When life gives you Meyer lemons…

March 31, 2010 | By | COMMENTS

When life gives you Meyer lemons... 1
I, at least, make a lot of Meyer lemon martinis.
As a recent transplant from San Francisco to New York, I have an unfortunate tendency to start listing off the things that I miss about the Bay Area. “Not that New York isn’t amazing,” I quickly assert; yet, there are areas in which these two cultural Meccas cannot compare. Backyard fruit is one such area.
In California, the Meyer lemon was known casually through the end of the 20th century as the “backyard lemon”. That is, it was, until Alice Waters almost single-handedly catapulted it from obscurity to international foodie darling. Although you might not know it from the high prices you see outside of California, the casual, backyard Meyer lemon yields endless bushels of golden, piney-smelling jewels in the late winter. You need only drive the back roads of Napa Valley in February or March to see boxes placed alongside the road entreating you to take as many free lemons as you desire.

When life gives you Meyer lemons... 2
Living in San Francisco, I, sadly, had no Meyer lemon tree of my own, but my Québécois labmate, Philippe, did. After he complained one day that his backyard had too many lemons, I graciously offered to take whatever he needed to get ride of. Two Saturdays later, Philippe called me to tell me he was driving over with the lemons. The lemons came in a giant basket that Philippe carried up to my apartment, straining under the weight. There were a lot of lemons.
When life gives you Meyer lemons... 3
So, what do you do when life gives you a lot of Meyer lemons? My favorite Meyer lemon dessert, the Meyer lemon buttermilk pudding cake (I have tweaked an old Bon Appetit recipe) only requires two lemons to produce 6 portions. Unless I was baking for 150 people, pudding cakes wouldn’t take me very far.
When life gives you Meyer lemons... 4<
A Meyer lemon meringue pie was a delicious choice. I followed Lindsey Shere’s recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts. Yet again, it only required a few lemons to make, leaving my lemon larder almost fully intact. I toyed with the option of preserving them or making marmalade, but I have always been irrationally terrified of canning, so I passed on that logical option.
So what was I to do? Like most good solutions, my answer involved lots of vodka. A Meyer lemon martini was simple to make, and a single martini would take the juice of a whole lemon. In the end we threw a party and our friends were more than happy to help us use up those lovely lemons.
When life gives you Meyer lemons... 5
Meyer Lemon Drop Martini
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Serves 2

2 oz. simple syrup made with zest of 1 Meyer lemon (see below)
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
3 oz. vodka
To make the simple syrup, combine 1 oz. water, 1 oz. sugar (measure in a cocktail jigger) and the lemon zest in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Store in refrigerator. For more servings, this can easily be scaled up (1 part water, 1 part sugar, zest of a bunch of lemons).
In a cocktail shaker, combine a handful of ice, the lemon juice, vodka and simple syrup. Shake vigorously and strain into 2 chilled martini glasses.

Categories: Cooking Stories