I was walking through Walmart last Monday afternoon, looking for enough fresh produce to get me through the week, when my attention was caught by these beauties:
The sign said, “Meyer Lemons. 2 lbs. for $1.98.”
I’d heard of Meyer lemons from my many [productive] hours of Food Network viewing. I couldn’t say I knew what to do with them. But for that price, I was game to try them out.
In January, we take our entertainment where we find it.
A quick Google search yielded this:
“Meyer lemons were first introduced to the United States from China in the early 20th century by Frank Meyer, from whom they also got their name. This sweet winter citrus is thought to be a cross between a regular (Eureka or Lisbon variety) lemon and a mandarin orange.” – Kelli Foster, thekitchn.com
At home, I took a sample lemon out of the bag, sniffed it (fragrant and floral), zested it (the skin is more tender than a Eureka lemon), and sliced it open.
I like all things citrus, and have a high tolerance for sour, so I extracted half a section using a grapefruit spoon, and popped it in my mouth. It was tolerable, but not sweet enough to make me peel and eat the rest.
At this point I turned to Facebook for help, confident that someone out there had discovered Meyer lemons before me. But Facebook answers don’t happen in an instant, so while I waited I kept exploring.
The zest and juice of that first lemon were perfect for one glass of lemonade, sweetened with Splenda. Later in the week, I added zest and juice to a cup of black tea, and that tasted divine. My friend Lorraine shared another variation on the same theme: An Arnie Palmer, made with hibiscus tea and Meyer lemonade. I think it’s fair to say Meyer lemons shine in beverages of all kinds.
They were less successful with roasted broccoli and baked chicken. The flavor didn’t transfer strongly enough to make a difference in the finished dishes. Maybe I didn’t use enough lemons. A vinaigrette made with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic showed more promise. Next time, I’ll go easy on the garlic.
My confidence in the Facebook crowd was justified. My cousin Elisabeth, who lives in California and has Meyer lemon trees in her yard, mentioned that the lower acidity of the juice makes a difference when baking. She suggested adding a teaspoon of Eureka lemon juice or distilled vinegar to help thicken curd or lemon bars. Lorraine, who was days ahead of me with her own bag of lemons, was happy to share her insights, as well. Connie counseled against the chicken in favor of baked goods.
That evening, Jon asked me to bake a pan of brownies for the office. I asked if lemon bars would be all right—and the stage was set for the crowning moment of Myer lemon week.
I made the bars on Wednesday, and goodness! They were divine. The Pioneer Woman supplied the recipe—a simple shortbread crust with a rich lemon filling.
And the best part was I could give away half the pan. We’re a small household these days, with only one kid left at home. A 9×13 pan of anything lingers for days and days.
The lemon bars used all but two of my remaining Myer lemons. I sliced one up to use in tea, and left one on the counter for dreaming purposes.
I’m waiting for inspiration to strike.