Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living the Tart Life

Oops!  Forgot to post my May column from the Petaluma Post....

Here in Sonoma county we are blessed with one of my absolutely without a doubt favorite things: Meyer lemons.  This is a sweeter thin skinned lemon that is a cross between a Lisbon lemon and a Mandarin.  Their flavor is sweet (relatively speaking) and rich which makes it great for cooking, cocktails or just lemonade.  Our climate locally is just on the cusp of their region, but with a little care I manage to keep one alive in my backyard.  On many cold mornings you will see sheets covering front yards when there is even a chance of frost.
Lemons are the only plant that continues to produce year round.  When you are picking this season’s lemons it is already blooming to begin again.  Thanks to this we are fortunate to get two crops annually.  As you drive around this month, or hopefully walk or bike and enjoy the beautiful weather, you will see bushes just laden with both the beautiful golden fruit and the new buds for the Fall.

The crops can vary greatly due to the water that we get during the growing season.  Due to the very dry winter we have had I noticed my crop this month was much smaller than usual.  I am always on the hunt for anyone with a few extra.

The thin skin makes them perfect for making marmalade.  You typically have to remove some of the pith to make marmalade, but with Meyers you can use the entire lemon.  Not only is it low on pith, but the skin has more oil with a stronger flavor (which is why I also prefer these for lemon zest). 

Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Makes about 2 pints
1 lb Meyer lemons
1 cup sugar
1½ cup water

Wash the lemons well, scrub if necessary. Quarter them and carefully remove the seeds.  Then put the entire lemon through a food processer or meat grinder to medium grind.  Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottom pot and stir well.  Bring to a gentle boil and boil 30 to 45 minutes, until thick and creamy, stirring often.  Refrigerate or freeze.

Another great and easy use for Meyers is in vinaigrettes; they make the most fragrant simple dressings.

Meyer Vinaigrette
¼ cup Meyer lemon juice
2 Tbl honey
½ cup olive oil
Whisk together.  Done.

One of my favorite salads with this dressing is just a simple

1 head Romaine
1 ripe pear, sliced
¼ cup toasted almonds
3 oz crumbled goat cheese

Toss gently

But now on to more serious matters.  Cocktails.  If you need to use lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon oil in a cocktail, then use a Meyer if you can.  Especially if the lemon is at the center of the flavor profile, like a Lemon Drop.

Lemon Drop Martini
1½ oz good vodka (I like Belvedere)
fyi: one shot is 1½ ounces
½ oz triple sec (Stirrings is my choice)
¾ oz to 1½ oz Meyer lemon juice
Superfine sugar for the rim
Lemon twist

Combine the vodka, triple sec, and lemon juice in a shaker with a lot of ice.  Vary the amount of lemon juice to your taste; I like mine to be a bit tarter, so I use more juice.  Shake vigorously.  Prep the martini glass: make sure it is dry, then run a lemon wedge around the edge to wet it, then roll in sugar to coat.  Remember to use superfine sugar, also called bar sugar, or 5x sugar.  Do NOT use powdered sugar (10x), as it also contains corn starch to keep it from clumping in the box, but it will just turn to paste if it gets wet. Fill the glass without hitting the sugared rim.  Then finally take a strip off the lemon to get the twist.  Twist over the martini until just a drop of oil comes out, then float the twist on the top.

After publishing in the Post, I remembered that I have another Lemon Drop recipe I like even more, I even blogged about it.  You can find it here.

Enjoy (responsibly).

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