One of our first purchases for our new home in Sydney was a dwarf Meyer lemon tree. $50 and several months later, we picked our first three fragrant fruit. Not bad for a partially sunny balcony in Sydney’s Inner West, don’t you think?
Meyer lemons, a cross between lemons and mandarins, have a bewitching floral scent and a sweet, tart, juicy interior, so they make especially good additions to baked goods. With this in mind, I decided to use the juice from two lemons to make a tart and the zest to make a Meyer lemon vodka. The tart lasts several days in the fridge, and the Meyer lemon vodka lends the fragrance of these beauties to everything from cocktails to cookies for months after the citrus season has come to an end.
With the last lemon, we made homemade Meyer lemon-lime bitters—a fitting way to celebrate our first citrus harvest.
Meyer lemon vodka – a recipe in pictures
1. Gather ingredients. Excellent vodka isn’t essential for this; Smirnoff or something similar will do.
2. Peel off the zest of the Meyer lemons, carefully avoiding the pith.
3. Drop the Meyer lemon zest into the vodka, and let the flavor of the zest infuse in the vodka for a few weeks. When the vodka is fragrant, it’s finished.
This vodka is delicious in any fruity mixed drink, and also works well in baked goods calling for orange liqueur.
Meyer lemon tart with cardamom and orange zest
Makes one 9-inch tart.
This tart has a complex, not-to-sweet flavor; it pairs well with strong coffee or English Breakfast tea. The recipe is adapted from the 53rd edition (yes, you read that right) of The C.W.A. Cookery Book and Household Hints. The C.W.A. is well-known in Australia for their baking expertise, and their cook book is probably the only volume I have ever owned that covered lemon tarts and home remedies for common livestock maladies in the same volume. It is also the only recipe book I have ever seen that lists oven temperatures in terms of “low”, “moderate”, and “high”—there are no degrees in sight. The C.W.A. expects their reader to have more than a cursory knowledge of baking already, it seems, but that is part of the fun.
- 2 T. sugar
- 1-1/2 c. self-raising flour
- 125 g. (4 oz.) unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- a few tablespoons of water or milk
Pre-heat oven to 165°C / 330°F. Whisk the sugar and self-raising flour together, then rub in the butter (hint: use your hands!) until you get an even crumb. Make a well in the mixture and break the egg in the well; beat the egg slightly, and then mix the egg gently into the mix until the dough starts to come together. Add water or milk as needed to bring the dough together completely. It should still be relatively crumbly, and you should avoid working it more than absolutely necessary. Simply push it into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan or pie tin until the bottom and sides are evenly coated.
- 2 eggs
- 1 c. sugar
- zest from one orange (or a Meyer lemon)
- juice from two Meyer lemons
- 1/2 t. ground cardamom
Beat the eggs and the sugar together until the mixture takes on a smooth orange color and a thick consistency. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Baking the tart
First, bake the biscuit crust alone for 5-7 minutes, or until the pastry begins to puff up at the edges of the pie pan. Let cool for another five minutes, and then pour the tart filling in the pastry. Bake until the filling is set (if you tap the side of the tin, you shouldn’t see the filling wobble at all); this took about 20-25 minutes for me, but make the C.W.A. proud and keep an eye on your tart.
Let it cool before you dig in, if you can bear the wait.