint. When I skimmed through a recipe (given below) for Lemon Vinegar from Warne’s Everyday Cookery (London, 1872) by Mary Jewry, I was very intrigued. Surely with so much work and so many lemons, it would be very lemony indeed?
A more thorough reading however has left me quite confused. It is surprisingly difficult to write a recipe well, in order that the method is absolutely clear. I have no clarity at all on this recipe. What does one do with the grated rind? It seems that the rindless lemons are what is rubbed with salt and dried, not the pieces of peel? The amount of salt is not stated, but it would seem that a large amount is needed – how salty would the ‘vinegar’ be, in the end? Does one end up with a clear liquid pickle plus another pickle made from the ‘remaining ingredients’?
Time, nine weeks.
Two dozen and a half of lemons; four ounces of garlic; one handful of horseradish ; one gallon of vinegar; one ounce of mace; half an ounce of cloves; one ounce of nutmeg; half an ounce of Cayenne; half a pint of mustard seed.
Grate off the outer rinds of the lemons with a piece of glass, cut them across but do not quite separate them; work in as much salt as you can with the fingers; spread them on a large pewter dish, and cover them quite over with salt; then put them into a cool oven three or four times, until the juice is dried into the peels; they must be hard but not burned. Then put to them the garlic peeled, the horseradish sliced, and again place them in the oven till there is no moisture left. As the salt dissolves work in more. Put the vinegar into a stewpan with the cloves pounded, the mace beaten fine, the nutmeg cut into slices, and the Cayenne and mustard slightly bruised, and tied in a muslin bag. Boil all these ingredients with the vinegar, and pour it boiling hot on the lemons. The jar must be well closed, and let stand by the fire for six days, shaking it well every day. Then tie it down and let it stand for three months to take off the bitterness. When it is bottled, the pickle must be put into a hair or lawn sieve two or three times, till it is as fine as possible. After the lemon pickle is cleared off, add about one quart of boiled vinegar to the remaining ingredients, and after it has stood for some time it is excellent for hashes, &c. &c.
This pickle may be put into white sauce, one spoonful being sufficient; two spoonfuls for brown sauce. It is also good for fish, fowls, or any made dish, care always being taken to put it in before the sauce is mixed with cream, or the acid may curdle it.
The following recipe, also from the book, sounds very straightforward, and would perhaps make a fine gift for the gourmet in your life.
Time, one month.
Fill some bottles with the rinds of some fine fresh lemons, cut as thin as possible; add the kernels of some peaches or plums, blanched, and fill up the bottles with brandy; let it stand for nearly a month, then strain it off, put it into bottles, and cork them well down.
Quotation for the Day.
Maud Grieve: A Modern Herbal (1931)