Over the last few years, Meyer lemons seem to be creeping into the mainstream. A cross between lemon and orange, Meyer lemons are smaller, have less acid and more sweet juiciness than common Eureka or Lisbon lemons.
I heard Alice Waters sing their praises about 10 years ago when I lived in Minneapolis, while giving a talk at a food event I attended. Because she’s Alice Waters and she could, she’d brought along a crate full of fresh, boutique-farmed California produce to display for show-and-tell.
In the middle of the big, beautiful pile of vegetables and fruits I figured I’d never, ever find in any Midwestern grocery store or produce stand was a little basket of lemons, colored an intense shade of egg-yolk orange.
Their skin was silky smooth and they had a sweet perfume I could smell from 3 feet away. One sniff of those lemons and I immediately longed to be transported to a climate where they grew.
That was a decade ago; I don’t think there was much commercial distribution of Meyer lemons; pretty much the only way you could find them was in someone’s backyard in California.
The season for Meyer lemons is relatively brief – unlike common lemons you can find any old day of the week, they appear in the market roughly between early winter and early spring.
Because they seem so scarce and rare, whenever I see them I usually buy more than I can use before they start to rot. Their skins are much more tender than the usual lemon, so they don’t last as long in the crisper drawer.
One way to preserve them is to make a buttery curd using the zest and juice.
And a nice way to use up lemon curd (rather than tucking into it with a spoon), is baked into a topping for these tangy buttermilk muffins.
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
Freshly grated zest of 2 Meyer or regular lemons
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
3/4 cup Meyer lemon curd -recipe follows (yes, you can use prepared lemon curd instead)
3/4 cup sliced, toasted almonds
3 Meyer lemons
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a muffin tin or line with cupcake liners.
- Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly beat the eggs, buttermilk, butter, zest and almond extract; pour over the flour mixture and stir until just blended.
- Divide the batter into the muffin pan cups. Top each cup with 1 teaspoon each of the lemon curd and the almonds.
- Bake 15 - 20 minutes, or until tops are just turning golden and are firm to the touch.Cool the muffins for 10 minutes before turning out and serving.
- To make the lemon curd, zest the lemons with a grater, then cut them in half and squeeze the juice into a small, heavy saucepan. Add the zest and stir in the sugar to dissolve.
- Add the eggs and butter and place the pan over medium heat. Use a small heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to constantly stir the mixture until it begins to thicken around the edges of the pan.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan and lower the heat a bit as you continue to stir. At this point it should form a curd pretty quickly, within a minute or two. Once it reaches a pourable pudding-like consistency, remove the pan from the heat.
- Strain the curd into a bowl, cover and chill at least 2 hours before using.