What about winter? Hot houses do produce fresh food in Ohio but there are only so many ways to eat greenhouse-grown lettuces and greens. Even homegrown squashes and potatoes are starting to scream “get me out of storage and eat me now!”
I expand my local circle a little south and look for seasonal foods elsewhere. 500 miles to the south are pecan farms sending up buttery fabulous-fresh nuts. Travel a little further and citrus orchards are ripe with fruit.
While one can buy an orange any day of the year in a grocery store, fresh seasonal citrus has a flavor of its own. Oranges are floral and grapefruits more sweet during the winter when they are shipped fresh from the orchard.
The gem of the citrus season crown is the Meyer Lemon. These small, thin fleshed lemons were originally brought to America from China by an agricultural explorer in 1908. They grow on dwarf trees and are available as indoor plants for those who live in Northern climates. One of my very first Hounds in the Kitchen entries tells about our Meyer Lemon tree. It produced beautifully last winter but we have no fruits ripening yet this year.
Fortunately, Green B.E.A.N. delivery currently offers organic Meyer lemons for subscribers. I nabbed a half dozen to enjoy two weeks ago and ordered another batch this week. I spied them today while shopping at Whole Foods and Andersons for $2.99/pound. Though I have never bought them directly from a farmer, a quick internet search reveals that Naples Orchard and Four Winds offer Meyers for purchase. The Meyer lemon season ends in early February, so shop soon.
Meyer lemons have an enchanting floral scent and mild lemon flavor. With little bitter pith, whole slices of Meyers can be incorporated into baked goods. They are excellent candied and I imagine they would make a very fine marmalade. Our favorite way to preserve Meyer lemons is by transforming them into limoncello.
Homemade limoncello takes little more than half an hour of preparation and the patience to wait three or more weeks as the limoncello ages. Those who wait are justly rewarded with a tart but mellow, bright and fresh liqueur. Keep it in the freezer and nip it directly from there or mix with club soda for a refreshing drink.
Makes 1 quart
Time: 15 minutes preparation plus three months aging
1 quart quality vodka
1 cup simple syrup (1/2 cup sugar dissolved in ½ cup water)
juice and peel of 5 meyer lemons
juice and peel of 1 orange
1 star anise
1-inch piece of cinnamon
3 whole cloves
1. Mix all ingredients in a clean glass jar.
2. Age in a cool dark location for up to three months, tasting as you go.
3. When the flavor is as you wish, strain the solids from the liquid.
4. Keep limoncello in the freezer and nip it directly from there or mix with club soda for a refreshing drink.