Thursday, January 29, 2009

The bitter butter nutter

LEMON BUTTER Juice of 2 lemons rind of 1 lemon 1 well beaten egg 1 tablespoon butter enough sugar to thicken bring to boil while stirring.
That was the recipe for lemon butter Lachlan sent me this Tuesday via mobile. On Australia Day he'd promised to bring lemon butter over, but instead he brought a whole bunch of lemons, and left me to figure out what to do with them. Being wildly original, I hit on the plan of making some lemon butter - hence the SMS.

Somewhat irrationally, I decided to do it late tonight, in the middle of this four-day Melbourne heatwave. Since I had tonnes of lemons, and thought I had tonnes of sugar, I decided to do double quantities. How hard could it be? I juiced the lemons, added them with the rind to a small saucepan, and as I started to bring it to the boil, remembered that I'd forgotten the eggs. Not a problem. I sprinted to the fridge, broke open two eggs, and quickly beat them up with a fork. Well, you can beat and beat and beat eggs and still be the loser: my lemon butter quickly revealed solidified remnants of egg white that floated sadly to the surface and then down into the depths again.

I added sugar. Then I added some more. Then I added some more, again. And again. And again. The butter remained entirely liquid, it refused to 'thicken' as the recipe seemed to say it would. It occured to me after a while that perhaps I'd just have to wait for the thing to boil and cool down, after which it would do the thickening. Barely had I turned my back on it than it decided to start boiling. Boiling? It was more like a chemical explosion; it fizzed out of my tiny pan, hitting the hot pan on the stove, causing me to take it off and pour it all into my biggest saucepan. I whacked it back on, and stirred like crazy to try and contain the convulsing liquid below the surface.

Eventually I got it calmed down, but noticed that it was STILL not thickening. What the hell was I going to have to do? I decided then that the whole point of lemon butter was not lemon, or butter, but sugar. I'd have to start adding sugar like a bastard. So I stopped shovelling spoonfuls of sugar in and instead just started pouring it straight from the box into the pan, and stirring. No such luck. Eventually I got to the bottom of the box and started rummaging around in my cupboard, emerging with a four-fifths full bag of caster sugar. In this went, into the seething and spitting mass of lemon butter (well, the seething and spitting mass that was still in the pan and not all over the stove, anyway). That dwindled away to two fifths of a bag, then to one tenth of a bag, then the whole bag.

I scrutinised the panful of lemon butter with a jaded eye. It was thicker, kind of. I poured part of it into my measuring jug, and poured the contents of my measuring jug into an empty Morello cherry jar, and repeated the process until I'd gotten rid of all of it. Then I shoved it all into the fridge and looked at my phone.

It was 11.30 PM.

Well that attempt at making lemon butter was an utter failure, I texted back to my brother. Next time I bring the lemons and you make the butter.


Dale Slamma said...

They try to disguise it but at the end of the day cooking is just science using another name. I hate science, it has a lot to answer for.

Maria said...

This sounds like my attempt at mango mousse.

first time it was like ... Mango liquid? Mango milk?

Next time I thought it was because the gelatin wasn't done right. maybe I added too much water before or the water wasn't warm enough. So I heted up the water hotter and made a very small amount of water.

Well what do you know the gelatin started globbing up even before it hit the mangoey stuff and got mixed in so the bastard ended up being globules of gelatin in little plasticky bits swimming around in slightly thicker milky yopghurty mango flavoured stuff. It was like one of those games when we ate it - "hey I think I found the prize in my food - it's plastic toy - shaped ... browny globule ... let's pretend it is a seven-headed monster"
Next year when mangoes come back in season I will have to figure out how it is done. Maybe I'll just have to buy some mousse in a pack, add mango flavouring, stir and refreeze.

Steve said...

I've never made it, but that recipe doesn't sound right in the first place. You need a TV cook to be parachuted into your kitchen. As this recipe feature butter, which is a key feature of all British cooking, I suggest Nigella.

TimT said...

I've got three jars of the lemon... stuff now. Anyone want one?

Say yes! For the sake of science!

forlorn said...

Lemon spread always makes me think of my maternal grandparents because it was the special treat we had when we went to see them each weekend. I think sugar is indeed the principal ingredient. Other members of my family are good cooks and also of a scientific bent, the smug bastards.

Thank you for the delightful image of you pouring sugar with a maniacal look on your face.

Maria said...

Trouble with SMS recipes is there is always going to be that element of "i've got to fit all this into one (or maybe just 2!) messages, and leave out the important instruction bits or abbreviate all the words so you don't know what the heck you are doing or what you are putting in.

I'm terrible with instructions so I have to be told VERY clearly.

When I was little I was told to wash the lettuce for salad so I washed it. With soap.

Another time Mum asked me to cut the tags off some clothing and I cut huge big holes in the clothes so I could get the store tags off neatly.

Maria said...

If the whole point of lemon butter is sugar, why don't they call it sugar butter?

Just as they should stop calling 'em potato chips and call them "oily salty chips"


TimT said...

I probably would have been better off spreading some butter and sugar over my lemons in the morning and eating them...

Would have called mum to advise me. But it was 11.30 at the time, and she was (and I should have been) tucked up safely in bed.

TimT said...

When I was making the stuff, I didn't have a maniacal look on my face, so much as vague concern, followed by paranoia, rapidly blooming into utter horror as the lemon butter exploded all over my stove.

forlorn said...

That sounds even better. I hope you swore at it too. A lot.

Colin Campbell said...

Sounds about the right amount of sugar to fit my kids taste. Please send by esky to South Australia. Thank you.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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