When you think of oranges and lemons, what comes to mind? More than likely it is a vision of a couple of citrus fruits characterized by their leathery rind, white pith and juicy segments! Not at all surprising as these fruits are a common ingredient in baking and cooking and can have many uses for both sweet and savoury dishes. However, when I think of oranges and lemons something quite different comes to mind.
Another Oranges and Lemons!
For me, oranges and lemons sparks a memory of the old nursery rhyme and singing game that was a popular pastime when I was growing up. Although the song was likely in circulation before its publication, an article by Benjamin Till indicates that the first record of Oranges and Lemons dates back to 1744 in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book. Over time there have likely been many lyrical variations in circulation but this is one of the more well-known versions:
Oranges and lemons,,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
The song is about a series of church bells in the London area and although this section is clearly about money lending, the full version paints a picture of London in the 16th and 17th century at a time when certain areas where associated with particular trades. Although as a child I had no idea about the actual meaning or significance of the song, I do remember the ominously gruesome closing lines which are likely a reference to the practices at Newgate prison.
Till mentions that the Newgate gaol “stood on the current site of the Old Bailey, next to St Sepulchre’s church and the sound of the bell striking early on a Monday morning would signal the start of any hangings due to take place that week. The prisoners on death row were visited the night before by the bell man of St Sepulchre, who would hold a candle in one hand and ring the execution bell in the other”.
Recipes for Lemon Coconut and Chocolate Orange Sweets
These rather grim associations of oranges and lemons seem somewhat contradictory to the bright and cheery citrus fruits which are bursting with flavour and provide a good dose of Vitamin C as well as antioxidant properties. In terms of treats, these orange and lemon flavoured sweets provide a healthy snack if you need something to tide you over or alternatively serve as a modest dessert when craving a touch of sweetness in a small but nutritious package. They also work well for carrying around as fuel food for long hikes or cycle rides.
Ingredients for Lemon Coconut:
- 1 cup (10-12) pitted medjool dates
- 1 cup (150g) raw almonds
- 1 tbs lemon zest
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup usweetened coconut
Instructions for both flavours:
- If your dates are older, they can be softened by soaking them in hot water for about 10 minutes and then drain well.
- Add nuts to food processor and grind to desired consistency (either a fine powder or chunks depending on preference). Add remainder of ingredients (except for coating) and pulse until a soft “dough” forms.
- Use your hands to form the dough into balls, using about 1 tbsp of dough for each ball (each recipe makes about 20).
- Add coconut (or cacao) into a small bowl and roll each ball in the coconut (or cacao) until evenly coated.
- The sweets can be stored in a sealed container and stored in the fridge for 1-2 weeks or the freezer for up to 3 months.
One of the more unique aspects of these citrus fruits is that just about every part can be used in cooking or baking. Orange and lemon zest and juice can provide a zing to baked products, stews or chutneys and the rinds can be made into candied citrus peel for dishes like mincemeat.
Even though the true meaning of the words of the song, Oranges and Lemons, might not be clear, the rhyme appears to have had an enduring and cross-cultural legacy as it has been chanted in school playgrounds over the years and possibly for many more to come. Although the citrus fruit garners attention in this song, their value in cooking and baking seems to be just as enduring and no doubt, similar to the song, will likely continue to do so.