In upstate New York, Meyer lemons are a precious commodity. They aren’t local (citrus, tea and chocolate are my key exceptions to the eat-local rule) and they seem to have a very short season. They appear in the produce section of Wegmans for two or three weeks of the year, and then they’re gone in a swirl of sweet citrus fragrance.
This year, my #1 reason for buying Meyer lemons is limoncello. I didn’t have any burning desire to make, or even taste, limoncello until a few months ago, and for that I blame grappa.
About halfway through our honeymoon, we breaked from cycling midday to have lunch at a darling little family vineyard. They served us course after course alongside their wine, the highlights being the fried zucchini blossoms, the best bolognese I’ve ever tasted and the homemade preserves with cheese. As we nibbled on dessert, the owner offered us tastes of the winery’s grappa. The best way I can think to describe it is “kick-you-in-the-face-strong,” and Dan and I each only managed a single sip of the fiery liquor. For ages, I assumed that limoncello was the same: an extremely strong, burning spirit, just lemon flavored instead of grape.
(I later found out that grappa is typically 35-60% alcohol by volume, or 70-120 proof, which explains the burning.)
But when our friends offered us some of their homemade limoncello last fall, I gamely accepted, and fell in love at first sip. Sweet and fragrant and tart, just like a digestif should be. I’ve been scheming to make my own ever since, just waiting for the Meyer lemons to come into season.
I finally found them at the grocery store last week, and got right to work on the limoncello. Because Meyer lemons are such precious jewels, and because the limoncello uses only the zest, I’m trying to make every little bit of the golden fruit count by using it in other recipes. With the pound of lemons, I have used the zest for limoncello, made Cooking Light’s Meyer lemon chicken and baked two batches of Meyer lemon and ginger scones.
Making limoncello is a long, but easy, process. If I waited to share the recipe with you until it was done, Meyer lemons would be long out of season. So start it now, while Meyer lemons are still in the markets. I promise you won't regret it.
- 1 pound Meyer lemons
- 2 cups vodka or white rum
- Zest all lemons, and reserve 2 teaspoons of zest for Meyer Lemon & Ginger Scones (recipe above).
- Put the rest of the zest in a quart-sized Mason jar. Pour the vodka or white rum over the zest and seal the jar. Shake well, then allow to infuse for 10-14 days, gently swirling the jar every day.
- Part 2: Adding the sugar syrup, coming soon!
Make these scones at the same time you start your limoncello (recipe below). Zest all the lemons at once, and reserve 2 teaspoons for the scones. Use the rest of the zest for limoncello.
If you can't find Meyer lemons, you may use regular lemons in their place. Just increase the sugar in the dough by 2 tablespoons.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup skim or 1% milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
- 2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons diced candied ginger
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Using a pastry cutter or two knives, work the butter into the flour. The pieces of butter should be pea-sized when you're done.
- Whisk the milk, egg, lemon juice and zest together. Add to the flour and stir just until all the flour is wet. The dough will look shaggy and rough. Leave it like that instead of overmixing.
- Fold in the candied ginger, then press the dough into a 3/4" thick rough rectangle. Cut the dough into 2-3" squares.
- Space the scones about 1/2" apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 13-16 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch and the bottoms are browned.
- Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before glazing.
- Whisk the sugar and juice together and drizzle over warm scones. Allow the glaze to harden and the scones to cool completely.