While schools are still closed and the business of day to day life is altered as the state clears away snow, what better time than now to harvest my few Meyer lemons and make lemon curd. And golly, might as well make some challah bread to go with it!
Citrus fruits tend to be harvested in winter and spring and must be fully ripened before picking. Citrus is not hardy in Maryland so I keep them in pots and move them in and out as the weather changes in the spring and then again in the fall. I have two small Meyer lemon plants and a ponderosa lemon, all of which I bought online a few years ago from Logees. They are fickle given that this is not their normal climate and it’s taken time to really get them going. They require frequent applications of citrus fertilizer and clearly prefer heat which is lacking this time of year so I place them in front of a window facing the east as it’s the best I can offer.
Meyer lemons are interesting. They are not true lemons but rather a cross between lemon, orange and mandarin. The plants are also smaller in size and a bit more hardy than a lemon. Their taste is very different from a lemon you would slice for your iced tea, not quite as tart which you can imagine given the cross of fruits that make up the Meyer lemon. They are a bit of a delicacy, especially when you grow them yourself with buds in late winter that you baby along, hand pollinating or placing outside on a rare warm day for the bees to find, and then carefully transferring outside in the late spring and again into the warmth of your home in the fall so they can mature.
I had four that were ripe, one of which I cut into a week ago to make sure they are ready. With citrus, it can be hard to determine when they are ready and color isn’t always the only indicator. I used a recipe from David Lebovitz and halved it. I chose it because it’s specifically for Meyer lemons, uses the rind as well which is important to me since I grew them and want to enjoy all of the fruit, and uses less sugar than some recipes I’ve seen. You can find the full recipe at David Lebovitz Meyer Lemon Curd. The thought of making this again next year with my own eggs is even more mouthwatering!
First zest 1-2 Meyer lemons making sure to just get the yellow rind, not the white pithy parts. Then cut your Meyer lemons and squeeze out the juice to get 1/2 cup of juice. I ended up needing to use the one I cut the other day so it was about 4 small Meyer lemons that I used for 1/2 cup of juice (and as a note, if you don’t have Meyer lemons you can make this recipe with traditional lemons, but you’d likely need to add more sugar because of the tartness). I then strained the juice through a mesh strainer to be sure all seeds were removed and none snuck through my juicer.
I placed the 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice, 6 Tbsp butter, and 1/4 cup sugar into a small saucepan and warmed slowly until the butter was melted and the mixture was warm. I cracked 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks into a Pyrex measuring cup and whisked around, then slowly added the warmed lemon mixture, whisking the whole time. Once it was all combined, I poured it back into the saucepan and cooked slowly, stirring until it thickened. It took about 5 minutes since I was on a medium low heat setting, but once it began to thicken, it was done quickly. From there, I poured the curd into a mesh strainer on top of a bowl that held the zest, pushed the curd through and then after wiping the spatula, cleared the bottom of the mesh strainer to capture all of the curd. After 10 minutes of cooling, I poured it into two pint sized jars but it was only enough for a pint and a half. I plan to freeze what we don’t eat tonight but after sampling it, I don’t think there will be much left for freezing!
And now for the challah. I rediscovered my abandoned bread machine this winter, having considered donating it as I don’t use it. However, I decided to give the dough setting a try since the kneading is the most laborious part of bread making. We love homemade breads and I make them regularly in the colder months but it requires a lot of planning and kneading, both of which don’t always fit into a day. My daughter and I made several loaves of challah in recent weeks and it’s one of those things that strikes you as easy once you do it even though it looks like a lot of work when you see those pretty braids, especially if you let the bread machine do the hard work. I use the dough setting for one loaf as follows:
1 egg at room temperature plus enough water at 80 degrees to equal 3/4 cup
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups bread flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
Put it all into your bread machine in that order and set it on the dough cycle. Mine takes about 1 1/2 hours. When it’s done place it on a lightly floured surface and divide into three long strip about 10 inches long each. Transfer the dough strips to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a dough mat and pinch the three ropes together. My daughter likes to take over from here braiding it together, then we pinch the other end together. We kind of pinch it and fold the ends under to keep it in place. Brush with glaze (1 egg white, 1 Tbsp water and 1 tsp sugar, reserving the glaze for a second basting later). Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. Then brush glaze on again and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, cool and enjoy!