Sunday, January 10, 2010
As promised, I am finally writing my post on Meyer Lemons. I must admit upfront that the credit for a good portion of this blog will have to go to my husband and partner in life, who puts his heart and soul into making our yearly supply of Limoncello (see recipe below). Now, if you have not had the opportunity to try a Meyer lemon, you need to stop reading and get to your local grocer to pick some up. I say this because this is the best time of the year to find them in the stores. You may have to pay three times the amount of regular lemons, but trust me when I tell you, they are well worth it!
These little lemons are a step above the usual. In the stores, they seem to usually be smaller in size and thinner skinned then their cousins (but on our tree, they are as big as navel oranges - everything's bigger in TX, right!), with a milder, sweeter taste, gives way to a whole new citrus experience. I love to go into my backyard with my old baskets and pick them while imagining I'm in an Italian village getting ready to take them back to my villa and create lovely, scented delicacies. (Really I do!)
On December 31 each year, my sweet husband picks about 100 of the best lemons on the tree to use for his Limoncello. Making it on New Year's Eve has become a family tradition and the batches seem to get bigger each year. We then look forward to bottling and tasting it at our annual SXSW (South by Southwest) party in March, the first chance to sip the year's batch of icy cold, sweet lemon elixir with family and friends as we sit on the patio or around the fire pit.
Can I just say that being able to walk out and pick a Meyer Lemon as needed is wonderful! I like to squeeze them in my water every morning for a burst of "C" and then throw them down the disposal for a lovely lemon scent in my kitchen. I love that I can make a full compliment of lemon-based treats. Even more fun is trying new recipes. This year, I added a Lemon Olive Oil Cake - a new one for me - to my list of baked goods.
Finally, after all the Limoncello is made and the lemons have been baked into pies and cakes and preserved in jars with salt, then it's time to juice the rest and fill my freezer with enough juice to last the rest of the year. A glass of icy cold lemonade after gardening under our hot Texas sun hits the spot. Or enjoying it during warm evenings on the patio, eating tapas and drinking sweet lemon-drop martinis with friends. Well, all I can say is "Ahhhh!!" because it's those times that I get to relish once again in this "winter" treat. So whether your putting a twist on a new recipe or a twist in your martini, make it a Meyer - I'm jus' sayin'!
1.5 Cup Lemon Zest (25-35 lemons, depending on size)
1 Liter Vodka (80 Proof)
500 ml Everclear (190 Proof)
1 Liter Simple Syrup (Ratio: 1 cup water/.75 cup sugar)
Thoroughly wash lemons with cold water and dry/
With a microplane, zest lemons.
Put zest in sterile, sealable jar.
Add vodka and Everclear, seal, and let sit in a cool, dry, dark place for 30-45 days. Add simple syrup, seal and let sit 14 more days. Strain and filter (cheesecloth and coffee filters do the trick) and place in freezer overnight. Filter again for clarity. *NOTE: It should go without saying, but Everclear is EXTREMELY flammable. Please take appropriate precautions when handling
If 190 proof Everclear is not available in your area, substitute with 151 proof Everclear and use 750 ml Simple Syrup instead of 1 liter.
This will result in almost 2.5 liters of ~70 proof Limoncello
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Using Meyer lemons from my back yard, I used the following recipe from Epicurious.com with these changes: Meyers (of course) instead of regular lemons and I sprinkled vanilla sugar on top of the cake to give it a hint of vanilla flavor. For garnish I placed a few candied Meyer slices on top. This was a spongy, beautiful cake suitable for tea or with your coffee in the morning. Oh, I almost forgot! The olive oil flavor is strong when it first comes out of the oven. However, if you wait a day, it seems to mellow the flavor and the lemon becomes more prominent.
Good old fashioned Lemon bars - Adapted from Betty Crocker
2 C. flour
1 C. butter (2 sticks)
1/2 Cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350
Mix the above and pat into a 13x9 in. pan lined with parchment paper.
Bake 20 minutes until lightly brown.
While the crust is baking mix the following in a mixer on high speed until light and fluffy.
2 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
2 tbsp of finely grated Meyer lemon peel
5 tbsp of fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 and 1/4 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 large eggs
Pour over the hot crust. Place back in the oven for approx. 25-35 minutes until it's golden on top and no indentation remains when you touch lightly in the center.
Cool on a wire rack dust with powder sugar, cut into squares. Size only matters on you and how much lemon your craving.
Preserved Lemons (used in salad dressings and Moroccan cuisine etc.)
Place a quartered, washed and dried Meyer Lemon in a clean mason jar. Pour kosher salt all over and in-between the lemon. Push with your fingers to squish it down to place another quartered lemon on top. Continue to pour more salt until the lemons are completely covered. Place the lid on tight and turn upside down. Now place in your fridge for a couple days. When the juice has rose to the top, open, drain off and pour a layer of olive oil over it. It should stay preserved in your fridge for months. When you are ready to use your lemons, make sure you rinse a lemon wedge really good to remove all the salt off of it. Then mince very fine to add to all your vinaigrettes, sauces, soups or salads.