I was pleased to acquire a couple of bags of Meyer lemons at the Giant Eagle, which does not always carry them. I had been stumbling around the store, picking up a few necessities, in a haze of the cold that will not end. I've had this cold and its full panoply of disfiguring side effects for more than two weeks, and am happy to report that it is finally noticeably better. At that time, however, I was just grabbing what I needed, while exposing as few people as possible to my contagion, my damp, rabbity eyes, and the unearthly glow of my hideous nose.
I was glad I picked up the lemons, for a couple of reasons. The first is that I am a believer in the power of lemons over common virii. In various combinations they make you feel better, soothing symptoms, and cheering you up. The second is that playing with the lemons was a nontaxing entertainment for me while I spent the greater part of two days indoors, dutifully "resting" in an attempt to get back up to snuff. I made a small batch of Meyer lemon marmalade, limoncello, and hot lemonade. While the limoncello is not yet ready, I took a bit out early to make an incredibly easy and effective shortcut hot toddy.
Probably you are familiar with the hot toddy concept-most formulae involve tea, alcohol, lemon, and honey, or some combination of some of these. You may not be aware, however, of the optimal method for administration of the toddy, in aid of respiratory illnesses. I learned this method from my late Auntie Louie, who fixed me up, toddy-wise, when I came down with a filthy cold, visiting her in England many years ago.
My bed was made up with a pile of fluffy quilts and pillows, and I was sent off with instructions to take a very hot bath, dry up quickly, put on a flannel nightgown, and pop into bed. As soon as I pulled up the covers, she appeared with the steaming toddy. I drank it. It was excellent. Already drowsy from the bath, I was KO'd by the toddy, and fell instantly and deeply asleep. I woke up in the morning with a cleared head, feeling a bit damp, but otherwise perfect. Something was said about "sweating it out." It sounds like work, but was actually totally effortless-unconscious, even. (Okay, the sweating thing is a bit indelicate, but so is a bad cold.)
Admittedly, this toddy cure is more easily achieved with assistance than solo. But hey, I live alone, and have performed a modified form of this ritual on my own. It has never had quite as miraculous a result as that first time, but it always makes me feel better, and even if it didn't, I would still like it, because toddies taste lovely and are comforting. They are also good, of course, for cases of coldness and tiredness, in the absense of any illness whatsoever. Under those circumstances, it is quite nice to sip your toddy wrapped in an afghan, in a comfortable chair.
In any event, I will start here with the limoncello, because that is where I began when I arrived home with my bags of lemons. I made my limoncello with vodka, because I have done so before, and like it. Recently I have read that this is inauthentic, and that it is better to make it with something much cruder and closer to say,grain alcohol. This purportedly results in a certain characteristic "glow." I am definitely willing to try it if someone else wants to make some.
I poured almost all of a bottle of decent vodka into a one quart ball jar, and added the finely grated (microplaned) yellow zest of one bag of my lemons, shook it up, capped it, and pushed it to the back of a dark pantry shelf to rest for one week. (By the way, I recently learned that you can buy wide mouth plastic replacement lids for canning jars. I like to use these once I've opened something canned, or when I'm ultimately refrigerating something instead of sealing it. They can prevent weird metallic flavors from developing. Places that have lots of canning things all seem to carry these lids, but I had not noticed them before.)
Next, I juiced the bald lemons, and picked out and saved the seeds. I made a simple syrup, boiling a half cup each of sugar and water, and mixed half of the syrup in with the lemon in a quart pitcher. I poured out a bit of this mixture into a mug, then filled the pitcher to the top with water, stirred it up, and put this lemonade in the fridge, along with a little jar of the rest of the syrup. I added the leftover vodka to the mug, made some hot tea, poured it also into the mug, and took the resulting toddy to bed with me.
Not surprisingly, I felt considerably better the next morning, well enough to make a small batch of Meyer Lemon marmalade from my second bag of lemons and the seeds from the first bag. As I learned the first time I made Meyer lemon marmalade from the recipe I like (which is in the most recent Gourmet Cookbook), most of the pectin in lemons is in the seeds. You must put them in a muslin bag (or a stainless steel teaball), and cook them right along with the lemons and sugar, removing them only at the very end. The extra seeds from the beverage lemons helped insure a nice set. All very satisfactory.
To complete the limoncello, after a week, you must strain the zest from the vodka, mix with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar syrup (brought first to room temperature), shake it up, and put it on the shelf for another week. Then it will be all ready, and you can keep it in the freezer, serving it very cold and delicious, after your dinner, where it will seem especially lovely in a morrocan tea glass, or something like that.
Of course, you can decant it into prettier bottles if you like, too. Here is the bonus: Limoncello is also an instant toddy mix. Just put some in a mug, and add some very hot tea. Nothing else is needed for a toddy.
P.S. Hot lemonade is also a good thing for people with colds. It does not pack a wallop like the toddy, so you can drink it when you have a cold, but want to remain awake and upright. You might add a few slices of lemon and an ice tea spoon, after heating it and poring it into a tall glass. When you are feeling a bit better, the marmalade will be ready to eat on some crispy toast.. (The recipe says to give it 24 hours for the flavors to blend. A month would probably be even better, but I tried some the next day myself, and liked it fine.) I'm trying to hold on to the rest awhile before opening it. If you would like the marmalade recipe, email me, and I will (eventually) send it to you. I had planned to provide it here, but feel I've yakked on sufficiently for the moment.
The picture, BTW,"The Glass of Lemonade" is the work of Gerard Terborch (Dutch, 1655-60), and is in the Hermitage. The man and the older lady look very solicitous, and the recipient seems to be feeling under the weather. But perhaps I am projecting?