Tangy fresh lemons liven wintertime menus

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

During the 18th century, when English gardens were seasonally depleted of their rich offerings of juicy blackberries and other fruits, Georgian housewives resorted to the buying of porcelain fruits to "freshen" their tables.

Chelsea and other English potters understood this need and catered to it with small porcelain pots shaped like lemons for sweet- meats; prettily patterned melons to serve as tureens for steaming soups; scores of other covered dishes with finials shaped like oranges and pears, and a variety of vine leaf dishes decorated with berries to invitingly hold pickles.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has a treasured example of the porcelain English women used to "freshen" their tables: a 3 1/2- inch Chelsea apple of red , yellow, and green coloring, halved from stalk to pit and with the smaller half of the apple serving as a lid. Undoubtedly Lady Charlotte Schreiber, who bought this appealing little apple in 1872, proudly used it to offer her guests tempting candied fruits.

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Fortunately, numerous fruits are available these days during cold weather months and bring a welcome "freshness" to contemporary wintertime menus. High on the list of such fruits is the lemon. Its tantalizing tartness brings vigor to desserts, sauces, and beverages. The Irish poet Thomas Moore went as far as to say:

"A Persian heaven is easily made,

'Tis but black eyes and lemonade."

Known botanically as Citrus Limonia,m the lemon, it is believed, originated in India, Burma, and southern China; was brought to Africa and Spain by the Arabs, and later to more of Europe by returning Crusaders. It was Columbus, however, who introduced this tangy fruit to the New World, when he brought it to Haiti in 1493.

A generous slice of Lemon-Raisin bread is enjoyable on a chilly winter day. Golden raisins are particularly good to use in this light bread, but if you don't have them on hand, you can substitute walnuts or pecans. Lemon-Raisin Bread 1 cup sugar 6 tablespoons butter or shortening 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind 2 eggs 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 cup milk 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup (scant) sugar 1/2 cup golden raisins dusted with flour

Cream sugar with butter or shortening. Add lemon rind. Beat in eggs. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together and add alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Add raisins. Pour into greased loaf pan 9 by 5 by 3 inches, or make two small loaves, and bake at 325 degrees F. for 35 to 45 minutes.

Heat 1/4 cup sugar in lemon juice, stirring until dissolved and pour this mixture over the hot bread. Cool in pan before removing.

During depression years, when families faced deprivations and culinary treats for many were few and far between, my mother, like so many other housewives of that era, often shared the "wealth" of her kitchen with neighbors and friends in need of "cheering up." Lemons sold at that time at three for 10 cents, and my mother put her carefully counted pennies to good use when she bought them and made her welcome lemon pies to happily share and brighten dark days.

Lemons are now priced at four for about $1, but when used to make my mother's lemon pie filling to be topped with meringue in a favorite pastry shell or graham cracker crust, they are well worth the price paid for them. A Special Lemon Pie Filling 2 egg yolks 1 cup sugar Pinch of salt 3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch, mixed in small amount of water 1 pint boiling water Juice of 1 or 2 lemons

Beat egg yolks lightly and stir in mixed dry ingredients. Add liquids slowly and cook in double boiler until thick. Cool and pour in baked pie shell. Top with favorite meringue and bake in oven at 350 degrees F. for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

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