Let’s focus on what’s been distracting me lately: LEMONS!
I thought that we could take a break for a week from our travelogues anyway. It’s cold, folks can’t go many places right now, and I feel trapped in between seasons. Next week, I am going to convince you to visit one of my all-time favorite islands.
Andrew Zimmern's Spilled Milk community-supported publication. Consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
So this seemed like a good time to talk citrus limon, a species of small evergreen tree in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, native to Asia, primarily Northeast India, Northern Myanmar or China according to all the fancy books.
Today lemons grow, well, everywhere.
And here in the states, it’s citrus season.
After writing about the Amalfi Coast (which has some of the world’s most amazing lemons), and mentioning the lemon pan drippings used on the poultry at Aljibre in Havana, I have been obsessing.
Local farmers on the Amalfi Coast have been grafting and growing a specialized group of lemons for over 500 years. The most well known varietals are the sfusato di Amalfi, gloria di Amalfi, Maiori, ovale di Sorrento, and Procida. The Sorrento lemon and the sfusato are two of the most highly prized lemons in the world. I saw at least a dozen other varietals the last time I was in coastal Italy, and I encourage everyone to stick their noses in little road side vegetable stalls every chance you get.
Lemons on the Amlafi coast are a nose-to-tail fruit… the juice is used, the flesh, the peel is candied. And yes, like lime leaves in Thailand, the lemon leaves are used in many dishes. And of course, they are used to make limoncello.
So I got to thinking…in our world today, where you can buy cases of superb unwaxed, naturally grown citrus and lemons from many online resources, what should you do with all your lemons!?!?!
Here’s how I my lemons.
I’m not claiming any of this is what I would call original. It’s just smart kitchen management.
Candied Lemon Peel
I adore the stuff. There are tons of great recipes on line, but they all follow the simple DIY method I use. Use a deep U shaped zester, make strips from dozens of lemons. Drop in boiling water. Cook for a few minutes and drain. Repeat 3 more times to remove all the bitter flavors. Next, simmer the peels in a sugar/water mixture 1:2 ratio the peels are soft and have taken on a taffyish candy chew. They should be soft and sweet. Dry the peels on a rack for 4-6 hours, and pack to store. I use them for baking, cooking, snacking….whatever.
I put it on everything (recipe here).
Marinate your cut up bird(s) in a third of a cup of juice mixed with a cup of plain thick Greek yogurt and a few tablespoons of dried oregano. Marinate for 24 hours in the fridge, 48 is better. Grill and season with salt and more lemon juice when it comes off the grill, drizzle olive oil on it at the table. You will thank me later.
Fried Lemons with…
When I make fried shrimp, fried calamari, fried zucchini, fried artichokes etc.. I always fry thin lemon slices with them and eat the lemon with the other food. Trust me on this: it’s better than squeezing tons of lemon on fried food.
Buy in season, candy the peel, juice the fruit and freeze in ¼ cup portions in small ziploc bags.
And here are 3 ways you might not have thought of before.
Broiled Meyer Lemons
Cut the barest tips off each end so they stand flat. Cut in half and place them cut side up on a tray. Spoon 1t or more of sugar onto the pulpy cut side and place under broiler about 8 inches away. Cook for as long as you can without burning the sugar. Remove, let cool slightly and serve with grilled fish, chicken and pork as a garnish. Try to eat just one.
The store bought stuff is fine, but homemade is incredible and the a vital part of cooking the foods of the Levant, North Africa and central Asia. I think the best lemons for this are Meyer lemons.
And the best recipe for this is on a superb website I found called Taste of Maroc. The pictures and instructions are perfect. I make a batch every 4-6 months because I like them 9-12 months old for cooking. I use them a lot.
Make your own. Yup, it’s easy. I use a variety of lemons for this. All you do is steep lemon zest in 100 proof vodka for a month in the fridge. I stuff 3 cups of zest into a gallon jar, pour a liter of vodka over it, and weight it down to keep the zest submerged. Strain out the liquid…and season it with simple syrup to taste. It’s stronger than the store bought, but sooooooo much yummier for your guests.
What’s your favorite way to use lemons? Share in the comments!
Thanks for reading Spilled Milk.
The small subscription fee helps compensate my team fairly, keep the lights on, and (let’s be honest) stock the fridge.
If you enjoyed this content, please click the ‘heart’ at the bottom. Share this with a friend, on your social media, etc., etc., etc., you know the drill.