I was surprised when I saw Neni setting aside the pith—not the zest, which is used in cooking, but that white bitter stuff we are always told to throw away—after juicing lemons. She makes this splendid spoon fruit with it. The trick is finding lemons with a thick layer of pith. Spoon fruit is served with a glass of water (!) in Greece. Really, ask a Greek how they serve spoon fruit and they will say, with a glass of water. It is also served on top of yogurt. Makes 1 pint
Cut the pith into quarters. Roll each piece of pith up and skewer it on a wooden skewer. Put 4 pieces of pith on 3 wooden skewers, and cut the skewers down so that they are short enough to fit in a pot. Place the skewers into a pot large enough that they don’t overlap. Cover with water and bring to a boil over a high heat. Drain and repeat 3 more times. You must blanch the pith 4 times in order to reduce the bitterness, throwing out the water after each blanching.
Add the sugar and water to the pot. Melt the sugar over a medium heat, then lower the meat to low and boil gently uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until the syrup is reduced by half and looks glossy and viscose. Push the pith off the skewers and discard the skewers. The pith pieces will stay rolled up.
Have ready 2 sterilized half-pint jars and bands, and new lids that have been simmered in hot water to soften the rubberized flange (or 1 pint jar—the processing time remains the same).
To sterilize the jars and bands, boil them in water for 10 minutes (at sea level; see below for altitude adjustments). Pack in the pith and cover with syrup, leaving about 1/4 inch of headroom at the top of each jar. Wipe the rims, place on the lids, and screw on the bands fingertip tight. Place the jars in a deep pot with a rack so the water can circulate around the jars. The pot must be deep enough to cover the jars with 2 inches of water and then still have an additional couple of inches so the boiling water doesn’t erupt all over your stove. Cover the jars with hot tap water and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Boil the jars for the prescribed amount of time. Process the jars for 5 minutes (see below for altitude adjustments). Boiling water, whether it is boiling violently or mellowly, is still boiling at the same temperature, so you can reduce the heat as long as the water continues to boil. If at any time the water is no longer covering the jars, add additional boiling water. If the water stops boiling at any time, you need to bring the water back up to a boil and start your timing over from the beginning. Turn off the heat and let the jars rest in the water for about 5 minutes. Remove the jars and place them on a towel or rack.
Allow the jars to rest untouched for 12 to 24 hours. The cooling stage in water bath processing is important because the rubber seal will be soft coming out of the water bath and needs to stiffen to complete the seal. Once cool, check the seals. You can check a seal by unscrewing the band and lifting the jar by the edges of the lid. If you can lift the jar, the seal is good. If the lid comes off, the seal has failed and you must refrigerate and eat the product, or reprocess the jars with new lids following the same procedure. Label the jars and store them in a cool dark place for up to a year. You do not need to store the jars with the bands on. Refrigerate after opening.
To sterilize jars: For every 1,000 feet in altitude, boil an additional 1 minute (it takes 10 minutes at sea level).
For water bath canning: If the processing time at sea level is 20 minutes or less, add 1 minute of processing time for each 1,000 feet above sea level: add 2 minutes for every 1,000 feet if the processing time is more than 20 minutes. If you live at 3,500 feet, round up to 4,000.