Tag Archives: Meyer lemon

MEYER LEMON BAVARIAN CREAM PIE

The local farmers’ market has just gotten going seriously for the season. A couple of weeks ago there were only a few stands with limited choices. Now there are several rows of canopies and lots of choices. There are spring vegetables: asparagus, green peas, leaf lettuce, and radishes. The big stars, though, continue to be citrus of all sorts. There are fruits that are seldom seen outside of Southern California. Pomelos as big as grapefruits! (That’s supposed to be a joke. Pomelos are often bigger than grapefruits, and on top of that they are thick-skinned close relatives.), blood oranges, many varieties of clementines, and my favorite – Meyer lemons.

The Meyer lemon was originally found in China and thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.  It was brought to California and popularized by a guy named – you guessed it –  Meyer. When Meyer lemons were found to be symptomless carriers of a virus that destroyed other citrus trees, the lemon trees were chopped down wholesale, not to be grown again until a virus-free strain was discovered. Now they are widely available.

Meyer lemons are beautiful. They are larger than other lemons with a dark yellow-orange skin and a beautiful fragrance. They are sweeter than the usual lemon, but they are still more sour than an orange. They are juicy and usually contain a number of seeds, so they really lend themselves to cooking with the juice and/or zest.

What could be a better use than in a Bavarian cream? Bavarian cream is a classic dessert. Julia Child devotes pages to its many variations. At the same time, Bavarian cream is really just another classic – crème Anglaise – doctored up with flavoring, meringue, and whipped cream all stabilized with gelatin. One more step is to put the Bavarian cream into something to hold it. Charlottes lined with lady fingers are common, but a pie shell works just as well and is a lot easier.

So, that’s what I wound up doing with the beautiful Meyer lemons I found at the farmers’ market.

RECIPE

Meyer Lemon Bavarian Cream Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 prepared 9 inch pie shell (purchased or use your favorite recipe) in a glass pie pan
  • 2 ripe Meyer lemons, juiced and zested
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 envelope (¼ ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 3 egg whites
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream

Method

  1. Bake the pie shell according to instructions and set aside.
  2. Juice and zest the Meyer lemons, straining and reserving ½ cup of the juice. Set aside the measured juice and zest.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup sugar and egg yolks until well combined.
  4. In a medium, heavy saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until it comes to a simmer. Gradually pour the heated milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan over low heat.
  5. Stirring frequently to avoid curdling of the bottom, heat the mixture gradually over low heat until it thickens enough to coat the spoon. Check frequently with a thermometer to avoid exceeding 170°F. The yolks will curdle at a higher temperature, and you will have to start over.
  6. Meanwhile, pour the reserved lemon juice into a medium bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let the gelatin bloom for at least 5 minutes. Pour the hot, thickened egg mixture over the gelatin and lemon juice. Stir for several minutes to make sure the gelatin is dissolved.
  7. Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Stir constantly until the mixture is cool. Then strain through a fine-meshed sieve into another bowl. Stir in the reserved lemon zest.
  8. Beat the egg whites with a rotary mixer until they form stiff peaks. Stir in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until the sugar is completely incorporated. Fold, by thirds, into the custard mixture. Folding gently, making sure the meringue is completely incorporated.
  9. Whip the cream into soft peaks. Fold in, making sure the mixture is completely combined.
  10. Pour the completed custard into the reserved pie shell. Cover lightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  11. Serve plain – or better – with whipped cream.

Cook’s Notes

  • The unflavored gelatin is a key part of the recipe: not enough and the Bavarian will not set while too much and it will be rubbery; not properly bloomed and it will never completely dissolve; if it is not completely stirred in, the cream may separate. Gelatin comes in several forms. The most common is granular, packaged in small packets, but there are also liquid as well as sheets that are used by professional bakers. I don’t know what equivalents might be.
  • Be patient! Don’t try to rush the custard with high heat. You will end up with scrambled eggs.
  • It is very important to strain the thickened custard mixture. No matter how careful you are, there will be bits of curdled yolk that will take away from the smoothness of the finished custard.
  • Obviously, stir in the zest after you strain the custard.
  • You can add a little liqueur if you like. Limon cello is the obvious choice – 1 or 2 tablespoons.
  • You shouldn’t try to rush the chilling; otherwise the Bavarian might not set up properly. Overnight is best; four full hours might work in a pinch.
  • The need for bowls and saucepans is intensive. You should definitely set up mis en place for your ingredients and plot out a strategy for cookware. A scanning thermometer is very handy.

 

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PRESERVED MEYER LEMONS

This is the time of year when you can find Meyer lemons in abundance in California, especially in the Bay Area. They are delicious and very different from the usual Eureka lemons you find in the grocery store. At their best, Meyer lemons are large, nearly the size of oranges, and a beautiful golden-yellow color richer than store-bought lemons. They have a citrus smell that seems like a cross between lemon and orange, and they are sweeter than Eureka lemons, though not so sweet that you would eat one out of hand.

With the abundance and special qualities of Meyer lemons, California chefs – and even those in Santa Fe – go crazy with Meyer lemon curd, Meyer lemon pie, Meyer lemon cake – you get the idea.

On our recent trip to San Francisco, I found some beautiful Meyer lemons at the Marin Farmers’ Market in San Rafael. I bought a couple of pounds, and brought them home in my checked bag. I didn’t have any specific plans for them, so I leafed through some of my new Christmas-gift cookbooks from the Bay Area. Thomas McNaughton, chef at Flour+Water, had an interesting recipe for preserved Meyer  lemons in his book, so I thought I would give that a try.

I followed McNaughton’s recipe (sort of) with the plan of making a gallon of preserved lemons. I had to buy a gallon-size glass jar, and unfortunately I wound up not having enough Meyer lemons. I found some at our local Whole Foods, offered in little net sacks. The lemons were literally a pale comparison with my California beauties. They were yellow, small, and blemished with soft spots. Still, I bought them, and wound up needing about 7 pounds of Meyer lemons in total to complete the recipe.

Preserved lemons are a tradition in the cuisines of North Africa. The basic preservation method is brining, so most cooks wind up not using the flesh or juice, but just the peels, finely cut, to provide a citrusy taste to many things including meats and stews. (there are some recipes for using the flesh, but it must be incredibly salty.)  Cookbooks provide an abundance of methods for preserving lemons. Sandor Katz describes the basics in his encyclopedic, The Art of Fermentation and Deborah Madison gives a simple recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

McNaughton’s recipe calls for way more salt than I used. Even at that, the undissolved salt sits at the bottom of my jar of lemons as they preserve away in the coolness of the garage. Sugar and spices make McNaughton’s recipe unique, and I followed his guidance.

RECIPE

Preserved Meyer Lemons

Ingredients

  • 7 pounds large Meyer lemons
  • 6 cups pickling and canning salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 pieces star anise, broken into smaller pieces
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 large bay leaves, crumbled

Method

  1. Sterilize a 1-gallon glass container with non-reactive lid by boiling in water for 10 minutes or washing in dishwasher set on hot.
  2. Wash and dry the lemons.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the salt, sugar, and spices.
  4. Prepare the lemons by slicing them in half from the pointed end to the stem end, stopping ½ inch from the base. Turn the lemon one-quarter turn, and make a similar cut so that each lemon has four quarters joined together by the uncut portion.
  5. Pour ¼ inch of salt-sugar mixture into the bottom of the glass jar.
  6. With a tablespoon, sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the salt sugar mixture into the cut lemons, one by one, and then arrange them, cut-side up, in the jar. Pack tightly.
  7. When you have a layer of lemons packed in the jar, sprinkle more of the salt-sugar mixture on the top, pressing down with a potato masher to express as much juice as possible.
  8. Layer by layer, continue packing the jar with prepared lemons and adding a layer of salt-sugar mixture on top of each layer.  Continue to press down each layer with the potato masher. Top the lemons with more salt-sugar mixture, seal the jar, and set it aside for 48 hours.
  9. At that time, add more salt-sugar mixture and, if necessary, lemon juice so that the lemons are completely covered. Seal the jar tightly and set in a cool, dark place for three months.
  10. When the lemons have been completely preserved, store them in the refrigerator for up to a year.

Notes

  • Other recipes call for less salt, and I think you could cut back on the salt.
  • Use pickling and canning salt. Regular table salt may leave a residue from the anti-caking agent that is used.
  • The lemons must be completely covered with liquid, otherwise they are likely to spoil.
  • Use tongs when removing lemons for use. Hands, no matter how clean, may introduce organisms that can lead to spoiling.
  • Rinse the lemons well before use, as they will be quite salty. Use the rind and discard the flesh – unless of course you want to experiment with it.

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