In April, many of the backyards in Northern California host heavily laden Meyer lemon trees. I can almost hear my tree groan as the branches are bent to the ground with fruit. This year I am determined to preserve as many of the lemons as possible. We suffered the mysterious overnight loss of all the lemons from the tree last year. I’m telling you, literally overnight the tree was bare! Who? What? Neighborhood foragers? It turns out there was a family of opossums nesting in the corner of the yard. Mother opossum must have had a huge dinner of lemons.
Poor babies, what must have her milk tasted like after all that gluttony? But, they certainly didn’t have any chance of catching scurvy!
Meyer lemons are so sweet that you can eat the rind. When he was a small child, I once found my son snacking on one he had pulled from the tree as if it were an apple.
I am determined to preserve the bounty before mother possum comes for a return visit.
The following is a recipe I have made for several years (with the exception of last). Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux comes from the book The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant. It is my most often used cookbook for interesting twists on preserving. Paul writes “Meyer lemon aigre-doux is extremely versatile. In spring I make an emulsified vinaigrette to dress grilled asparagus or delicate butter lemon leaves. Just pick out any visible seeds, blend the wedges and aigre-doux liquid until smooth, then drizzle in good olive oil (I also like to add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard). The result is a creamy as mayonnaise. In summer I’ll make a citrus relish to pair with fresh summer green and wax beans by dicing the wedges crosswise and mixing them with celery root slices, chives and olive oil.”
It is a lovely addition to a marinade for lamb or chicken, and a quick sauce for fish.
“Aigre-doux” is the French term for sweet-and-sour. It’s a mixture of fruit with wine, vinegar, and spices. I’ve made several types from the book (grapes, mandarin orange, cranberry) but the lemon is my absolute favorite.
I can attest to it being absolutely delicious on grilled asparagus.
Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux
- 2-3/4 cups of white wine (624 grams)
- 1-1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of Champagne vinegar (312 grams)
- 1 cup of honey (330 grams)
- 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt (3 grams)
- 11 to 12 cups of Meyer lemons, ends trimmed and cut into about 6 wedges (depending on the size of your lemons this will be 12 to 14 lemons) (1362 grams)
- 6 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs of thyme
- In a pot over medium-high heat, bring the wine, vinegar, honey and salt to a boil. Keep hot.
- Scald 6 pint jars (or run them through the dishwasher) in a large pot of simmering water fitted with a rack – use this pot to process the jars. Right before filling, put the jars on the counter. Into each jar add 1 bay leaf and 1 thyme sprig. Pack the lemon wedges into the jars, using about 12 wedges per jar. Meanwhile soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal.
- Carefully pour the hot brine over the lemons, leaving a 1/2 inch space from the rim of the jar. Check the jars for air pockets, adding more brine if necessary. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth or paper towel, seal with the lids, then screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
- Place the jars on the rack in the pot and make sure they are covered by about 1 inch of hot water.
- Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Start the timer when the water comes to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave for several minutes before removing the jars from the hot water canner.
I think I will try making marmalade with them. Don’t you think it would be lovely for holiday gifts?
Do you have any favorite recipes for preserving lemons? I will salt some, of course. And there is lemon curd, but does anyone know if it freezes well? I will have LOTS of lemon curd.
I am taking the lemons to dress a salad at Fiesta Friday #114. Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie at Fiesta Friday and co-hosted by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. Click on the links to see all the wonderful party food.
A family of possums in your garden? Wowsers! We just get the occasional fox cruising through.. And a lemon tree in your garden? How lucky!!
I think your hounds would have found the nest faster than our own dogs. Once the dogs started sniffing around the mother possum moved the nest.
Very interesting I wouldn’t even know what a possum was!
I guess technically they are opossums. I will add a picture to the post.
Hmm, possums in a the garden! It’s a good thing that you took your lemons out before they can get them. I love preserved lemons and this is a good way to use those beautiful lemons. 🙂
This year, although there are still a great number on the tree. We are away this weekend, checking on the rebuild, but next week I will make marmalade.
Beautiful! I so wish I lived somewhere where I could have a lemon tree.
It is a very real treat. I’ve heard that they do well in a large pot on a sunny porch. At our house in Fort Bragg I have one in a protected spot on the deck.
How lucky to have a Meyer lemon tree! I’m debating if I should get one. Problem is I’ll have to grow it in a pot and bring it indoors in the winter, along with the 2 figs. And I can sympathize with the possum problem. I have a residence groundhog and most likely also a rabbit. I didn’t know possums can do so much damage!
Hi Angie, I have one in a half wine barrel at our home on the coast. But, it isn’t nearly as cold in the winter as you have it. Do you have a big sun porch? You could put it on wheels and move it around. You need a greenhouse. Up in Fort Bragg we have deer, and gophers, and rabbits…everything in the ground has to be in a wire basket and deer fenced. Sigh. I sympathize.
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Yes, lemon and orange curd freeze fine. That’s what I do when I make a batch so we don’t eat it all in a few days!
Yeah! Wonderful to know. There are yet more lemons on the tree. I hate to see them rot. Unfortunately all my neighbors have trees as well so I cannot give them away.
Yes, curd freezes beautifully. Have you ever made the cherry mostarda from The Preservation kitchen? I’ve made it but couldn’t find the right mustard seeds (black) so it didn’t have quite the right “punch”.
I have not, but love the recipes in that book. Mostarda has been on my todo list for some time. Thanks for the tip about freezing curd, I recently got a sous vide maker for Christmas and understand curd made with it is wonderful. I will have to wait for my next lemon crop.