Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Citrus

Meyer lemons, which originated in China, are a cross between a regular lemon and a tangerine. Plant researcher Frank Meyer brought these highly fragrant lemons to the U.S. in 1908 from the area near Peking. Meyers are rounder than lemons and have thin, soft, smooth rinds, which are rich yellow-orange when fully ripe. The pulp is deep yellow and low in acid.
Oddly enough, we associate citrus fruits with summertime cuisine. Margaritas, fresh grilled items, salad dressings...etc; but the peak season for these acid fruits are the winter months of December, January, February. Luckily, there are multiple ways to enjoy the flavor of peak season year round. Since Meyer lemons have such delicate sweetness, these lemons make excellent jams, merangues, pastry creams, cakes, and dressings. One of my favorite preservation techniques for them is to cure the lemons by paking them in salt for use later on in the year. Once the lemons have been salt cured, or "confit", the lemons can be washed and quickly boiled to remove the salt that preserved them. Chopping and using confit lemons allows you to impart their delicate citrus flavor to any preparation that would normally call for lemon.
To prepare the confit, you first need a clean, sterilized glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Next, you'll need enough meyer lemons to fill the jar. Lastly, kosher or course sea salt.
Method of Prep:
Thoroughly wash the lemons with warm water. Next, you'll make two criss-crossing cuts into the lemons in the same manner you would use to cut lemon wedges -- the only difference is that you will stop before cutting entirely through the lemons. This will result in four wedges connected by a portion of the peel. Next, you will pack salt into the lemons. For an advanced preparation, try grinding some spices into the salt. Ones to experiment with would be bay leaves, black peppercorns, juniper berries, etc. Once there is enough salt packed into the cuts to prevent the lemon pieces from touching, pack the lemons into the glass jar and add some additional salt to cover. Repeat until the jar is filled with lemons and salt. Close the jar and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 weeks, and maximum 1 year.
Salsa Crudo with Confit Meyer Lemon
1/2 confit meyer lemon, washed and cooked in boiling water for 2 minutes
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 shallot
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
black pepper to taste
1. Chop the meyer lemon into very small pieces
2. Chop the cilantro and shallot
3. In a glass or non-reactive bowl, wisk together the vinegar, oil, and black pepper
4. Mix in the cilantro, meyer lemon, and shallot into the oil and vinegar blend
5. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt, pepper, or sugar
To use, serve along side, or drizzled over grilled fish, steak, or poultry. A vegetarian option is to toss freshly grilled asparagus, zucchini, or cauliflower with the salsa. For a salad preparation, try tossing freshly cut cucumbers with the mix, let stand for 5 minutes, and serve.

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