January 2, 2012
Intermède
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gelée de « lemon drop »
(lemon drop jelly shot)
There’s a short exchange in the 1951 movie The Lemon‑Drop Kid between the notorious gangster Moose Moran, played by Fred Clark, and the swindler Sidney Melbourne, played by Bob Hope.
Moran: Now that you’re feelin’ better, let’s talk about the ten grand you owe me.
Melbourne: Oh, look Moose, all I’ve got is fifteen cents and a box of lemon drops…have one?
Moran: Trying to make me a sucker can be very painful.
Is that all a lemon drop is good for, a bad joke? Yes.
I guess that people who like to suck on hard candy find something to like in a lemon drop, but not me. A lemon drop is simply sugar cooked to a hard‑crack state that is flavored with acetic acid and colored with yellow dye. They are easy to make, as Mrs. Sarah T. H. Rorer did in 1889.
Put three and a half ounces of sugar and a tablespoonful of water in a small granite saucepan, add half‑teaspoon of acetic acid. Stand the saucepan over the fire, and, when the mixture begins to melt, stir with a small wooden paddle for two minutes, then take it from the fire. Have ready large sheets of oiled fool’s‑cap paper. Take the saucepan in the left hand, and your candy dipper in the right. Pour the candy in drops about the size of large peas, in close rows on the oiled paper, using the handle of the candy dipper to cut off, as it were, each one from the saucepan. When the drops are firm and cold, dip a paste brush in warm water and lightly brush the under side of the paper, then with a limber knife remove the drops, and place them on a sieve in a warm place to dry. Keep in air‑tight boxes.
And Mrs. Rorer didn’t even bother with the yellow food coloring or shaping the candy like a lemon as the commercial producers today do.
If Mrs. Rorer’s recipe seems a bit old‑fashioned, try a few from the last half of the eighteenth century. Charlotte Mason (1777), Elizabeth Raffald (1769), and Frederick Nutt (1790) all published nearly identical recipes during that period.
When I search for modern recipes for lemon drops, I find recipes for everything but actual lemon drops. I easily find lemon‑drop cookies, lemon‑drop cakes, and even a lemon‑drop mousse. The recipes I find most often are for a lemon drop cocktail, and this turns out to just be another way to add a sweet flavor to vodka. There is no official International Bartenders Association recipe for a “lemon drop,” so it’s the wild west when it comes to making this cocktail.
Another recipe I found in quantity was for lemon drop‑flavored jelly shots. There was as much personalization in the jelly‑shot recipes as there is in the cocktail recipes. Most were vodka‑based. Some also contained Triple Sec, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or another orange‑flavored liquor. Most were made with lemon juice and sugar. A few were made with lemon syrup, and I have lots of lemon syrup. This variability as to the “correct” recipe left a lot of leeway for me to create my own lemon‑drop jelly shot.
The biggest problem I had in developing this recipe was to determine how to serve it. I tried molding the shots in various‑shaped silicone‑rubber molds, but I had problems with getting the set gelatin to release from the mold. In the end, I decided that jelly shots should be served out of shot glasses. Ikea sells a 50‑ml (2‑oz) shot glass that turned out perfect, especially at $3 per six‑pack. I found that I could fill these with a tablespoon of gelatin, and after they were solid, place them in a pan of hot tap water for a minute. The gelatin would release from the glass, and I could carefully flip the puck‑shaped gelatin sideways in the glass so my guests could down it as a single shot.
712 g (14 oz)
gelatin leaves (160 bloom strength)
120 ml (12 c)
Meyer lemon syrup
30 ml (2 T)
Triple Sec
60 ml (14 c)
vodka
1. Place the gelatin in some cold water to bloom.
2. Place the syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat the syrup until it is about body temperature. Squeeze the water from the gelatin, and add the soft leaves to the syrup. Stir to incorporate. Remove the saucepan from the heat as soon as the gelatin is dissolved.
3. Stir in the Triple Sec and vodka.
4. Transfer 15 ml (1 T) to each mini‑shot glass, and place in refrigerator to gel.
5. To serve, place the shot glasses into a shallow pan filled with hot tap water. When the gelatin begins to separate from the glass surface, carefully release it, and flip it so the round edge of the gelatin puck sits on the bottom of the glass.
Yield: 12 servings.

© 2012 Peter Hertzmann. All rights reserved.