Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring in Silicon Valley

It is citrus season in Silicon Valley.  We have several trees in our yard, with my favorite being the Meyer lemon tree. 

Meyer lemons are believed to be a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges.  The are amazingly fragrant, less acidic than regular lemons, and slightly sweet.  Their color is deeper as well, with some Meyer lemons tending towards orange.  

Our tree is a prodigious producer of lemons, which is a good problem to have.  A quick Google on "Meyer lemon recipes" yields countless options. My favorite find was the LA Times article "100 things to do with a Meyer lemon".  My all time favorite recipe including Meyer lemons is Meyer Lemon Risotto from 101 Cookbooks.

Here's what we've done with our lemons so far:
Meyer Limoncello

750ml Everclear (can substitute vodka if Everclear unavailable in your area)
10 Meyer lemons
2c water
2c sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemons (avoiding the white pith).  Place the lemon zest and the Everclear in a glass jar and allow to sit in a cool, dark place for 30 days, stirring daily.  At 30 days, begin testing the zest by removing a piece from the mash.  If it breaks when bent, the mixture is ready for the next step.  If it simply bends, return the mixture to the cool, dark place.  Test weekly.

When ready, strain the alcohol and discard the zest.  Create a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat.  Stir frequently until sugar dissolves completely.  Add the simple syrup to the infused alcohol. Bottle and refrigerate till cold.  Limoncello is best stored in the freezer till ready for use.

This recipe is an adaption of the following recipes:

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

18 Meyer lemons, quartered and thinly sliced (~ 6 cups)
5 1/3 cups water
5 1/3 cups sugar
Wash the lemons well, removing any residue.  Halve the lemons length-wise twice and slice thinly.  Add the lemons and the water to a non-reactive container; let sit for ~24 hours (I used the stainless steel pot in which I'll cook the marmalade).  Bring the lemon / water mixture to a boil; boil uncovered until peels are soft, 25-35 minutes.  Add the sugar and return to a rapid boil, monitoring temperature with a candy thermometer.  When the temperature reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit, test the mixture to see if it has jelled. 
Once ready, ladle into sterilized jars and process.  Step by step instructions for preserving high acid foods can be found here.  You can download the PDF version by clicking here.

Our recipe is an adaption of the following recipes:
A word on adapting recipes.  There's no "formula" per se, just intuition.  That said, for these recipes I did put a bit of math behind the comparisons to settle on ingredient amounts.  Click here for an example.

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