Monday, December 26, 2011

Transylvanian Lemons

For a long time my sister has been badgering me about the lemons on her backyard tree. “Look at all the lemons! Take some home.” I’ve heard this three or four times and on her last visit she brought a bag of them and left them in my kitchen. Now, I like lemons very much and I use at least a couple of them each week in this or that recipe or drink. But there’s something about these backyard lemons that raise an eyebrow or two. Granted, lemons in the supermarket have gone through a beautification program before making it to the produce bins, and probably a crate or more get tossed on appearance alone. As for the backyard lemons from Maitland, it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that they are a strain of lemons cultivated in Transylvania, maybe even in Dracula’s own backyard.

Determined to get others to appreciate her lemons, my sister decided to make a backyard lemon pie to add to the dessert table for Christmas dinner. After the twelve gathered around the table finished with turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, corn soufflé, broccoli, cauliflower, red pears, congealed salad and hot rolls, thoughts came around to a taste of something sweet. Passing on the pecan pie and carrot cake, I went for the lemon pie. Five minutes later, sitting on the back porch enjoying my king sized slice of lemon meringue pie I heard my sister’s high pitched warning bouncing off the walls: “Don’t eat the lemon pie! Stop! Throw it away and cast the devil out of my kitchen!” I swallowed another bite wondering what the hell she was going on about.

Seems that everyone but me thought the lemon pie was bitter and inedible. Huh? To my taste the pie was perfectly delicious and about as close to bitter as a cup of sugar. Could it be that everyone got a look at the lemons from that backyard tree, deciding that nothing good could come from such ugly specimens? I finished my slice to the last crumb and went straight to the kitchen and wrapped that pie to take home. The others stood around me brandishing bulbs of garlic and threatening to bring in holy water. My sister, the cook (with three Michelin stars) determined it was a bitter aftertaste that ruined the pie. I can’t wait to have another piece with coffee later tonight.

Questionable desserts aside, Christmas Day turned out to be an occasion to catch up with family members usually not around my neck of the Florida sands, and also to meet a few others outside the family. In addition to being a gourmet cook who could impress Gordon Ramsey, sister Beverly is the queen of making people feel welcome and at home. She did it again on Christmas day.

Pears simmered in water with cinnamon red hots and then marinated to get the color.

Came home with a huge rosemary plant (one-time neighbor of the ugly backyard lemon tree) and a 12 quart enamel soup pot, the perfect vessel for my ongoing attempts at soup, gumbo and chili. I will have to research John Folse and his south Louisiana Creole-Cajun soup & gumbo recipes for the proper christening.

No indication of a bitter lemon influence in this healthy rosemary plant.

Soup pot for a table of fifteen hungry eaters

Congealed salad with chopped walnuts, chopped pineapple, cranberries and dark bing cherries


  1. Having more than sampled Beverly's food the week before Thanksgiving, I concur on the rating of 3 Michelin stars (maybe 4). Had my mouth watering while reading all the courses served--especially the lemon pie. Funny, my nephew's wife brought a lemon pie (my favorite) to our gathering made from lemons grown on a neighbor's trees. Oh, yes, sweet at first bite and that delicious comeback of sour. A heavenly Christmas treat.

  2. I must say that the pictures look really good with the exception of the wart-like lemons. In reviewing my menu for the Christmas dinner and analyzing what was wrong with the lemon pie, I have determined that I got one of the lemons that wasn't fully ripe to "zest" for the addition to the pie and that made it bitter. A cook ALWAYS loves to hear raves about what is placed on a table to enjoy and I do so love to hear bleats go on and on about how he loves my cooking. Obviously, I love to cook and love trying new recipes from my collection of over 500 (must be 500 plus 1 as I got another one for Christmas) recipe books. Of course I loved your post today and I think the rosemary plant is beautiful on the patio.

  3. I had to laugh at this, we have 2 huge lemon trees and ours lemons look as bad, if not worse, than those in your photo. I think it must be because, we (your sister and I) don't use all the insecticides and fertilizers that the commercial growers use. I have to say that I've never had any problem with flavor, but I don't think I would use the rind as zest and they certainly won't win any beauty contests. Maybe if someone has an ugliest lemon contest, we could enter?


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America