Citrus Season: an Abundance of Meyer Lemons
Late fall and winter are prime citrus fruit season in California, and we are happily enjoying an embarrassment of riches thanks to our large, mature Meyer Lemon tree. We inherited the tree when we bought our house here in Silicon Valley, and this tree seems to be loaded with fruit in almost any season. It produces new fruit twice during the year, but these tender lemons are best kept on the tree where they ripen slowly and can be used in cooking in their different stages of maturity. The fruit turns from green to bright yellow, then becomes orange-yellow if left unpicked. As soon as they are slightly yellow we begin to pick!
Cooking with Meyer Lemons
We use lemon juice almost every day in our meals: on salads, fish, vegetables, or fresh fruit. The zest is especially delicious in a number of baked goodies or to add to savory dishes. How is the Meyer different from other lemons? It is less acidic, has a thin skin with almost no white pith (the bitter part on inside of the skin). The Meyer is slightly sweet, very fragrant, and the skin is wonderful grated for its zest or as a candied peel.
Container Gardening with Meyer Lemons
If you don’t have a yard to plant a tree, the Improved Meyer Lemon is a dwarf that can be grown in containers indoors. This variety was developed in California after the original Meyer Lemon established in the USA from China was found to be spreading a virus that threatened the citrus industry. Although the Improved Meyer Lemon can grow to 10 feet high, it will stay smaller in a container and can be managed by pruning.
Making Meyer Lemon Marmalade in 5 Steps
Here is a marmalade recipe I tried last week with good results. My version is less work than the original recipe and was straightforward to make. This is the first marmalade I’ve ever made. It set very well and is lemony-sweet with a hint of bitter to make it interesting. I’ve tried it on my toasted olive oil bread, and even mixed a spoonful with some crème fraiche (or sour cream) to put on top of pancakes with maple syrup- very yummy!
My Lazy Version of Emily Kaiser’s Meyer Lemon Marmalade
12 Meyer lemons, juiced
3 cups of sugar
Water for blanching and rinsing the lemon strips
Makes 5-7 half pint jars
Rinse the lemons, dry them, cut them in half and juice them. Set the juice aside until ready to use.
Slice the juiced lemon halves into thin strips, the thinner the better. Note: In Emily’s version you scoop out the lemon halves so that only the skin remains. It took me approximately three seconds to realize I was not up for that amount of work, so in my version you cut the halves into strips without scooping them out.
Put the lemon strips in a pot of cold water so the water just covers them. Bring to a boil. Let boil for one minute, pour the strips into a colander to drain them and run cold water over the strips to rinse them. Repeat two more times. The third time don’t rinse the strips, just drain them.
Return the drained strips to the pot and add the reserved juice and stir in 3 cups of sugar over moderate heat to dissolve. Let the mixture simmer, stir occasionally to make sure it is not sticking. It will begin to thicken and should set in about 30 minutes of cooking (test by dripping a bit onto a cold plate- it should gel nicely).
Put the marmalade into half pint jelly jars (it will be very hot, so don’t use regular glass jars- they might crack)) and put on the lids. Let the jars cool and store them refrigerated, or follow instructions for canning to store them at room temperature for up to a year.
See more recipes for Meyer Lemons and an entertaining podcast at Kitchen Window here.
With thanks to Emily Kaiser for her recipe.
Photos: Urban Artichoke