When I was growing up, citrus was my strongest fruit association with winter (think Moroccan oranges!). Even now that so many other choices are available during the winter season, citrus invariably makes me think of all the warm and exotic places it comes from.
Meyer lemons are a staple in my kitchen the entire time they are available here in the DC market; I use their fabulous, perfumy juice in salad dressings, couscous, desserts, etc. I occasionally buy kumquats as an ingredient for a winter salad, but had not really moved past that; and I had only admired Buddha’s hand from afar. I remember reading somewhere online that “…you don’t really want to cook with this thing. Use it as a centerpiece to perfume a room, astound the mailman or scare small animals and children.”
I was not satisfied with that statement, and wanted to find a way to nibble on Buddha’s sweet fingers when the time was right.
And finally, yesterday Meyer lemons, kumquats, and Buddha’s hand all ended up on my kitchen counter. My plan was to make whole candied kumquats & Buddha’s fingers, and a citrus ricotta cake.
Buddha’s hand is a variety of citron. It is basically made of thick peel and pith, but unlike oranges and lemons, the pith isn’t bitter, and just like its zest, very fragrant, with a distinctive flowery aroma.
I poked a small hole with a toothpick in the kumquats to prevent them from “exploding” during the cooking process, and chopped off the fingers; then I proceeded to cook them whole in a syrup of about 1:1 sugar to water – i.e., one cup sugar to one of water – until translucent:
The next step was to use some of the lightly candied fruit in a fast ricotta cake. I used the ubiquitous lemon cake mix as the base (1/2 package), and added in a pound of ricotta cheese, lots and lots of peel from Buddha’s hand, lots and lots of Meyer lemon juice, an extra egg, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Btw zesting Buddha’s hand was a piece of cake (pun intended), as you just place his palm into yours for a perfectly comfortable and secure grip.
Some 30 min later, we were snacking on the cake that I kept telling myself was nutritious (well, it has eggs, ricotta, fruit; of course it is good for you :-))
The remainder of Buddha’s hand, along with Meyer lemon zest and juice, was made into a liqueur. I cut up the fruit, added the simple syrup from the candied kumquats, Meyer lemon juice & zest, and placed everything in a jar full of vodka. With any luck, we will be drinking “buddhacello” (a more perfumy variation on limoncello) some four weeks later.