I adore citrus fruits in the winter. I mean, with all of their vibrant orange and yellow and pink colors, they just look and taste like a bit of much-needed sunshine. And as luck would have it, most citrus fruits actually are in season all throughout the winter months.
So right about the time I start feeling the cabin fever set in, and all I can think of is parking myself on a sunny tropical beach for the duration, I can soothe myself by popping into my local grocery store and picking up a bag of whatever citrus looks good (OK, I know that loading up on oranges and grapefruits and such isn’t quite the same as a vacation to a sunny locale, but I’ll just have to make do).
And January is the time of year that one of my favorites – Meyer lemons – frequently show up in the produce department. Meyer lemons are fairly easy to spot because they appear a bit unique – not as yellow as the regular Eureka or Lisbon lemon, nor as orange as an orange or tangerine. Meyer lemons, with their roundish shape, thin skin, and egg yolk-like color, are, in fact, a hybrid of a lemon (or the more ancient citron) and a mandarin orange.
First brought to the U. S. from China in the early 20th century, they were mostly grown only in backyards for many years until more recently popularized as a culinary delight (thank-you Martha Stewart)! Nowadays, you can find Meyer lemons in most supermarkets around the country during their season – technically November through March, but I tend to see them in my local markets most often in January and February.
And these little beauties really are a wintertime treat. Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter, and a little less acidic in taste than a regular lemon. The flavor is slightly different, too, with a hint of floral flavor or herbaceousness in the background. They’re perfect for when you want lemon flavor without the sharpness of a regular lemon.
So for a much-needed midwinter treat, I made myself this beautiful Meyer lemon pie. I’m just going to admit right now that this is a bit of a cheater’s pie. I took the easy route here, and instead of starting by making a lemon custard or curd, I took a shortcut. I used my usual Key lime pie recipe and substituted Meyer lemon juice for the key lime juice. All it takes is whisking together lemon juice (and zest), along with a can of sweetened condensed milk, and some eggs yolks in a bowl and the pie filling is ready. Just pour it into your graham cracker crust and bake. It’s so easy, you don’t even have to break out the electric mixer. A bowl, a whisk and a pie pan are all that you need to have a slice of sunshine on a plate in under an hour.
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