24 October 2013

Preserving the Harvest: Lemons

When life hands you lemons, make...

...conserve of lemons!

Lemons were the focus of my contribution to The Hive's Preserving the Harvest last Saturday.

Earlier this year I stumbled upon a series of ads in the Newport Mercury for "Lisbon Lemons" that were available in August and early September.

Newport Mercury September 2, 1765

I then found an easy 18th century receipt in The Williamsburg Art of Cookery (p.136-7) to preserve them.

Conserve of Lemons

Wash and dry yr Lemons, pare off the yellow Rinds clear of the White and beat them in a Marble Mortar with nearly double their Weight of white Sugar. Pack closely in a Jar or Glass and cover the Top with the Balance of the Sugar. One even Teaspoon added to six Bottles Toddy gives an agreeable Flavour. This Conserve is delightful in all sweet Dishes when you have not fresh Fruit.

To conserve my lemons, I made a little modification to the receipt: I mashed the peeled lemons with my wooden spoon as I don't have a mortar and pestle and, of course, mixed it with lots of sugar. And that was pretty much it!

Please excuse my not so period appropriate wooden bowls.

I'm no chemist but I'm told there's something about the sugar that acts as a preservative for the lemons. Many people asked how long this would keep. I'm not sure! I know that if I was an 18th century housewife this wouldn't last long in my kitchen because it's super tasty. I'm making extra with my leftover lemons to bring to Battle Road next April so we'll see how they fare through the winter--if they make it that long.

Here are some photos from our fall day at Hartwell Tavern...

Looking a little queasy at the end of the day...maybe I had too much lemon conserve?


  1. I just read a receipt for a Noah Mason, 1768, for two boxes of lemons. They cost him 168 pounds, so lemons would have been worth preserving. (Mr Mason was an innkeeper in Providence.)

  2. Thank you for the recipe. I am always looking for interesting old recipes and patterns. There is so much that I love about the era you blog about and I find everything fascinating. Thank you for sharing, it is very apppreciated

    1. No problem, hope you can enjoy some lemon conserve sometime soon!

  3. Good morning. I use a recipe for Lemon Brandy from an English Cookery book called: Margaretta Acworth's Georgian Cookery Book - edited by alice and Frank Prochaska. You use the peels and pack them in a jar with brandy. Let it stand in a cool dark place for couple of days - I do a week or two. Then make a simple syrup. Strain the brandy and add the syrup and bottle. I even did it with lavender simple syrup for a French twist. Thanks for sharing.


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