When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Limoncello (part 1)
Those of you who aren’t strangers to this website may remember me mentioning my love affair with the Meyer Lemon tree that is growing outside of our kitchen. I’m always on the hunt for new recipes to utilize every last lemon from that tree. Growing a few feet away is a lime tree we planted a few years after moving in. It now produces about four times as many limes as the lemon tree puts out lemons. I collect lime recipes, too, but not with the same gusto as lemon recipes. Why? Limes are just limes, but Meyer Lemons are quintessential lemons. Regular lemons can’t compete with the perfect tangy sweetness of Meyers, and it has become my mission to seek out recipes that spotlight such flavor.
I don’t know exactly how old our tree is. We have lived here for twenty–five years and the tree was already mature when we first moved in. It has faithfully supplied us with plenty of lemons throughout the years, never failing to satisfy our every lemon need. This year our beloved tree even provided us with an eBay–quality lemon. You know, the kind of lemon you think you could sell on eBay because it actually looks like something else. Granted, our lemon didn’t have Mother Mary glowing on it or look like Elvis, but it is special.
Many thoughts crossed my mind when I first discovered that lemon growing on our tree. Closer examination of the lemon didn’t reveal much other than I had a really freaky fruit in my hand. The first thing that popped into my head was the Conjoined Fetus Lady episode of South Park. For those of you not familiar with this animated TV show, South Park Elementary School’s Nurse Gollum has a dead fetus attached to the side of her face due to a condition called “Conjoined Twin Myslexia”. Morbid, I know, but probably the best explanation for what probably happened (in an agricultural way) to this particular lemon.
If you’re not buying the conjoined lemons theory, how about a space alien? If you’re from my generation, maybe you will recall a little fellow from The Flintstones by the name of The Great Gazoo. Many people thought this show really jumped the shark after introducing this tiny, green, floating alien, but hey, we’re talking about a modern Stone Age family (not your run–of–the–mill cave people). Note the resemblance of Gazoo’s head to our lemon. Because the lemon fell off the tree as I was photographing it, it never had the chance to fully ripen. So it isn’t totally Gazoo–green, but I think the similarity between the two is uncanny! Remember, this is a lemon and a cartoon character I’m comparing here.
I have one more for your consideration, although this one is slightly R–rated (more like PG–13). How sexually explicit can a lemon get anyway? This one is courtesy of my daughter, who has halfway completed an AP Art History course at her high school. It’s nice to know all that tuition money isn’t going to waste. When she is able to recognize traits between a piece of fruit and a piece of art, I can rest assured she has gained some major life skills! She thinks that our lemon looks like the Venus of Willendorf, also known as the Woman of Willendorf. Ding ding…I think we have a winner here folks! And now that I’m allowing the lemon to mummify in its own sweet time, it has begun to take on the same red ochre tint. Unfortunately, all I can keep thinking about is how much Aretha Franklin looks like the Venus of Willendorf. Hoo–ah! (as Al Pacino exclaimed in Scent of a Woman). I certainly won’t attempt to make a cross–comparison between our lemon and the Queen of Soul (it wouldn’t be fair to the lemon!).
Anyway, last fall I found myself with an overabundance of ripe lemons that needed to be picked. I hated to just juice them and throw away the peels (the zest is the most flavorful part of a Meyer lemon). I thought about making candied lemon rinds and lemon sugar with the leftover peels, but didn’t have anything specific in mind to do with them afterwards. Then the answer came to me (actually through the front door). It was Rich, returning from a visit to his Northern California relatives. He was bearing gifts; one from his “almost Martha Stewart” sister–in–law, Paty. I say “almost” as all Martha has over Paty is a billion dollar empire (and the staff that goes along with it). There isn’t much in this world that Paty can’t make, bake or create. She even sews and grows things, and then makes more stuff out of that.
I always look forward to her latest creations for inspiration. This time she sent down something I had never tried, much less heard of before. I remembered she had become enamored with limoncello after a visit to Italy years ago. She (of course) had to start making her own upon returning to the states. I tried some of her early attempts, but found that I’m not necessarily a limoncello lover (too strong for my taste). I prefer to use it for flavoring in baked goods or other drinks. So when Rich handed me this strange looking little corked bottle of creamy liquid, I didn’t know what to expect. He told me that Paty was now experimenting with crema di limoncello, which is a cream variation of regular limoncello. She had tried it over at her daughter–in–law’s parents’ house and, of course, had to try making some of her own (and she doesn’t even own a lemon tree)!
I must admit, my first taste of crema didn’t wow me. But each subsequent sip gave me a serious case of “happy mouth” and the next thing I knew, I was hooked! It was like sipping nectar from the citrus gods! Note how I keep using the word “sip”. As with limoncello, crema should be served in little cordial glasses. It would be too easy to become seriously intoxicated if you drank this from anything larger (ever heard about Danny DeVito’s drunken appearance on The View a few years back?). He blamed it on the last seven limoncellos he had while on a long night out with his pal, George Clooney. Since becoming a limoncello luminary, DeVito began hawking his own brand of limoncello. I’ve never tried it, but I really don’t need to. I already have the finest lemons in the world growing in my side yard and I now know what to do with them all! Stay tuned for part 2 of this series to get all of the details.
(Nurse Gollum image courtesy of Comedy Central; Great Gazoo image courtesy of Hanna Barbera.)
January 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm
I happened to be googling Aretha Franklin and came across your site. Boy, was I confused (at first) but what a resemblance you’ve discovered. Kinda gross, but really close!
The great Gazoo rules! Although I really didn’t understand why they had him on the show. Wasn’t caveman life quirky enough?
That is one weird lemon. What did you do with it?
I’ve still got the lemon sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen. It has turned a rusty-yellow color and is rock hard. I plan to turn it into an ornament to hang on our Christmas tree this year.