Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat …
Obviously Will Holt (the man behind this annoying song) hadn’t experienced homemade lemon cordial, nor had he met my son, who likes to eat a whole lemon, rind and all (he eats whole limes as well). I think my son will be happy in love and life as a result of this talent.
It’s this same son I invariably call upon to help me make lemon cordial; not that it’s hard, it just requires some commitment to juicing a fair number of lemons. Years ago I was given a very basic electric juicer and this means lemon cordial production occurs without being preceded with a big ‘sigh’ or the need to pump iron … And by I’ve now saved enough bottles that the tedium of sticky label removal is not part of the process; I just rinse the bottles thoroughly in really hot water and they’re ready to go.
When the lemons are ripe, if there aren’t at least five bottles of cordial lined up on the shelf, this household goes into a panic. The kids grew up on the stuff like mother’s milk; it’s also a great alcohol replacement for adults, or alcohol addition, with vodka & soda for example. And it’s good for you, even though it contains a fair quantity of sugar. Lemons are exceptionally good for you; you should drink the juice of one in warm water every morning.
This lemon cordial recipe is the tried & true, standard cordial recipe, repeated everywhere and claimed by every chef in every cookbook. So I can’t claim it – it was passed on to me from an old friend 15 years ago. It probably goes back 100s of years.
Lemon Cordial Recipe
This is the basic recipe for about four bottles of cordial. The same process can be used for orange or grapefruit cordial, varying the sugar perhaps, on the basis of the sweetness of the fruit being used.
- 2 kilos white sugar*
- 30 g citric acid (6 teaspoons)
- 30 g tartaric acid
- 1 litre water
- 6 – 8 lemons, juiced
- Zest of one lemon
Boil the water and dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool slightly. Mix the citric and tartaric acid together and dissolve into a paste in a bit of the syrup. Add to the syrup and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool.
In the meantime, rinse the bottles in hot water (I prefer bottles with screw top lids, so I recycle store-bought cordial bottles. Also, recycled Grolsch bottles work well, and are a great size for gifts, label removed of course). Once the syrup has cooled, add the lemon juice and zest and stir. Pour into bottles (using a funnel and pouring jug is easiest) and seal.
Homemade Lemon Cordial
*I’ve been making the stuff for so long now that I don’t follow the recipe – I just bang a few litres of water in a big pot, dissolve about 1.5 kilos of sugar (we don’t like it too sweet in this house), squeeze about 1 litre of lemon juice and mix in the combined acids fairly haphazardly. It seems to work. When you’ve made it a few times, you’ll begin to work out the quantities of sugar etc. that you prefer.
- If you don’t like pith or a few seeds in your cordial (I don’t), use a strainer to skim the top before pouring into bottles.
- Lemon cordial can store for a long time; the more sugar you use, the longer it will last. That said, once an addiction ensues, it won’t last long at all.
- Keep the current bottle in the fridge as it’s best really cold.
- Add honey and ginger to a lemon cordial with warm water, and you have a cold remedy.
Postscript: I take it back about the song.