We’re In A Pickle…We’re In A Jam!

Posted by on Jul 16, 2013 in Farm Blog, Farm Recipes | 22 comments

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!

22 Comments

  1. I usually use apple peels and cores to make pectin. Does the pectin from the pith of citrus result in a bitter product?
    Rachel Hoff´s last post…What I’ve Learned 2013 Edition Volume 1

    • Pectin can be bitter when made from citrus, and it somewhat depends on the citrus you use. I think Meyer lemons, as they’re less bitter overall than most other citrus, produce a better flavored pectin. However, as the lemon flavor can be somewhat pronounced, I keep it primarily for using in jams and jellies. I do like that citrus pectins can help to brighten the flavors of some fruits too, like strawberries.

      As I process the last of this batch of lemons, I’m also going to try making a powdered pectin with the pith, instead of just your typical liquid pectin, to improve its shelf life. First though, I have to dry the piths!

  2. Wow, you have been really busy. My hat is off to you. That candied Meyer lemon zest sounds good. I would like to try that while I still have some lemons left.
    Lou Murray´s last post…Two months of harvests

    • It was challenging to dry, and package, that candied zest! I could easily sit down and eat most of a jar 😉 I’ll post the recipe soon for you, it’s actually quite simple, and I love that you get the syrup as a by-product too!

  3. Love the lemon/vinegar cleaner tip! Also drooling for some strawberry jam now…

    So jealous of your bounty!
    Alan @ it’s not work, it’s gardening!´s last post…Survival

    • I’d been buying a non-toxic citrus-based kitchen cleaner…but staring at a mound of lemon zest in the kitchen last week, it seemed silly not to make my own. The straight vinegar-lemon solution makes a great window cleaner, but it can also be diluted with some water when transferred to a spray bottle as a general surface cleaner 🙂

  4. wow, clare! nicely done. what an amazing (and delectable) array. probably the last thing you need is another meyer lemon recipe, but i’ll pass along this link for a tart i made with our measly crop of pennsylvania meyer lemons… it was divine:) enjoy the fruits of your labor. that’s really a pantry to be proud of.

    http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/02/whole-lemon-tart/
    Zoe´s last post…the Each Week, One Beast project: week 28

    • That tart sounds tasty! I also like the idea in that article of thin lemon slices hidden in the tart. I bet it would be beautiful with some candied lemon peels too! I might have to give that try, thanks! 😀

  5. Heavens! By the time I got down to the strawberries, my mouth was watering so much! I love all the industriousness, the detail you show and admire the fact that you use every bit if each kind of produce.

    I wish I was closer,..I’d come over and mooch some lemonade…
    Sue Langley´s last post…Summer progress on the straw bale garden

    • That’s funny, I was so tired of juicing lemons to make the preserved lemons, I couldn’t face making lemonade after that 😛 You could mooch jam though if you were closer, I have a LOT of jam!

  6. You never cease to amaze me! The two things that really interested me were the’bread and butter’ pickle and the candied zest. I never realised that you could make a pickle that was sweet 🙂 nor the zest of a lemon.
    Rosie Nixon´s last post…It’s a Tale of Two Summers!

    • The Bread & Pickles are done with an apple cider vinegar, a little sugar, and simmered with cherries. They still have a little tang, but are definitely sweet. I enjoy both those, and the dill pickles. The Meyer lemon zest though, once it’s in candied, is definitely my favorite! 🙂

  7. Wow, you have really been busy! (As opposed to your normal relaxed lifestyle???) I love the feeling of self-sufficiency (and the delicious eating)that comes from shelves of food preserved at the peak of freshness and flavor. I have very fond memories of the jellies and jams my mother put up each summer when I was a child. The only canning I do regularly is tomatoes, but I’m looking forward to expanding my food preservation horizons when I retire.
    Jean at Jean’s Garden´s last post…Summer Flowers: GBBD, July 2013

    • Ah, see, that’s where I went awry…I should have waited until I retired to do all this canning! It has been a challenge to squeeze it into my schedule the last couple of weeks, but I know that it will be worth it on a rainy winter’s day when we reach for a serving of summer in a jar 🙂

  8. It seems like there might be a lot of excess products which I would take off your hands. You have the address, I will pay postage.

    • Judging by the weight of some of these jars, the postage could be quite hefty! But if you’re ever out this way you’re welcome to stop by for a taste 🙂

  9. Holy crumbs Clare, you are one seriously busy lady. and I’ve been complaining about picking a few peas! Had absolutely no idea so much could be done with lemons. Really impressed with the cleaner, that’s a really fantastic idea.
    Marguerite´s last post…Triumphs and Tragedies

    • “How many things can you do with a lemon” became a bit of a running joke around here over the last 2 weeks. I seem to have inherited the frugal gene from my grandparents, and just couldn’t stand to throw anything away! I’ve spent two days taking all those juiced and zested lemon halves, and made pectin stock to freeze for jam-making later this season. Today though, I am FINALLY getting out of the kitchen, and going back outside. I think the garden really misses me 😛

  10. Oh. My. Goodness. You richly deserve the best hammock made by man. Knowing you, you would probably weave your own from goat hair! If I am ever in your area, may I please come eat dinner with you?
    delliott´s last post…Gnats in My Coffee

    • Haha! I might need to step up to some Angora goats if I want a goat-hair hammock 😛 If you ever find yourself out here, Deb, you are most welcome to come for dinner!

  11. You must never sleep…wow I could not get over all the different preserves…I am wondering about pickle recipes as I am trying some for the first time…I like dill and bread and butter.
    [email protected] Eye View´s last post…July’s Dazzling Blooms

    • Well, I think you’re in luck. My plan (time permitting) is to post a few recipes this week from the last two weeks of canning madness, and I was going to start with the pickle recipes, and then move on to the 1001 things I found you can do with a Meyer lemon 😛 Stay tuned!