Grow With Me: The Care and Feeding of C'est si Bon! Lemons

Grow With Me: The Care and Feeding of C'est si Bon! Lemons

I peeked at the lemon tree, and thought I had picked them all, but then saw it. One little lemon left. What should we do with it? 

The care and feeding of C'est si Bon! Cooking School involves more than testing recipes, keeping the kitchen up and running, and unfrozen in the winter, and shopping for ingredients for classes. 

As with any small business there's the inside part; a web-site, and daily emails, and social media. I do think sometimes its hard to see all of the parts, if its shady or sunny, or a tree is down. It's always changing which is a good thing, and a challenge too. 

And then there's the outside part of the farm that is C'est si Bon! Each chapter enjoys its own story; of work, joy, and transformation. 

There's weeding and caring for our garden. It will soon be time to harvest the collards which are doing great. And with that harvest comes the weeding and readying the beds for summer. 

There's the daily feeding of 5 hens, who are down from 10 hens ~ no thanks to a possum ~ but now that possum has been dispatched. 

There is watering and soaking and harvesting shitake mushroom logs, and the occasional take down of a white oak or sweet gum tree that has passed on, and yet might make a good fertile ground for new mushroom logs. 

One of the winter joys is the care of a lemon, key lime, and a bay laurel tree that we roll in and out from the back deck into the tv room. Carefully. 


Our Lemon Tree.


Limoncello in the making.


Our lemon tree has a long history. I bought it on a whim one year for my husband, Rich's, birthday from a nearby garden shop in Carrboro, Southern States.
Rich wasted not a moment in taking the little tree under his wing to nurture and grow. This involved measuring the soil, its composition, temperature, content, and soon a water schedule was set up, as well as an occasional pollination schedule of the sweet flowers in February with a q-tip. 

When its sunny and warm as it was last week, the tree gets rolled outside. 

Over the years the tree has spread and been moved to new and bigger pots, and sometimes, in the winter, under ultra-violet growing lights of a spectrum and color. (Can you tell I am on the outside of the details?)  

As Chapel Hill is in a freeze right now, the trees are rolled in, and huddle together in the entertainment room! We're lucky to have the ability to bring our lemon trees inside. 

Like many of of the farm operations around here, this rolling rigmarole has been modified and transformed. It used to be a bit of a disaster as it required coordination with neighbors and friends, and strapping on of weight-lifting belts so there could be groaning and lifting of heavy pots. Pots that grew larger every year.  

All of his care has resulted in a bounty of lemons which are a real sensory pleasure to hold. The thin-skinned Meyer Lemons leave their sweet scent on your fingers.  
This year we invited family over to pick! 

The Limoncello Begun. 
Cousins, Picking and Peeling Lemons.

We've used the lemons in every way; salty and sweet, and in a lamb dish we love, for when winter is still hanging on. 
There is one lemon left on the tree. What should we do with it? Send me your ideas! 

Sweet Lemon Curd from C’est si Bon! 
Wouldn't it be loverly to keep a supply of half-pint jars of this wonderful stuff on hand to bring out at the mere mention of company for brunch? It's great for miniature tarts, as a spread for just-baked muffins, between cookies or on the tip of your finger.

makes 2 half pints

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 meyer lemons, juiced (you should get a generous 1/2 cup. make sure to strain it, to ensure you get all the seeds)
zest from the juiced lemons
1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into chunks

in a small, heavy bottom pot over medium heat, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. add the lemon juice and zest and switch to stirring with a wooden spoon, so as not to aerate the curd.

stir continually for 10-15 minutes, adjusting the heat as you go to ensure that it does not boil.
your curd is done when it has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. when you determine that it's finished, drop in the butter and stir until melted.
pour the curd into two prepared half pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. if you want to process them for shelf stability, process them in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (start the time when the water returns to a boil).

Preserving Lemons
Stuffing with Salt
Preserved Lemons


Salty Moroccan Preserved Lemons – from David Lebowitz

12 lemons
6-8 bay leaves
4 cayenne peppers

scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush and dry them off.
cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end if there’s a hard little piece of the stem attached. from the other end of the lemon, make a large cut by slicing lengthwise downward, stopping about 1-inch (3 cm) from the bottom, then making another downward slice, so you’ve incised the lemon with an x shape.

pack coarse salt into the lemon where you made the incisions. don’t be skimpy with the salt: use about 1 tablespoon per lemon.

put the salt-filled lemons in a clean, large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. add a few coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a dried chili, and a cinnamon stick if you want. (or a combination of any of them.)

press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get the juices flowing. cover and let stand overnight.

the next day do the same, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. repeat for a 2-3 days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid. if your lemons aren’t too juicy, add more freshly-squeezed lemon juice until they are submerged, as I generally have to do.

after one month, when the preserved lemons are soft, they’re ready to use. store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for at least 6 months. rinse before using to remove excess salt.

to use: remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. split in half and scrape out the pulp. slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. you may wish to press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the tasty juice, which can be used for flavoring as well, then discard the innards.

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Berebere and Preserved Lemon

for the lamb:
1 (2.2-pound) shoulder of lfarm-raised amb, locally we love the lamb from Fickle Creek Farm
¼ cup coconut oil

1/1/2 teaspoons berebere spice paste
freshly ground black pepper and crushed fennel seed
2 tangerines chopped
1 cup chicken stock and ½ cup preserved lemon

for the vegetables:1 1/2 pounds peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 large onion, sliced thick
1 pound greens, such as cabbage, kale or collards

for the sauce:1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups good-quality hot chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
for the lamb: heat your oven to 350. and when hot, add the coconut oil to a medium cast iron pan and set in the oven to melt and get hot.
meanwhile on a cutting board rub your lamb shoulder with pepper and the crushed fennel seed. then massage in the berebere spices.
place it in the pan on top of the tangerines. roast in the oven for 30 minutes. pull out and deglaze with the chicken stock and lemon. tightly cover with aluminum foil and return to the oven.
turn the oven down to 325 degrees f and roast for 4 hours - it's done if you can pull the meat apart easily with 2 forks.

for the vegetables: remove the lamb from the oven and place it on a chopping board. cover it with foil, then a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest. add the potatoes, onions, and greens to the cast iron pan. return to the oven for 30 minutes. 
when done, remove the pan from the oven and put on the stovetop on medium heat. using a slotted spoon remove the vegetables to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
for the sauce: mix stock and flour. add stock mixture to the pan, stirring and scraping the bottom to incorporate any drippings. add the capers, turn heat down and simmer till thickened to desired consistency. taste for seasoning. serve.


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