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While most sensible folk are off relaxing, vacationing, and enjoying the dog days of summer, we’ve been peeling, chopping, slicing, zesting, juicing, pickling, and jamming our way through July.

It’s that time of year, when the garden waits for no one, and every trip to the garden adds another chore to the canning and preserving list. As much as I’d rather be swinging in a hammock in the shade, with a good book, and a tall glass of iced tea, I’d prefer not to see fresh, homegrown, quality food go to waste.

For the last week the canner has been bubbling away almost constantly!

For the last week the canner has been bubbling away almost constantly!

The more I can put up now, the less we have to buy later.

I promise, I will be posting recipes over the next couple of weeks for some of our favorites below, but for now, here’s an overview of just how busy the farm’s kitchen (and yours truly) has been over the last week.

It all started with the last of the apricots for the season, which were paired with orange, vanilla, and cardamom, to make some sweet, flavorful, preserves.

Apricot-Orange Preserves

Apricot-Orange Preserves

There was a smattering of the apricot preserves at the bottom of the pan that didn’t fit in the jars. Oh. Darn. It was perfect over goat’s milk vanilla ice cream though!

We couldn't waste it!

We couldn’t waste it!

Then there were the cucumbers. Remember when the deer delighted in devouring our cucumber vines, right after the fence breach this spring? It didn’t faze our heirloom cucumber ‘Homemade Pickles’ one bit. In fact, if anything, they came back with a vengeance, as if they had something to prove!

Heirloom cucumber 'Homemade Pickles'

Heirloom cucumber ‘Homemade Pickles’

This variety is exactly what I was looking for in a pickling cucumber. Compact fruits, on prolific vines, that just keep on producing.

After whipping up a batch of organic pickling spice…

I wish you could smell this pickling spice!

I wish you could smell this pickling spice!

…about 20 pounds of them were turned into classic dill pickles…

Fresh, crisp, dill pickles!

Fresh, crisp, dill pickles!

…and bread and butter pickles, too!

Got a sweet tooth? How about Bread and Butter pickles instead?

Got a sweet tooth? How about Bread and Butter pickles instead?

It’s fair to say our pantry won’t be short on pickles this season!

Just as I was harvesting the first bumper crop of cucumbers, a friend asked if we could help with processing a few Meyer lemons from her tree. We went over one Sunday afternoon to harvest some of the fruits, and found ourselves with no less than 80 pounds of lemons to show for it!!!

80 pounds of Meyer lemons!

80 pounds of Meyer lemons!

Some might be daunted at the prospect of that many lemons, but for me I was excited to see just how many different things I could do with a Meyer lemon. For most of last week, it became something of an obsession.

A number of the lemons were turned into traditional preserved lemons

A number of the lemons were turned into traditional preserved lemons

We’d had a request to make some traditional Moroccan-style preserved lemons, which are a staple in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. The lemons are briefly boiled, and then packed in fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and salt, and although they’re easy to make, they do require the juice of an absurd number of lemons for each jar.

Packed in juice and salt, it will take a few weeks before the preserved lemons are ready for use

Packed in juice and salt, it will take a few weeks before the preserved lemons are ready for use

As I absolutely HATE to waste food, all the lemons that were juiced were first zested.

One my favorite parts of the lemon...the zest!

One my favorite parts of the lemon…the zest!

The zest was set aside for a number of other projects, including making candied Meyer lemon peel…

Candied zest, if you can resist just snacking on it, makes a great garnish for cakes, and tarts

Candied zest, if you can resist just snacking on it, makes a great garnish for cakes, and tarts

…some simple syrup, for sweetening summer iced tea…

The zest, before it's candied, is cooked in a simple syrup which becomes infused with lemon, and makes a great sweetener for iced tea!

The zest, before it’s candied, is cooked in a simple syrup which becomes infused with lemon, and makes a great sweetener for iced tea!

…or a simple window cleaner…

Infuse some zest in white vinegar for 2 weeks, strain, and transfer to a spray bottle, and you have a fragrant, non-toxic, household cleaner

Infuse some zest in white vinegar for 2 weeks, strain, and transfer to a spray bottle, and you have a fragrant, non-toxic, household cleaner

…and of course, refreshments, like this Meyer lemon-infused vodka!

1 quart of vodka, plus 50 grams of zest in a blender...blitz...and bottle!

1 quart of vodka, plus 50 grams of zest in a blender…blitz…and bottle!

Infuse the zest for 3-4 days, then strain out the zest, and consume in moderation

Infuse the zest for 3-4 days, then strain out the zest, and consume in moderation, preferably while swinging in that elusive hammock…

Of course, while actively working in the kitchen, handling knives, mandolines, and hot canners, it’s best to stick to water, with a wedge of lemon.

A refreshing glass of lemon water

A refreshing glass of lemon water

Don’t assume that a zested, and juiced lemon is then compost either, because even that part of the lemon can be used to make homemade pectin!

Even with the zest, pulp, and juice gone, the leftover lemon skins can be used to make pectin

Even with the zest, pulp, and juice gone, the leftover lemon skins can be used to make pectin

I love lemons, nothing goes to waste…nothing!

Some of the lemons also found their way into marmalade, and jelly.

I have a true weakness for ginger, and lemon and ginger go perfectly together.

Lemons and ginger are a perfect combination

Lemons and ginger are a perfect combination

So how about a Meyer lemon and ginger marmalade?

Using Meyer lemons in this lemon and ginger marmalade prevents the marmalade from being bitter

Using Meyer lemons in this lemon and ginger marmalade prevents the marmalade from being bitter

For the marmalade I needed to slice a lot of lemons, but thankfully a mandoline made quick work of that.

Need to slice a lot of lemons at once? A mandoline is indispensible

Need to slice a lot of lemons at once? A mandoline is indispensible

As I was slicing lemons anyway, the next project was a savory rosemary-infused Meyer lemon jelly.

Meyer lemons, and fresh rosemary from the garden, make a beautiful, and fragrant, jelly

Meyer lemons, and fresh rosemary from the garden, make a beautiful, and fragrant, jelly

I foresee this being paired with chicken, pork, or lamb, and it’s wonderfully fragrant.

Believe it or not, I’m still not quite through all of the lemons, but over the next day or two I will turn the last of them into a luscious Meyer lemon curd, using farm-fresh eggs. This year it will be an experiment in freezing the curd so we keep it longer, so we’ll have to see how the texture holds up.

Moving past lemons, we’re also smack-dab in the middle of peak strawberry season.

Summer also means strawberries!

Summer also means strawberries!

This last weekend, as strawberries don’t hold well once they’re picked, we dropped everything, and spent the weekend jamming. Nothing says summer like fresh, homemade, sweet strawberry jam.

Strawberry jam infused with vanilla

Strawberry jam infused with vanilla

This jam is infused with vanilla, just half a split vanilla bean per 5 lbs of berries, and it tastes simply divine!

Suddenly I realized that I’d probably made more strawberry jam than anyone should consider consuming in a year (beware friends, you may be getting jam for the holidays).

Oops, this is what happens in the kitchen when I'm on a roll...a little too much strawberry jam!

Oops, this is what happens in the kitchen when I’m on a roll…a little too much strawberry jam!

As I was rapidly running out of jars, the last of the berries were paired with some of the Meyer lemons, and frozen in the form of sorbet.

Strawberry and Meyer Lemon Sorbet

Strawberry and Meyer Lemon Sorbet

A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! This of course resulted in a light bulb moment. Note to self, next time make MORE sorbet, and LESS jam!

While masquerading as a kitchen-hermit all of last week, I realized that the garden might need some attention this week. That’s an understatement! It looks like a jungle out there! The basil is crawling out of the raised beds, so now it’s time to make pesto, and freeze it.

Pesto freezes very well, and is a great way to preserve the flavor of basil throughout the year

Pesto freezes very well, and is a great way to preserve the flavor of basil throughout the year

Occasionally I’ll just cut the plants low to the ground, and allow them to push a second flush of leaves, but this year I want to get more pesto in the freezer, so I’m pulling the entire plants, and will transplant out a fresh crop for late summer.

I’ll just barely get caught up, and then it will be time to start processing the bulk of the tomatillos, and turning them into tomatillo salsa verde.

Next week we'll be making more tomatillo salsa verde

Next week we’ll be making more tomatillo salsa verde

The zucchini will need to be pickled, too!

Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Pickles

Oh, and the plums…those will soon be ripe, too! Not that I’m complaining, but it never ends!

I’ll try to post a few recipes over the next couple of weeks for some of our canning projects this season. If there’s a particular recipe you’re interested in though, let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to post it!

This is just the beginning...

This is just the beginning…

In the meantime I have a lot more jars to label, and a pantry in desperate need of reorganizing!