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lucy waverman

A low-acid cross between lemons and tangerines or mandarins, Meyer lemons are plumper, sweeter and juicier than regular lemons.Ryan Whyte/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

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Meyer lemons are the plumper, sweeter, juicier cousin of regular lemons.

A low-acid cross between lemons and tangerines or mandarins, Meyers have little pith and few seeds. Their edible skin is smooth and easy to zest. Best of all, their perfumed juice is less acidic, with just a hint of orange flavour, making them perfect to add pizzazz to cocktails, perk up vegetables or elevate a salad dressing.

They are available at many grocery stores from January through the end of May. Refrigerate, preferably in a plastic zippered bag, for up to a week for the best freshness. They also freeze well whole, or you can juice and zest the skin before freezing.

If Meyers are out of season, or you can’t find them, a good substitute is the juice of two regular lemons combined with the juice of one tangerine or mandarin. Mix the zests together, too.

I have two favourite ways to use Meyer lemons: they make a terrific lemon vodka and an outstanding lemon marmalade.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

This marmalade has endless uses: spread it on toast, mix it with oil as a marinade for salmon, or serve as a condiment with cheese. It also adds a finishing zest to a sauce or relish.

Meyer lemons have so much pectin that cooking the marmalade to 104 C (220 F) is enough for it to jell. Run your jars and tops through the dishwasher and then place the jars in the microwave for 45 seconds to sterilize. I boil the lids, but I keep the jars refrigerated.

Remove the ends from six Meyer lemons (about 1.2 kg) and cut in half. Use a carving board or place your cutting board inside a sheet pan that will trap any juice released, and cut away the pectin-rich centre membrane. Place the membrane and any seeds in a large piece of cheesecloth and tie securely with kitchen string. Chop the lemon halves into small pieces (the juice will run a bit). Place the peel and juice in a in a large pot along with the cheesecloth bundle.

Cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the peels are soft. Drain, reserving the water. Discard the cheesecloth bundle. Return the lemon pieces and 6 cups of reserved water to the pot. Stir in 6 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 to 20 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 104 C (220 F).

I use my Thermapen thermometer for this. If you don’t have one, or a sugar thermometer, place a plate in the freezer, and keep testing the marmalade for doneness by spooning a little on to the cold plate and running a spoon through. When it wrinkles, the marmalade is ready. Makes about 5 (250 mL) jars. (If it hasn’t jelled enough, just reboil).

Lemon Vodka

Pour a 750 mL bottle of vodka into a covered container and add the washed peel of 2 or 3 Meyer lemons, depending on size. (Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. You should have a good ½ cup of peel.) Close the container and leave to infuse in a dark place for 4 days. Taste; if the vodka is not lemony enough, leave for another 3 days. Strain out the peels and pour lemon vodka in a stoppered bottle. Try it on the rocks, in martinis, cosmos or margaritas, or in that old favourite: a lemon drop cocktail.

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