Meyer Lemon: Meyer Lemon and Honey Meringue Tart

Even though the Meyer lemon is considered a winter fruit, we received a bagful of this sweeter version of a lemon, as a gift, a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t resist adding the Meyer lemon to our blog. From just reading the wiki entry, it seems that we owe a debt of gratitude to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse for reintroducing the Meyer lemon into the American diet. Although it seems like every friend of ours with a citrus tree has at least one Meyer lemon tree in their yard, most Americans are unfamiliar with this delightful kin of the common lemon.

The Meyer lemon is a cross between a traditional lemon and either a tangerine or an orange. It comes from China and was brought into the US at the beginning of the 1900’s. In the kitchen, the uses for the Meyer lemon are vast. It can be substituted for the regular lemon for a slightly sweeter, less acidic flavor, or for the orange or tangerine for more tartness.

The skin of the Meyer lemon is probably one of the most fragrant of all citrus. The skin is thin on the fruit and has a soft non-porous touch to it. The culinary uses for the Meyer lemon range from good old lemonade, to adding the juice to brine in preparation for cooking chicken, or adding the juice to olive oil for a vinaigrette, or putting them up as salt-cured preserves to be used as a condiment with Moroccan food.  Anything that calls for a lemon, or even an orange, may be substituted with Meyer lemons.

Meyer lemons are high in vitamin C, but they aren’t  nutritional powerhouses. You’ll get a small amount of calcium, fiber, and protein from them if you eat the whole fruit. We suggest that you use their delicious juice and zest for their unique flavor and not because of their nutritional value. Eat some leafy greens first to get your vitamins, then you’ll be able to have a Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart for dessert. Everything in moderation. Cheers!

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Meyer Lemon and Honey Curd

2/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/3 cup honey
3 eggs
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
zest of 1 Meyer lemon

Note: Before juicing the lemons, wash and zest at least one for the recipe.

Place a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water in it over medium heat, bring to a simmer. In a metal bowl that will fit on top of the saucepan, whisk the lemon juice, honey, and eggs together and place over the heated water. Make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.

Whisk over simmering water for 4-12 minutes or until thickened. The whisk should leave waves in the custard.

Take the bowl off the heat. Continue whisking the custard and add one tablespoon of butter at a time, making sure to thoroughly whisk the butter into the custard before adding another piece. Whisk the zest into the custard.

Serve warm or pour the custard into a glass storage container and cover the surface with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap. Completely cool at room temperature before refrigerating.

Optional: For added smoothness to your custard, pass through a fine mesh screen and omit the zest.

Almond Whole Wheat Crust

1-large 9” tart/ 4-medium 4″ tarts/Several small tarts

1/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
4 Amaretti cookies, crushed
7 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk
1 egg yolk

Combine the almond meal, flours, and crushed cookies together, set aside.

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer add the butter and the powdered sugar. Mix on low to combine. On low speed add the almond and flour mixture, and salt. Add the egg yolk and milk and stir to combine. The dough will be sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl and flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to a couple of days. The dough can also be frozen for up to 3 months, and thawed when ready to use.

When ready to roll, lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out to about a 1/8 inch thickness. Gently place the dough into a false bottom tart shell pan and press the dough into the edges of the pan. Press off the excess dough. Prick the dough several times with a fork and place the dough back into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degree while the tart rests in the fridge. Place the crust in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. For added crispiness of the tart shell, brush the inside of the tart with egg wash (a beaten egg with a little water) after 10 minutes of baking.

Meringue Topping

4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

In a large bowl over a pot of simmering water, heat the egg whites and sugar whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat, add the cream of tartar, and using an electric mixer beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Assembling the Tart

Pour the cooled curd into the prepared tart shell(s). Top with the meringue and, using a spatula or back of a spoon, push the meringue from the center of the pie to the sides, making large swirls and peaks in the meringue.

Place the pie in an oven set at  broil and toast until the meringue is light brown 3-4 minutes, watch carefully, or toast the meringue using a culinary torch.

Preserved Lemons

It’s citrus season in the Bay Area and folks everywhere are harvesting their winter crops. Friends have gifted us bags of golden yellow Meyer lemons and we’re happy to accept. Meyer lemons are sweeter and more fragrant than their true lemon cousins. Their thin skins make them more delicate and their lower acidity makes for a more versatile flavoring agent. Raw or cooked, these beauties are a favorite in our kitchen.

A friend recently asked what to do with all the lemons on her tree and we suggested preserving. Typical of Mediterranean lemon preservation, we like salt packing lemons and their juice into jars where they are then left to ferment, transforming them into a savory condiment deliciously paired with a variety of dishes. They’re great chopped and added to fresh sauces for fish, or stewed with chicken, olives and fennel. Preserved lemons are commonly added to couscous and other grain dishes where they add rich complexity. However you use them, these lemons are best used as a condiment. That means a little will go a long way (remember, they’re preserved in salt and lemon juice). Taking a spin on the most obvious pun, “When life gives you a bag of Meyer lemons, preserve them.” They’ll last longer than lemonade and will flavor more dishes.

The following recipe comes from Chef Mourad Lahlou of Aziza in San Francisco who included it in his book – Mourad: New Moroccan. While the recipe is simple, preserved lemons aren’t a last-minute flavoring, so if you plan to add them to your pantry, you’ll have to wait a month before digging in. We think the wait is worth it!

As easy as cut, salt, juice, and pack.

Preserved Lemons

12-18 lemons (Meyer if you can get them)
½ cup kosher salt

Slice the 6-8 lemons lengthwise and in a cross shape ¾ of the way through the lemon. Generously add the kosher salt down the center of the lemon and pack it in a sterile jar. Continue with all the lemons. With the lemons you intend to juice, be sure to remove strips of lemon zest (use a veggie peeler). Make sure not to remove too much of the pith. Add the strips of zest to the jar. Juice the zested lemons either by hand or with a citrus juicer. Pour the lemon juice over the salted lemons in the jar, make sure the lemons are fully covered by the juice, seal tight. Allow to sit in a dark area of your kitchen, gently shaking the jar daily. After about a month the lemons will be ready to use.