This is a wonderful method for preserving lemons and turning them into sweet pot of goodness. This preserve can be set aside and used at a moments notice in all manner of sweet dishes. At the restaurant we are serving this alongside a rosewater panna cotta, but I can imagine a multitude of other uses.
Starting simple, it could be used to garnish a plain bowl of ice cream, it's bracing acidity the perfect foil for rich cream based confections. But if you want to get a bit more involved, you could use it to top a simple sponge or pound cake, drizzling the syrup as well to make a yummy citrus flavoured treat.
In the historical sense, confit refers to meat, usually poultry or pork, cooked in its own fat. In the few years past however, it has been a phrase coined to describe any foodstuff, even fruits and vegetables that have been slowly cooked in an unctuous liquid. In this case the lemons are thinly sliced, then cooked, skin and all in a dense sugar syrup redolent with warm spices. If you have a few lemons spare, give it a try. I can guarantee you will love the result.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Using a very sharp knife cut the lemons into very thin discs. Try to aim for a width of roughly 5mm. Remove the seeds from the lemon slices and place in a large cooking bowl. Pour the boiling water onto the lemons and set aside to cool. This will take a few hours and you can do this the day before if necessary. Drain the lemons and repeat with the boiling water. This seemingly tedious process will guarantee that the lemons have no residual bitterness.
Drain the lemon slices once again. Bring the sugar and the 375 ml of water to the boil in a large heavy-based pot, along with the cinnamon and vanilla bean. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the liquid, then toss the bean itself into the pot. Once simmering, add the lemon slices and reduce the heat to the barest of simmers. The surface should just slightly shuddering. Cook at this temperature for 1 1/2 hours, at which stage the lemon slices will be completely translucent and the whole affair will look most unctuous.
When the cooking time is up, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer to pots or jars and store in the refrigerator. It will last in the fridge for several months.
Makes about 3 cups.