Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lemons (and limes)

Mmmmm.... lemons.

Well, it is winter, and that means citrus fruits are in season - and the Meyer lemons are at their peak. This lemon is a little less acidic than the standard lemon - it also has a hint of orange. Anyway, it's got a nice mild taste.

So, what do you do with lemons?

No, it's not summer - you don't make lemonade in the winter.

You make lemon curd. Mary loves lemon curd with fresh gingerbread. What lots of the recipes don't tell you is that it's safest to cook lemon curd in a double boiler so that you avoid curdling the egg (read that as avoid making lemon-flavored scrambled eggs). If you happen to scramble a little bit of the egg, it makes the lemon curd very lumpy and unappetizing. I've tried using a wire mesh strainer, but that really doesn't work well because the holes are just too small. What works really well is a food mill.

But I bought a ton of lemons. There's only so much lemon curd you can eat between two people. What do you do with the rest of the lemons?

For some reason I've wanted to make preserved lemons for a long while now. Much easier than lemon curd: you just stick some quartered lemons into a jar and with some good coarse salt. After a week (or a month) they're ready to be used. I've no idea what they taste like, though I imagine perfumey and exotic. I think I'll probably try making this salad. Whether or not they taste good, they are beautiful.

I also had a few limes that needed to be used. In Mexico I found a drink I really liked. It's not your standard lime drink - as opposed to flavoring with the juice, it is just flavored with the zest. You take the zest and soak it in water (with a little sugar). That's it. As opposed to the acidic limeade flavor you normally get with limes, it is much more subtle and complex. In a way, it's kind of like drinking rose-water, only with a lime taste. The zest from 3 limes finely grated, half a cup of sugar and a quart of water makes a tasty drink. Let the zest soak for 10-15 minutes or longer, and strain out the big pieces.

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