Waste-Less Weekend: Lemonpalooza
February 6, 2015 § 7 Comments
Due to technical difficulties, this week’s Waste-Less Wednesday post is appearing today. Hey, now you have some waste-less projects for the weekend. Carry on.
It’s that time of year again: I’m up to my ass in lemons. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit, but between the Eurekas from my backyard and the Meyers from my neighbor’s, it’s definitely lemonpalooza around here. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Fresh backyard citrus (front yard and side yard, too!) is both a joy and a benefit of living in the 650.
What continues to surprise me is the resilience of citrus trees here — despite our crazy weather (forecast for today: earthquake with a side of rain). The lemon tree in my yard produces fist-sized fruit year after year, regardless of drought, bugs, frost, or heat waves. I typically don’t fertilize or water the tree, and it seems thrive simply by getting what it needs from the environment. This baby is hardy! Same story with the Meyer lemon bush that grows along the fence I share with my neighbor. (FYI, over-the-fence rules also apply to Meyer lemons. Lucky me!)
So right now I’ve got about 10 pounds of Eurekas and Meyers stashed in cold storage, with more coming. The Meyers don’t hold up as long and need to be used before they get too soft. The Eurekas will last longer in cold storage, but I have to get them off the tree before the skins get too thick, otherwise they’re only good for zest and not for juice. There have been years when I’ve slacked and ended up with huge lemons that are mostly pith. (Need a quick primer on the differences between Eurekas and Meyers? Check out this article.)
Recently 7×7 Magazine published a Meyer lemon limoncello recipe, which inspired me to try my hand at this lovely Italian liqueur again. (Limoncello, if you haven’t had the pleasure, is a lemon-infused neutral spirit, sweetened with simple syrup.) I say again, because the last recipe I attempted called for high-proof vodka and waaaay too much simple syrup. Let’s just say that it didn’t end well, despite my persistent attempts at taste testing.
This time around I’m tweaking the recipe to include my new favorite vodka and easing up on the simple syrup. Going into research-geek mode, I tracked down a dozen recipes from reputable sources, all of them the best limoncello recipe evah! Yup, that’s what they said…all of them. And all of them different. Some require high-proof grain alcohol (Everclear), while others say 100-proof vodka will do the trick. Some recommend peeling the lemons in strips, while others insist on zesting them. Gizmondo has a cool technique that involves suspending whole lemons over the alcohol for infusion.
My takeaway? There’s no right way to make limoncello — so why not choose the best ingredients and try the simplest technique first? I decided to go with zesting 10 Meyer lemons, dumping that zest into a 1 liter glass jar, then adding 750 ml of 80-proof vodka. Voila! Close up the jar and hide it away in the back of a lower kitchen cupboard. (Why lower? Eh, heat rises. I want to keep the infusion cool.)
Sometime around March 5 or so, I’ll strain out the zest, make up a batch of 1:1 simple syrup, and add that syrup to the infused vodka in half-cup increments until I get a sweet-tart, lemony, boozy drink that I’ll want to enjoy all summer. If all goes well, I’ll post the final recipe. Easy peasy, but what about the rest of the lemons?
Well, there is the small matter of 10 naked Meyer lemons to deal with. They’re back in cold storage in a ziplock bag until I can juice them this weekend. And then what? I still have a stash of Eurekas, too. Fortunately, lemons are versatile, and there are plenty of easy techniques and recipes for enjoying lemony goodness. On my to-do list:
- Combine lemon juice with olive oil, salt and pepper for a simple salad dressing
- Spin up a small batch of lemon sorbet (substitute lemon juice for orange in this recipe and vodka for Cointreau)
- Make a round of lemon cocktails; how about a Pisco Sour or this Tequila Sage Smash from Imbibe Magazine
- Indulge in Meyer Lemon White Chocolate Scones (substitute lemon for orange and white chocolate for dark in this Sunday Morning Scones recipe).
And what about whole, preserved lemons? Yes, please! Perfect in pastas and on top of baked fish. Looks like I’ve got my rainy-day projects for this weekend. What do you do with a surplus of lemons?