Now that we’re really in the depths of winter, I’ve been craving citrus fruits. I love local apples and pears, don’t get me wrong…but these days the grapefruits and clementines are calling to me. So when I saw a bin of plump, yellow-orange Meyer lemons at the grocery store over the weekend I could not pass them up. Thinking about a very simple preparation that wouldn’t interfere with the delicate, floral flavor of the lemons, a warm lemon kuzu came to mind.
The kuzu is one of my favorite winter bedtime brews – sort of a cross between a tea and a pudding, there are few things more gentle and comforting. The term kuzu is used to describe any liquid thickened with kuzu, a starch from the root of the kuzu plant that is used as a thickener in Japanese and macrobiotic cooking. The liquid is often a fruit juice, sometimes a more savory preparation with umeboshi, shoyu, and ginger. Depending on how much kuzu powder you add, you can achieve anything from a lightly thickened beverage (1 Tbsp kuzu to 1 cup liquid) to a pudding-like dessert (2 Tbsp kuzu to 1 cup liquid).
With the addition of ginger and honey, this kuzu brew reminds me of a hot toddy with extra texture and body. It’s perfect for a cold night. Kuzu’s calming properties promote relaxation and sleep; it is also beneficial for the GI tract and useful for soothing anxiety and hyperactivity.
Meyer lemon + ginger kudzu
Kuzu powder (aka kudzu powder) can be found in Asian and natural foods stores
juice from 2 Meyer lemons, strained (about 1/3 cup)
1 tsp ginger juice (squeezed from about 1 Tbsp of freshly grated ginger)
2/3 cup water
1 to 2 Tbsp honey (to taste)
1 to 2 Tbsp kuzu, depending on how thick you prefer
In a small saucepan combine the lemon and ginger juices, water, and honey to taste. Whisk in the kuzu powder; the liquid will turn cloudy.
Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking often. Once it begins to simmer, whisk constantly; as soon as the mixture has thickened and changed from cloudy to translucent, remove from heat and transfer to serving cups (it will take about 5 minutes total). Drink, or eat with a spoon, warm or at room temperature.