‘Sfusato Amalfatino‘ are the famous ‘spindle’ shaped lemons from Italy’s Amalfi coast. Amali is strongly associated with lemons – Amalfi and the lemon are like childhood sweethearts who grew up together, got married, and spawned a legacy of a thousand zippy dishes. And, Amalfi is, of course, the home of limoncello – that vodka-based digestif that Nonna Maria is said to have invented in the 1900s.
The history of the Amalfi lemon is interesting to anyone trying to follow authentic Amalfi recipes using produce from elsewhere. Amalfi lemons are not genetically 100% lemon.
Like a lot of things, lemons probably arrived in Italy from the Middle East, and these lemons will have been very like the ones you can buy in a British greengrocer. The lemons were cultivated easily because of the peculiar way in which cool sea air becomes trapped in the steep-sided valleys of the Amalfi peninsula, and creates a climate that is perfect for lemon trees. Sorrento still grows this older lemon variety.
However, on the southern coast of Amalfi, the lemons were crossed with local oranges to produce the spindly ‘sfusato’ lemons depicted in the mosaics of Pompeii. In the area these days, you can find both traditional, elongated sfusato Amalfatino, and the shorter, fatter limone di Sorrento. Whether this make a difference to cooking with lemons would require an A/B taste-off.
Amalfi lemons enjoy a year-round season, that peaks in the heat of May, June and July. It therefore seems fitting in the present weather to make lemon ice cream.
The last time we made tarte au citron, we had some uncooked filling left over, and wondered what would happen if we put it in an ice cream machine. Magic happened, and we created the most amazing, soft-scoop ice cream I have ever tasted. This needs almost no time out of the freezer to become gloriously scoopable, but eat quickly in chilled bowls.
Please note that this recipe contains raw eggs. Code-certified UK eggs are now Salmonella-free, and safe to eat, but the UK population is understandably a bit nervous about eating raw eggs because they were not always bacteria-free. If you are neurotic, or live in a country where eggs are not code-certified, don’t make ice cream this way. Fortune, however, favours the bold, and this stuff is flat-out incredible.
This article first appeared as a guest post on the Tom Cooks! blog by retired Edinburgh-based legal eagle Tom Johnston, shortly after his return from the Amalfi Coast this July. Please visit Tom’s site and see “Hello” to him on Twitter.
Lemon ice cream
- Zest and juice of 4 lemons
- 9 code-certified eggs (do not use un-certified, farm gate eggs)
- 375g caster sugar
- 300ml double cream
Wash, zest and juice the lemons. In a clean bowl whisk the sugar and eggs until fully combined. Add the double cream and mix until fully incorporated. Finally, stir in the zest and juice of the lemons.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn until you have ice cream.
Box and freeze.
When it is time to eat this, it takes no time to become soft. Serve quickly in chilled bowls.