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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Urban Homesteader: more citrus

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 3:40 PM



click to enlarge mo-citrusjpg

While the glorious Meyer Lemon has a specifically wonderful character, I am of the opinion that fresh citrus in general is one of the finest tools in the culinary arsenal. Fortunately, we live in a climate that favors home-growing a whole range of citrus goodness. Most tolerate a light freeze, don’t need huge amounts of water, and are as pretty as they are fragrant. Some exotics don’t do as well here, but lemons (including the Meyer), limes, and Mexican sour oranges seem to thrive. Show them a little care and attention and they can be surprisingly productive. Last year, my neighbor picked up giant bags-full of limes off her patio every morning, which she happily shared. A friend in Beeville has a 12-foot lemon tree so loaded with fruit that one bough is propped up with a wooden post to keep it from breaking off. Sour oranges are also productive, making excellent margaritas, ceviche, and the classic marinade for Yucatecan pollo or cochinita pibil.

So what do you do with all the extra fruit? Aside from sharing with appreciative neighbors, the most obvious is to squeeze and freeze: invest in a simple juicer, freeze in small containers or ice cube trays, with grated zest in the mix if the skins are nice.  Then candy the rest. I did this once with a sink full of glorious, bright green, fresh squeezed lime halves: I just couldn’t toss them into the compost. Shave off as much pith as possible with a sharp knife, throw skins in a saucepan with enough water or juice to cover, a cup or two of sugar (depending on the tartness and quantity of peels), and cook over medium-high heat until the skins turn to candy and the syrup is thick (don’t scorch the sugar, and don’t let it splatter you – it’s VERY hot). It’s worth it for that magical moment when the peel goes translucent and transforms into a glistening, bittersweet, tangy, morsel in syrup that is heavenly on freshly buttered toast, scones, or pancakes, and also makes a fun cocktail component. -- Diana Roberts

Read Urban Homesteader's first story about the wonderful Meyer lemon here.

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