I’ve been having one of those weeks where I really miss my family and wish I could be closer to them. Many of you readers will understand why. You will also know that we are a family that enjoys food; not so much as a solitary pleasure, but as a communal gathering, cooking and eating together. So I have taken some comfort in making and eating one of my earliest food loves, my Gran Joy’s Lemon Honey.
I used to love going to stay in Auckland, although the long drive from Wellington to Auckland was not so great. I have so many lovely memories of their home. Hot Auckland nights tossing and turning in the back bedroom I shared with my middle sister. Star-gazing on their balcony with my Dad. Hours spent at the beach, and hours spent trying to wash off the sticky sand. The year my sister got roller-blades for Christmas and we rushed outside to try them out on the hills of St Heliers. Gran’s clashing pink and apricot kitchen with its old fashioned bean slicer. Grandad’s bread, Gran’s preserved fruit, meringues, and always, always, jars of lemon honey. I suspect Gran made a big batch in advance of our arrival, as I at least slathered my bread with it.
Tasting the same food I ate all those years ago isn’t just about my memories. It gives me a sense of my place in the world. Lemon honey, Gran Kath’s apricot slice or toasties, my mum’s fish pie, and scones. These aren’t just recipes to me, they are stories. They tell me the story of the women who came before me: the tastes they enjoyed, the ingredients available to them, and the kind of cooking they could do with eyes on whoever was scampering at their feet. Once I was the child coming hungry to the table. Now I am the provider. I watched my son lick the lemon honey off the top of his crumpet and knew the next generation of lemon honey lovers had arrived.
Gran’s recipe is a simple, economical, homely recipe, perfect for someone with an army of kids to feed on a budget. I’ve seen lemon curd recipes in fancy cookbooks, they all use four or five egg yolks. I’m sure they taste delicious, but it’s just more bother. She always made it one jar at a time, straight into the fridge, so no messing around with sterilising equipment either. It’s super simple, as long as you don’t let the temperature get too high and ‘scramble’ the eggs. But it wouldn’t be Gran’s lemon honey if you didn’t find at least one string of egg white somewhere. Lucky you whoever finds it. I always used to love that bit.
Joy’s Lemon Honey
Juice and rind of two lemon
1 teacup sugar (a scant ¾ cup, but I like the old-fashioned name)
All ingredients into a double boiler over barely simmering water. Stir over low temperature until it boils and thickens. Pour into clean jar and keep in the fridge.