Cranberries and Lemons: A couple of recipes to brighten your winter

To me December means lemons. I’ve kept Meyer Lemon trees for years. The first one was planted in my parent’s yard, the second one, in a pot that has moved from place to place with me for over a decade. The tree explodes with growth in the summer, flowering a couple of times over the season. The tiny fruits that form suddenly seem to go through a growth spurt by fall; quadrupling in size and then ripening by December. This humble tree who looks so beat up and seems to be on the verge of giving up on me year after year, manages to hang on and rewards my lackadaisical care with one to two dozen delicious fruits annually.

Meyer lemons are a cross between either an orange or a mandarin and a lemon. The fruit is extremely juicy with few seeds. The juice is less acidic than a standard lemon. The thin-skinned rind is different from normal lemon rind. There is a hint of pine mixed in with the normal lemony bite. It is a lovely fruit which lends a slightly more mellow flavor to dishes than a regular lemon would.

I love this fruit in baked goods. Combined with sugar, you get the flavor of old-fashioned lemon candy without the acidic pucker. In breads and cakes and cookies, it is divine! One thing I love are lemon bars made with my Meyers. This year, I still had leftover cranberry sauce from my belated Thanksgiving. The leftover cranberry sauce is wonderful mixed in yogurt, but really, how much yogurt could we eat? I decided the cranberries would need to be used for something else (and soon!). Those remaining berries would come to make a wonderful addition to my lemon bars. I was able to use them in the filling and replace the milk in the icing with the syrup.

So… today, I am giving up my super secret well-loved cranberry sauce recipe. Although you could make the bars with the chunky canned whole cranberry sauce and make the icing with milk instead, I encourage you to make my sauce for these bars. In fact, there are still excuses for Turkey dinners. Make my Turkey au jus or bake some turkey cutlets and have the sauce as a side. Make it for festive holiday style fruit on the bottom yogurt (plain yogurt mixed with homemade cranberry sauce) or just add it to a sandwich made with deli turkey. You’ll be happy you took advantage of the season’s fresh cranberries.

Citrusy sweet n’ sour cranberry sauce

2 cups water

2 cups evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

4 cups cranberries, rinsed and picked over (discard any mushy or moldy berries)

The juice and zest of 1 orange

1 piece of Canela (Mexican cinnamon stick) or 1 Cinnamon stick

2 peeled slices of fresh ginger

1 – 2 tsp. Cinnamon

1/2 tsp. Allspice

A couple of liberal splashes of Grand Marnier, Brandy or Cassis Liquor

Combine sugar and water in a large non-reactive skillet. Stir well so that the sugar dissolves and then bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes. Add the canela or cinnamon and ginger slices then the cranberries, bring back to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Allow the cranberries to simmer undisturbed for about 5 minutes or until all of the cranberries have cracked open. With a slotted spoon, move the berries to a large bowl being careful to keep the cinnamon stick and ginger in the syrup. Pour a couple of generous splashes of Grand Marnier (or the alternate alcoholic beverage of your choice) into the bowl with the berries. Allow the berries to macerate while you keep cooking the syrup. Add the orange zest, orange juice, ground cinnamon and allspice to the syrup. Raise the heat to medium and continue to cook the syrup until it is reduced by half being careful not to let it become candied. You still want it to be syrup but thicker. Pour the hot syrup over the berry mixture. Cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices and then refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.

The cranberry sauce will keep for a couple of weeks to be enjoyed with all of the wonderful things I suggested. Make sure you save a little over half a cup of the sauce to make sure you have plenty of berries and syrup for the festive holiday lemon bars below.

These lemon bars are going to Eat Christmas Cookies event on Food Blogga. To see what everyone else has baked go here. There is still time to participate: Check here for details.


Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Bars


1 cup unbleached white flour

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into pieces

A pinch of salt


A little over ½ cup Citrusy sweet n’ sour cranberry sauce drained (syrup reserved for icing) or ½ cup canned whole berry cranberry sauce

Zest from 1 Meyer lemon (about 2 tsp)

2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

2 tbsp unbleached white flour

½ tsp baking powder


¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ tsp vanilla

1 tbsp softened butter

3 tbsp cranberry syrup reserved from drained homemade cranberry sauce*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F.

Whisk together flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter until it resembles coarse corn meal. Butter a 9” x 9” square baking dish. Press the crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust for 15 – 17 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly while you proceed with the recipe.

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, flour and baking powder. Set aside. Spoon the drained cranberries onto the crust, making sure they are evenly spread over the crust. Carefully pour the lemon mixture over the berries. Bake the bars in the oven for twenty five minutes. Let the bars cool on a rack and then refrigerate.

* The glaze is optional but makes the bars pretty. If you used canned berries instead of making my recipe for homemade cranberries, make the glaze with a tablespoon of milk instead of the cranberry syrup: In a bowl, beat the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and butter with a mixer. Add the cranberry syrup or milk and beat until smooth. Transfer the glaze to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. When the bars are cold, use the glaze to decorate the bars, I usually do a cross hatch pattern. Cut bars into small 1” or 2” squares to serve.




  1. December 14, 2009 at 12:58 am

    Is there a fragrance more appealing than lemon blossoms? We used to have a lemon tree in front of our bedroom window. How I miss it. But I won’t be missing these bars. They sound wonderful! I’ll have to bookmark them for after the holidays when I stock up on Meyer lemons at the farmers market. Thanks, Mimi!

    • Mimi said,

      December 14, 2009 at 7:09 pm

      I think the scent of the blossoms are one of the best reasons to grow a citrus tree. Citrus flowers are very calming to the senses!

  2. manju said,

    December 14, 2009 at 8:54 am

    These look great! I love how you use a cranberry sauce in the filling, too — nice way to add sweet tang to a dessert. We have a potted calamansi tree, which is a sweet tart lime from Asia and the fragrance of citrus leaves and blossoms are a treat on their own, aren’t they? Happy Holidays!

    • Mimi said,

      December 14, 2009 at 7:14 pm

      Manju, you are so lucky to have a calamansi tree! I bet the fruit is wonderful (I think you could use my recipe without the cranberries for some pretty amazing lime bars!). I wish I were able to have several citrus trees. I would probably grow many varieties that are rare to find in the store. I’ve been toying with the idea of potting up a second tree (I’m a renter so I move), but I have too many potted plants to find room for another.

  3. Natashya said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I have never had a meyer lemon, I really hope to try one some day.
    The bars look so tasty! and I love the splash of boozy goodness in your cranberry sauce!

    • Mimi said,

      December 14, 2009 at 7:18 pm

      The Meyer lemon is a pretty common backyard tree in California but for years you couldn’t find the fruit in a grocery store. I have noticed over the past couple of years that here in the western U.S., high end groceries are beginning to carry them. I wonder if some enterprising organic growers are starting to export them? You may want to keep an eye out just in case. I have to warn you that if you find them, they may be a little pricey. Meyer lemon trees don’t produce as heavy a crop as say a Eureka lemon tree would. That fact coupled with the rarity of the crop makes them expensive in the store.

  4. drfugawe said,

    December 14, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Hi Mimi,
    In the last 7 years, I’ve grown some citrus from seed – it’s really quite easy – some went into the yard, but it’s just too cold there, even for the most cold tolerant, like sour orange, which I use for marinating pork roast – but the others went into pots, where they spend their winters either indoors, or in my makeshift greenhouse. None except a calamondin, have fruited yet – seedling citrus often take 7-10 yrs to do so.

    • Mimi said,

      December 14, 2009 at 7:35 pm

      Hi John,
      I love growing citrus from seed. The baby plants are beautiful. I usually stubbornly try to keep them indoors and I always manage to kill them off. I’m impressed you have kept them going for so long.

      Meyer lemon trees are one of the more cold tolerant of citrus, they survive down to 22 degrees. Since they take well to pot culture, I bet you could grow one, no problem.

      I’m curious about your calmondin, did it fruit true from seed? Growing fruit from seed is a gamble because there is huge genetic variance in fruit. I grew a tangelo tree from seed when I was a kid and my Mom managed to get it to grow to maturity in her yard. I got to eat the fruit as a grown up and instead of tangelos, I had grown tangerines that were super sour with tons of seeds. Not great for eating, but I’ve never met a citrus, I didn’t like. It was interesting to see that a piece of fruit that was super sweet and nearly seedless could spawn such a different child.

  5. drfugawe said,

    December 15, 2009 at 12:54 am

    The tangelo is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit, if you can believe it! Yeah, the calamondin came true from seed – well, given that I’d only tasted maybe one or two others in my life, I think it came true – I make marmalade from them.

    I lived in the citrus belt of Florida for 20+ years, and each year, around mid Feb you’d catch that faint whiff of citrus blossoms in the air – and it would be spectacular. Then, at the end of the week, you began to grow tired of the overwhelming smell – it was everywhere. By the following week, most folks were scheduling trips out of town, so they could escape for a bit! It was just too much of a good thing!

    • Mimi said,

      December 15, 2009 at 12:58 am

      Calamondin marmalade sounds great!

      Lol!! How funny – a mass exodus from a sweet smell!

  6. Andreas said,

    December 15, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    I haven’t tasted Meyer lemons or cranberries but those bars look very tasty.

    Is there a big difference between Canela and “ordinary” cinnamon?

    • Mimi said,

      December 15, 2009 at 9:15 pm

      I read somewhere that canela is true cinnamon and the kind we normally get to buy is cassia. Canela is soft instead of hard like cassia. The flavor is milder and tastes a bit sweet.

      In Mexican cooking, they grind it up and use it in sauces. I sought it out because I was making a Mole sauce and the instructions said to chop it up in the food processor. I took cassia type cinnamon and put it in the machine, it got stuck to the blade, dented the blade and ripped a deep line all the way around my food processor bowl, scarring it permanently. The cassia was unharmed. 😀 I learned my lesson and got the canela for my next round of Mole. Due to it’s sweet mild flavor, I like to find other uses for it.

  7. Deb said,

    December 16, 2009 at 5:24 am

    These look wonderful! You’re so lucky to grow Meyer lemons — they’re so hard to find here.

  8. chriesi said,

    December 16, 2009 at 7:30 am

    These cookies are lovely!

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