30 November 2009
Posted in FOOD AND WINE
One fruit we all associate with Southern Italy and its cuisine is the lemon, with its bright, sunshine yellow colour, tart, refreshing flavour and delightful fragrance it is a versatile and delicious fruit used in all sorts of Mediterranean dishes.
It may surprise you to know that the lemon did not originate in Southern Europe, despite the fact that it truly thrives here.
It is believed to have originated in South-East Asia and to have been transported by Middle Eastern traders into Southern Italy. Nowadays, the Sorrento and Amalfi coasts simply would not be the same without the ever-present aroma of lemon groves. The food in the area would not be quite so delicious, and believe it or not, neither would the landscape – the coastline in some places is literally held together by the roots of the lemon groves clinging to it.
Sorrento lemons in particular are famous, and extremely recognisable with their large size, elliptical shape and uneven texture. The trees bear fruit all year round, but the best lemons are ripe from late Spring through to Autumn, and have particularly tart, juicy flesh. The quality of Sorrento lemons is so high, in fact, that in 2001 they received IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) to protect them from imitations.
As far as quality goes, Amalfi lemons are not far behind, also boasting IGP status. It can be recognised from its pointed shape, also known as “Sfusato”, pale yellow rind and intense aroma. These are at their best slightly earlier than their cousins in Sorrento, with the best fruits being picked from March to July.
So what do the Italians use these delicious citrus fruits for? And how can you incorporate them into your wedding for that extra Mediterranean tang? Here are a few ideas:
A sweet, strong liqueur made out of lemon zest, high strength alcohol, sugar and water. It is usually served ice cold as a digestivo after meals to help settle the stomach. For your wedding, you could of course stick with the Italian theme and serve limoncello at the end of your meal. Another possibility is the giving of miniature bottles of limoncello as a wedding favour that will surely be appreciated!
You may also want to incorporate this into your wedding holiday or honeymoon, and go and visit lemon groves and limoncello manufacturers, perhaps as part of an agritourismo visit to really experience this important part of Southern Italian culture for yourself.
Lemons used in cooking
Many dishes, in particular in Southern Italy, use lemon as a flavouring. In particular, pollo al limone (lemon chicken) has a much stronger flavour than in Anglo-Saxon cuisine, and lemons are also used regularly in fish dishes and as a simple dressing for salads and fresh fruit. These dishes are all Southern Italian staples, and caterers will be delighted to include them in your wedding banquet.
Delizia Al Limone
Typical of the Sorrento Coast, this desert is simple, fragrant and absolutely delicious. A sponge cake base prepared with fresh lemon juice and covered in a generous layer made up of confectioners custard, fresh cream, limoncello and sugar, all topped with a sprinkling of lemon zest... Delicious either as a desert or as a fresh, zesty wedding cake at a summer wedding!
Lemons in decorations
Many weddings nowadays use a variety of different things to create centrepieces and decorations, and lemons can definitely be used to add extra zest. Not only that, but they smell great too! You could try using bowls of lemons, lemons amongst your flowers or even vases filled with lemons. You could even base your entire colour scheme around yellow or yellow and green if you wish for a truly invigorating atmosphere, or use lemon scented candles for a fresh, clean smell and romantic soft lighting. It’s entirely up to you!
Whether you are in Italy for your wedding, your honeymoon or just a romantic break, these delicious citrus fruits and the recipes that use them are definitely to be sampled; and as for incorporating them into your wedding, there many different ways. Enjoy!