Meyer Lemons. MMMMMMMeyer Lemons.
That tree sold me on this house. I grew up in the desert and seeing three full-sized, mature citrus trees in the backyard did me in. I love the Tangelos and Parent Navels. I really do. But Meyer. Lemons. In case you didn’t know, Meyer lemons are a cross between lemons and Mandarin oranges. NPR has an interesting article explaining the history of Meyer lemons, and I think the author may be almost as in love with them as I am. If you’ve never experienced the joy that is a Meyer, let me put it like this. Lemons (aka Eureka lemons) are wonderful. Meyer lemons are the Eureka’s sexier, cooler, sweeter, classier cousin. If a lemon is a bicycle, a Meyer lemon is a Vespa. I don’t know why I personify Meyers as Italian. They aren’t. They are Chinese. But considering they make the best limoncello ever, I think we can reclassify them, no? Let’s just make up a story about Marco Polo and the Silk Road or something and call it a day.
When we moved in, our tree was nice. It gave us a hearty crop of fruit after the last cold snap of the year (or as cold of a snap as one gets in San Diego.) But then we noticed that our citrus trees had black mold and leaf miner and white flies. Or more accurately, we noticed our trees were yucky, and we called The Tree Doctor, Nalani, to come check them out. She’s a wizard. Seriously. Our trees had been ignored for 10 years. Now, after about 18 months of Nalani’s juju under our belts, our trees are the envy of all the land. We just hauled in half of our first crop and we have another 5-10 pounds of fruit on the tree. Better yet, our second crop of baby fruits are already growing! If we are lucky we will get two or three crops per year. But what exactly does one DO when life gives you lemons? Meyer lemons? And lots of them? You start by making Limoncello, Lavender Lemonade, Candied Lemon Peel, and Lemon Sorbet. Welcome to Round One of Lemalicious.
Limoncello ala Frankie
This recipe is not exact. In fact, I don’t know that you can call it a recipe. Frankie is a Naples native and he learned the art of limoncello from his mom. It goes something like this: Buy three bottles of Everclear. Not vodka. Pick a bucket of lemons. Wash them very well with a vegetable scrub brush. Using a veggie peeler, carefully remove just the thin yellow skin. Do this until you have enough peelings. Pour the three bottles of booze on top of peelings. Let sit, covered, out of sunlight for a week. Or more. Until it is the right color. When it is good, strain the peelings. Make simple syrup equal to the amount of lemony booze. Cool the syrup. Mix the syrup and booze. Strain into six bottles. Like I said, not exactly a recipe. But you only need to see him make it once to know that it’s about tasting as you go and rolling with it. The end result is pure majesty.
Lavender Lemonade Concentrate
This recipe is more precise. I don’t mean to brag, but I totally nailed it. I’ve been trying to replicate Cafe Chloe’s recipe for 4 years, and I could not be happier with the result.
1/2 cup of dried lavender flowers
4 C. boiling water
1 1/3 C. Sugar
2 1/2 C. Lemon Juice
First, make lavender tea. I did this by using a long-forgotten french press. Add flowers to the carafe and pour boiling water over them. Let rest for 15-20 minutes. Gently press. In a saucepan over high heat, combine sugar and lavender tea. Stir until all sugar crystals are dissolved and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and cool to warm. Combine lemon juice with warm lavender syrup. Watch the magic happen. After four years, I finally managed to get the delightful pinkish purple (shall I say lavender?) color that I so desired. The lavender tea must be warm when you combine it with the lemon juice. Voilà! What you do with your finished concentrate is your business. You can do a 50/50 mix with water for refreshingly crisp lemonade. You can do a 50/50 mix with sparkling water for a French lemonade. Or, you can do what I did.
Fill a tall glass with ice. Fill glass halfway with lemonade concentrate. Add an ounce or two of Hendrick’s Gin. Top with lime sparkling water. There you have yourself a treat!