It was a chilly early morning and we were in the backyard reviewing recent changes with our landscaper. Re-landscaping has allowed us to make room for two new citrus trees – a Moro blood orange joined our navel orange and a second Meyer lemon tree has joined my much-loved existing tree.
This morning I took a colander outside with me and filled it with Meyer lemons. Lemon is one of my favorite flavors and with all of the cooking I do I use lemons constantly for their zest and juice, for both sweet recipes and savory ones. With this basket of Meyers I couldn’t wait to make a favorite lemon recipe – Meyer Lemon Gelato. This is the time of year in California when citrus trees are full of beautiful fruit just begging to be enjoyed. I feel fortunate to be able to pick Meyer lemons, oranges, and herbs from my own yard. It sounds silly, but I feel like a kid that’s been given a gift as I come in the door smiling with a basket or apron full of bright treasure.
The Meyer lemon was brought to the US from China in the early 1900’s and is thought to be a cross between a common lemon like a Eureka or Lisbon and a sweet orange or mandarin. Meyer lemons are sweeter, less acidic than regular lemons. They have a thinner, smoother skin and are a little more round as far as lemons go. Meyers have a sweeter taste and an almost floral lemon fragrance.
Often used in sweet dessert recipes, Meyers make wonderful gelato, lemon curd and cakes. They also work well in savory recipes such as lemon vinaigrette for a tossed green salad, a marinade for chicken, shrimp or swordfish and for roast lemon chicken. If you don’t live where you can grow them, many stores carry them this time of year, although they may be a little more expensive than regular lemons. If you have a local farmers market, check there.
My favorite lemon gelato recipe is from the book Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard, the incredible Executive Pastry Chef for Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant. If you can’t find Meyer lemons, make this gelato anyway using regular lemons or by substituting with three parts lemon juice and one part orange juice. Either way, it’s a terrific, refreshing recipe that never fails to elicit happy yums from lucky tasters.
Meyer Lemon Gelato
From a wonderful book called Desserts by the Yard
Sherry Yard, Executive Pastry Chef, Spago
5 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon grated Meyer lemon zest (use a microplane zester)
1 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (4-6 lemons)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1) Place a 1-quart freezer container in the freezer to hold your finished gelato. Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside (this is an ice bath). Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer.
2) In a medium stainless-steel bowl, beat egg yolks, water and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of the sugar. Add the lemon zest.
3) Place the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water, making sure that it is not touching the bottom of the bowl (or you will have scrambled eggs) . Using a large whisk (Chef Yard calls for a balloon whisk so you can whip lots of air into it) whisk the egg yolk mixture continuously and vigorously in a circular motion until you have a thick foam, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat , nestle the bowl in the ice bath and continue to whisk for another minute to cool the mixture.
4) Drain the water from the saucepan, wipe the pan dry and add the heavy cream, milk, corn syrup and the remaining sugar. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Slowly (or again you’ll have scrambled eggs) whisk into the egg mixture. Note – If your bowl slides around place it in a kitchen towel inside a fry pan pan for stability. Return the bowl to the ice bath. Add the vanilla and salt. Taste and if desired add a touch more lemon juice. Allow to cool in the ice bath, stirring often.
After it’s cool enough (about 70 degrees) I put the gelato base in the refrigerator to chill down further. The colder it is, the faster it will freeze in your ice cream maker.
5) Freeze the gelato in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to the container you put in the freezer to start and back into the freezer for at least two hours to firm.
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