Neither Jack nor I relished the idea of hauling a heavy potted lime tree in and out of the garage several times each winter, and we all know how quickly planted containers can dry out during our hot Texas summers, so we decided early on to plant the limes in the ground. The downside is, in-ground citrus trees need a bit of babying when the temperatures dip below freezing. Niceties like frost cloth, rope lights, and clip lights keep tender limbs from getting nipped. Because citrus trees are grafted onto hardy and well-adapted rootstock, winter protection is crucial; a tree that dies back to the ground won't return true. Thompson grafted his limes onto sour orange rootstock, known for its ability to enhance fruit flavor and color and the tree's tolerance to drought, cold and alkaline soils. (Unfortunately, sour orange rootstock is highly susceptible to the dreaded citrus tristeza virus or CTV, which has wiped out millions of citrus groves worldwide. Shudder!)
We've yet to have a large enough key lime harvest for pie, but we have enjoyed a large enough Persian lime harvest this year to make several batches of what I consider to be the perfect margarita. Anyone that knows us knows that we are a bit, hmm, what's a nice way to put it, particular about our margaritas. (Those less charitable might find the term "utter elitist pricks" to be a more apt description.) For this, we have the esteemed Wes Marshall of the Austin Chronicle to thank (blame?), as Wes' favorite margarita recipe was the inspiration for our own homemade 'ritas.
Now, Wes prefers tequila blanco, while we prefer reposado; specifically, Cazadores Reposado, which we discovered on a 2006 trip to Mexico. Wes prefers Cointreau or Controy orange liqueur, while we prefer locally-produced Paula's Texas Orange liqueur. Wes prefers key limes, while we find both our homegrown Mexican and Bearss limes equally appealing. Wes likes salt; we skip it (although if I were to use salt, I'd get some-a that fancy pink Himalayan sea salt). Wes likes his margaritas James-Bond-style (shaken, not stirred), strained into a martini glass; we prefer ours stirred and poured over ice in double old-fashioned glasses. We do agree on many points: namely, that the tequila must be 100% blue agave; the liqueur must be of high quality (no cheap triple sec) and absolutely, positively no sweet and sour mix: only fresh lime juice will do.
Two tools that we find essential for margarita-making are a measuring glass and a citrus squeezer. The measuring glass ensures consistency, and the citrus squeezer makes juicing the limes quick and easy.
So enough chit-chat already: here's our 'house margarita' recipe.
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Paula's Texas Orange liqueur
1 1/2 ounces Cazadores Reposado tequila
A healthy squirt of agave nectar
Stir and pour over ice. Makes one very potent, intensely flavorful margarita. Unlike most orange liqueurs, Paula's Texas Orange is 80 proof, so use that measuring glass, and take care not to overserve your guests! You can add a splash of water if you must, or nurse your drink and let the melting ice mellow its kick.
We think they're good to the very last drop.
For step-by-step instructions (I warned you we were particular!) and more pictures of glorious homegrown limes, visit my Perfect Margarita photo set at Flickr. Cheers!
Words and photos © 2009-2010 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.