When life gives you lemons...

Waffles with Lemon Curd and Orange Juice

This past week in the kitchen, I applied the old adage about life giving you lemons. In this case, I made limoncello and lemon curd from the Meyer Lemons that came with our Beneficial Farms CSA box. After my dark night of the soul regarding the squandered persimmon opportunities, it felt great to maximize use of something.

Nigh on my weekend spent zesting and squeezing and squeezing some more, I read an article from the National Public Radio's Kitchen Window series about...Meyer Lemons! I saw them for sale by the bag at the fancier grocery store and my own mother was harvesting her own Meyer lemons from her California backyard tree. In the same path taken by the pomegranate, Meyer lemons with their distinctive piney aroma and taste are the new sensation. I had been seeing them mentioned in cookbooks for years and once had a long discussion with a friend about how hard are you supposed to search for an ingredient when it is specified in a recipe. Do I waste time and energy hunting down something like a Meyer lemon that might or might not make a recipe when a lovely classic Eureka lemon is so easy to find. I will leave that hunting expedition to more dedicated than I. But nevertheless, a bounty of Meyer lemons was handed to me and they had to be used. They are thin skinned and perishable, so time was of the essence.

Let me just say that my zester is a great tool but no matter how good a job it does, zesting six big lemons is a pain. Then stuffing a heap of lemon zest into a skinny bottleneck is a pain. Then trying to fill up the bottle with all that nicely filtered vodka is a pain. And then thinking ahead as to how are you supposed to get the lemon zest out of the skinny bottle is a pain. So far, this recipe is a pain. I really, really hope it turns out well. Right now we are in day 12 of the steeping process and it is starting to look like a lemony vodka. The next step is straining and adding a simple syrup and then finding enough bottles in which to store it. The nice thing is now there is no timetable. The alcohol is a good preservative and I can just let it quietly steep in the pantry until I'm damn well good and ready to mess with it.

The lemon curd was equally fraught but gave a much quicker satisfaction. I have made lemon curd before and it turned out all wrong. The dreaded curdling happened at some point in the process and all I got was a lovely yellow cream with the gross flecks of cooked eggs in it. This time I watched it like a hawk and it turned out just fine. Squeezing Meyer lemons is trick: they are little big for my yellow enamelled citrus squeezer and they are very soft. The thin skin does not contain them well and by the end of the process I did have a good amount of juice but myself and the kitchen were also drenched and lemony scented. The curd requires much whisking which turned into stirring once I realized that I was not sufficiently getting stuff off the bottom of the saucepan. My recipe from the latest edition of the The Joy of Cooking was simplicity but I urge low heat, lots of stirring and patience. It will firm up as it cools so do not cook it until it is thick as mortar. The coating the back of a spoon test (so often used for custard) was a good indicator here.

Winter is the peak season for citrus and I encourage all lemony, limey, orange, grapefruity, tangeriney cooking projects that take advantage of these wonderful fruits.

For your cooking pleasure:

National Public Radio: The Meyer lemon: more than a pretty face