For those of you unwilling to brave the crowded stores in this last week before Christmas, consider spending some time at home, crafting great gifts for the remaining folks on your list.
Good gifts don’t have to cost money and for the food lover, the sweetest gift you can give might just come from your kitchen. With a little bit of time and supplies (and not a lot of money), Ryan and I made three different homemade food gifts from just one primary ingredient: the humble Meyer lemon.
The Meyer lemon, a cross between a Mandarin orange and a lemon, has become a darling in most chef’s kitchens and rightfully so.
These thin-skinned beauties are much less tart than a regular lemon and can be eaten in their entirety without puckering. This also makes them perfect for recipes where you want a little bit of the brightness that citrus can give without the bitterness.
These sunny orbs are in season now and we’ve spotted them at a few different places around town. Chelsea Market’s Manhattan Fruit Exchange has big tubs for just $5.99, while FreshDirect is selling 2 lb. bags for just $2.49. (We’ve also seen them at Whole Foods.)
Using just three lemons, we made three great gifts that will be cherished by any home cook: lemon curd, candied lemon peels and lemon-infused simple syrup.
We also packaged our gifts on our own, using some inexpensive canning supplies, Japanese washi tape and twine. If you’re on the hunt for great jars, these jars are on sale at Crate & Barrel right now and would be perfect for the curd or candied peels, whereas jars like these are perfect for syrups.
We stumbled across a small holiday market in Chelsea Market and picked up a few unique gift tags, although Ryan loves making his own with simple hang tags. They’re easy to personalize and make a homemade gift look like something from an upscale boutique.
The recipes below make enough for one jar of curd, one package of peels and one jar of simple syrup, but can easily be doubled or even tripled depending on how much you want to make.
Adapted from Desserts by Pierre Hermé
1/2 c. sugar
Zest from 2 Meyer lemons
1/2 c. Meyer lemon juice (We used three lemons.)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1. In a double boiler, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Mix together until combined. Whisk in eggs and lemon juice.
2. Whisking constantly, cook the mixture until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Once the mixture has thickened (it should look like pudding), allow the cream to sit for a few minutes before adding the butter. Add the butter, then blend in a blender until absolutely smooth.
3. Once blended, put curd in jars and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes before using. Store in the refrigerator.
After juicing the lemons, make sure to save the empty “shells” as you’ll need them for the next recipe…
Candied Meyer Lemon Peels
Juiced Meyer lemon halves (See previous recipe.)
1 1/2 c. cold water
2 1/2 c. sugar
1. Carefully peel the lemon halves with a Swiss peeler, taking off as long and thin of strips as possible. Don’t worry about the pith, as Meyer lemon peels are not bitter like regular lemons. With a sharp knife, take the strips and then slice vertically into thin strands.
2. Fill a medium saucepan with water and add a pinch of salt. Add the lemon strips and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain. Repeat.
3. Drain the peels for a second time and set aside. Add the cold water and 2 c. sugar to the saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar dissolves add the lemon peels and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.
4. Remove the peels and roll them in remaining 1/2 c. sugar while they are still wet.
5. Let dry, then package as desired. Reserve syrup in jars.
…And just like that, you have three simple, yet gourmet, gifts.
The syrup is stunning in almost any cocktail that needs citrus, while the curd can be enjoyed on its own, on pastries, or in pies, cakes, or cupcakes. The candied peels make a great sweet snack, perfect for a stocking stuffer.
We can’t speak for all of your giftees, but Ryan and I would love to find these goodies in our stockings come Christmas morning! (Hint, hint.)
This post was selected to be a part of DailyBuzz Style’s December 9×9 challenge. Each month DailyBuzz Style challenges nine bloggers to create a post based around a specific theme. This month’s was DIY Holiday Gifts.