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.
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.
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!
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!
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…
…about 20 pounds of them were turned into classic dill pickles…
…and bread and butter pickles, too!
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!!!
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.
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.
As I absolutely HATE to waste food, all the lemons that were juiced were first zested.
The zest was set aside for a number of other projects, including making candied Meyer lemon peel…
…some simple syrup, for sweetening summer iced tea…
…or a simple window cleaner…
…and of course, refreshments, like this Meyer lemon-infused vodka!
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.
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!
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.
So how about a Meyer lemon and ginger marmalade?
For the marmalade I needed to slice a lot of lemons, but thankfully a mandoline made quick work of that.
As I was slicing lemons anyway, the next project was a savory rosemary-infused Meyer lemon 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The zucchini will need to be pickled, too!
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!
In the meantime I have a lot more jars to label, and a pantry in desperate need of reorganizing!