If you love lemons, now would be the time to get to know your neighbors and offer to lighten someone’s lemon load.
Winter citrus is a timely treat. Yet, the weather can suddenly turn cold and ruin everything still in the tree.
This usually happens when you’re out of town on a long weekend.
Forward-thinkers are picking boxes of the golden fruit now before they panic on a frosty night.
My neighbor Bob showed up on our doorstep with a beautiful box of Meyer lemons, which are perfect for making lemon squares. (More on dessert below).
The Bossman has a mandarin tree that has produced enough fruit to keep a shipful of sailors safe from scurvy.
Mandarins are great for smoothies. Just peel them and tuck into plastic zipped snack bags. Freeze them with other bags filled with frozen grapes, peeled and frozen kiwis and even fistfuls of frozen spinach and kale.
This week a Twitter friend named Andy invited me to his house where he and his wife grow concord grapes.
These have an unbelievably rich taste and can even be used for grape pie.
All this food is literally hanging around, but chances are very high that we’ll have an overnight freeze.
Concord grapes, like Meyer lemons, taste above and beyond other varieties of their fruit type.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
A UC Merced pamphlet gives tips for citrus and the cold.
Mandarins, as an example, could be fine after a brief chill of 24 degrees. However, several hours at 26 degrees, the fruit could be ruined.
What happens is the cells burst, and then the fruit dries out quickly. You may recall biting into a decorative lime, only to find it nearly juice-less.
The tree itself can also be damaged at very low temperatures. Younger trees are more vulnerable in temperatures in the mid 20s. If you have a young tree, watch the weather and cover the tree on those chilly nights.
If the tree is damaged, do not prune until spring. When the tree starts growing again, you’ll have a better picture of what parts are dead.
MIGHTY LEMON SQUARE
It wasn’t until I made lemon squares that I realized how much labor and love goes into those little slices of toe-curling yum.
The key to adding more zing is adding more lemon peel (zest), which means more time with a grater in your hand.
A few yeas ago my friend Kara offered this great tip: Use a vegetable peeler to carve off large chunks of peel at a time. Then use a small food processor to cut the zest into tiny bits.
If you’ll be making lemon square again, you can get extra zesty and freeze what you don’t need.
Also, its easy to burn the crust when baking lemon squares twice.
See the instructions below for the time-tested aluminum foil trick.
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (the same amount of regular sugar also does the trick)
1 stick butter, melted/not hot (or omega-rich butter alternative)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbs all-purpose flour
6 Tbs juice from two lemons
2 tsps (or more) finely grated lemon zest
Set oven to 325 degrees.
Spray an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with foil, so the foil overhangs all the sides. Then spray the foil with cooking spray.
Mix flour, salt, powdered sugar in a bowl, stir in butter to form dough (I put the butter in the microwave on defrost for about a minute to soften it).
When the mixture forms a dough, press into the bottom of the foil-covered pan. I used wax paper to flatten the dough. Another suggestions is to flatten with a measuring cup.
Bake the dough for 15 20 minutes, until pale brown.
In the meantime, whisk eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice and zest in medium bowl.
When the dough is done, pour in the lemon mixture. Bake 20 minutes more.
While still warm sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar, so the warmth helps the sugar stick. Some folks might use a flour sifter, for fancier application.
After cooling, you can tear away the foil and cut into small squares.
If you make a mistake or the lemon bars are not exactly perfect, you need to eat those mistakes before anyone notices.