All too often, when a fruit first comes into season I buy far too much of it. I place the pears or tangerines in a pretty bowl and set it on the table, where I can admire it and, if possible, eat the fruit straight out of hand. But fruits (like quince) that require cooking to make them edible or more delicious begin to wither if left too long as a still life. Such is the case with the Meyer lemons currently sitting on my counter.
Cooks love Meyer lemons — a cross between a regular lemon and an orange — for their fragrance, smooth thin rind, and sweet (or less acidic) flavor. Grown in California, Texas, and Florida, the lemons peak between November and January, but their season often extends into March.
As the Meyer-lemon season is waning, I want to preserve some of the fruit’s lusciousness for a time when the Meyers are no longer available. Preserved lemons are easy enough: I fill a jam jar three-quarters full with quartered lemons and top with 1/4 cup kosher salt and enough lemon juice to come almost to the top. This goes into the fridge for the future: Moroccan Chicken and a favorite Paula Wolfert dish, fish with charmoula.
Even easier to make is lemon sugar. I measure 4 cups sugar into a bowl and grate the zest of two Meyer lemons over the top, then mix this all together before pouring it into a large jar for the pantry. In the coming months I’ll dip into this for baking — scones, banana bread, cake — as well as to sugar the rim of martini glasses for cocktails. Other possibilities tease: limoncello, infused vodka, candied lemon peel. But I want to be sure to eat a few fresh, too.
So I check out Matthew Card’s savory marmalade, our house recipe for lemon curd, and Helen Rennie’s Meyer lemon mousse. I put them on my docket to cook and scratch out a grocery list of missing ingredients. In the meantime, I’m relishing my new favorite sandwich: smoked salmon and thinly sliced Meyer lemons with a sprinkling of sliced shallots and freshly ground black pepper set into a layer of cream cheese spread on whole-grain bread . . . yum.