The Meyer Lemon Tree Lives

After a lot of work over the last year and half, we finally have the Meyer Lemon tree functioning “normally” again! After giving us lemons in March/April 2012, well after the citrus season (November through January) careful cultivation by K has successfully produced a new batch! Now the problem is trying to find time enough to preserve these lemons! Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be making curd any time soon.

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K decided an easy way to use up a few lemons was to make some homemade limoncello. Limoncello is an Italian lemon-flavored liqueur. People say it’s sweet but the one time I tried it I thought it was disgustingly dry. You’re supposed to use the zest of lemons and not the entire lemon, but because they are Meyer’s they are sweeter than regular lemons anyway, and the peel isn’t as thick, so there’s not as much pity. K just cut them into fourths and covered them with Devil’s Spring grain alcohol. Later on sugar will be added, but for now they’ll be steeping for a long time.

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We’ve had an issue (again) with mites on the tree, so K got the bright idea to put it out on the deck for awhile in the cold weather to kill the mites off. These trees are great but boy are they susceptible to pests. Unfortunately, the cold weather didn’t kill them, but it made the tree shed its leaves. Oh boy. We were forced to resort back to the insecticide mixture of dish soap to get rid of them.

So now, given the limited time we have, we are trying to come up with new, easy recipes. Luckily, I just came across this article from the LA Times with 100 things to do with Meyer Lemons:

http://www.latimes.com/features/la-fo-meyerlemons16jan16,0,5003872.story#axzz2na86uYE1

1. Make Meyer lemonade.

2. Make roasted Cornish game hens with Meyer lemons, olives and fennel (see recipe).

3. Make shrimp piri piri with black rice and chef Marcus Samuelsson’s “quick-preserved” Meyer lemons (see recipe).

4. Make Meyer lemon-cardamom ice cream (see recipe).

5. Assemble sandwiches of thinly sliced lemons, smoked salmon and sour cream on pumpernickel bread.

6. Candy the peel, dusting with superfine sugar.

7. To a risotto made with mascarpone and Parmesan, add some grated Meyer lemon peel.

8. Take a cue from Quinn Hatfield of Hatfield’s in Los Angeles and pour yourself a lemon gimlet (Meyer lemon juice and zest, soda water and Meyer lemon simple syrup).

9. Rub a Meyer lemon peel around the rim of a demitasse of espresso.

10. Adapt Claudia Roden’s recipe for orange-almond cake (in “The New Book of Middle Eastern Food,” the cover of which features a bowl of Meyer lemons) by using two large Meyer lemons instead of oranges (see the recipe at latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish).

11. If you don’t mind delayed gratification, make classic preserved lemons (different from chef Samuelsson’s because the lemons are preserved slowly over weeks instead of quickly blanched and cooked) by filling a Mason jar with quartered Meyer lemons, one-fourth cup of kosher salt and enough lemon juice to cover, and letting them sit in your refrigerator for three weeks. Or, for extra flavor, throw some spices into the jar too: a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, some black peppercorns, a dried Thai chile, a cardamom pod.

12. Grate Meyer lemon peel into a bowlful of Chantilly cream.

13. Arrange thin slices of Meyer lemons on a pizza crust topped with goat cheese, rosemary and Picholine olives.

And so forth…

http://www.latimes.com/features/la-fo-meyerlemons16jan16,0,5003872.story#ixzz2na9KBPly

Walking Onions

This year, we’re having family up to our place for Christmas. Even my brother’s inlaws will be joining us! We’re very excited about the company and trying to get a plan in place that suits everyone.

Of course, my mother will be bringing the perennial favorite for our family – pernil. Pernil is the classic Puerto Rican pork roast that my Latino family tends to make for almost every holiday or special event. Each family probably has their own way of preparing it, and I honestly couldn’t tell you how my mom does. Of course, after learning how to make pasteles last year, I should probably learn this soon, to make it for my own family!

Not everyone likes pork though, so at the farmer’s market this weekend, K and I ordered a standing rib roast from Bella Terra Farm ! We tried a london broil steak from them a few weeks ago (we’re opening up from Sweet Tree, even though we love them!) and it was delicious! So we’ll give it a shot for Christmas and see how everyone likes it.

While we were at their stall, we noticed these funky looking things and when we questioned them, were given one to try. We learned they’re called Walking Onions.

Walking Onion

Walking Onion

Walking onions are so-called because once planted, they grow and sprout bulblets (kind of like garlic scapes) while still on the original stalk, then bend over and plant again – “walking.” They’re also known as Tree Onions and Egyptian Onions.

Just like most onions, they store well for a few months. We haven’t tried ours yet, but I’m looking forward to roasting it to get the full, strong taste!

Here’s a wonderful resource on Egyption onions:  http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/schenectady/Master%20Gardener%20Website/projectdocs/factsheets/vegetables/Egyptian%20Onions.pdf

The text is as follows:

Egyptian Onions are the Easiest
By Walter Chandoha, Organic Gardening Magazine
Prepared by: Cornell Cooperative Extension, Albany County 9/15/83

By March my supply of homegrown cooking onions is exhausted, and I hate to pay 25 to 50 cents a pound for more at the supermarket. I’ve gotten around dependence on the grocery by planting Egyptian onions. These versatile bulbs — also called multiplier, tree or top onions — provide scallions in the fall and pungent  bulbs and leaves in spring and early summer. Egyptian onions are hardy enough to live through the harshest winters (while you use up your keeping onions) and are one of the first plants to start growing again in the spring. After your initial purchase of bulbs, you’ll never have to buy more, because each summer the plants produce more bulblets which form atop three, foot tall stalks.

Each plant produces from five-to-eight bulblets. When the stalk that bears them begins to bend or break, the little top bulbs, or sets, are mature. They can be planted from the time they’re harvested in July well into the fall. I’ve even put them in after a frost in October, but results are better when they’re planted in July, August or September. After taking root, slender green leaves emerge from the bulbs and make fairly fast growth. In a month you’ll have about a dozen, foot long, closely clustered leaves where each bulb was planted. The earlier in the season you plant, the sooner you’ll have usable bulbs in the fall. I try to plant them as soon as there’s some room in the garden.

Like all alliums, Egyptian onions grow best in full sun, in a sweet rich, well-drained soil. To get these qualities in my garden, I had to lighten the heavy clay soil with sand and add lots of wellrotted horse manure and wood ashes. To further improve drainage, I raised the 3- by 6-foot onion bed about ten to 12 inches higher than the surrounding garden.

Plant the sets about an inch deep and three to four inches apart in rows from 12 to 15 inches apart. After planting, I water the bed thoroughly. After the onions are growing vigorously, every second plant is pulled for green scallions. At the time the scallions are pulled, and again a week later, I fertilize the remaining plants with manure tea.

The green leaves will live through light frosts, but eventually they’ll succumb to a hard freeze and the plants will go dormant. To keep the bulbs from heaving out of the ground with alternate freezing and thawing, mulch the bed after the ground is frozen hard. As soon as the temperature reaches the 40′s and 50′s in the spring, they’ll resume growing and fresh green leaves will emerge; by St. Patrick’s Day they’ll be a foot high in New Jersey. The new leaves will grow through the mulch, and you won’t have to weed if the mulch is thick enough.

As the weather gets warmer, the plants grow more rapidly, and in late May to early June seed stalks grow up from each leaf cluster. By July they are a foot or two taller than the green leaves and topped by bunches of miniature onions. Harvest these bulblets or top onions before they topple over and start a random colony. I prune the clusters off the stem and collect them in a bushel basket. Later, I separate them into individual bulbs to cure in my garden house, where the temperatures are fairly high and the humidity low.

The top bulbs are also edible. They’re handy to have in the kitchen when just a little bit of onion flavor is needed, squeeze a few in a garlic crusher and add to salads, soups and stews. Mince some to add to sauces. Whole top bulbs can be boiled and creamed. They can also be preserved by pickling.

The onion bulbs themselves look more like giant scallions or leeks. Each is about six inches long and an inch wide. Under the thin, papery skin of the Egyptian onion there’s a tough, pithy inner hide that is totally inedible. It can’t be eaten raw, and no matter how long it’s cooked it will still be woody. But hidden inside the tough woody layer is a juicy, succulent onion, the strongest and most pungent anywhere. It’s perfect for onion soup, or any other way you prepare cooking onions. If not dug up, the year-old underground onions will send up new green leaves to start the growth cycle allover again.

By summer, the set planted last year will have developed into two to five bulbs. Eventually, the old bulbs will rot and new ones will form in their place.

Image Source: Wikipedia.
Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber Source: [http://www.biolib.de www.biolib.de]

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

It already feels like summer! Well, it felt like spring in March, so I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The warm weather led to longings for ice cream, and K did his best to help satiate my cravings by whipping up a fruit compote that used the last of our frozen strawberries for a topping. Besides, strawberry season is almost upon us again!

First, our freezer-burned hulled strawberries from last year needed to be defrosted.

Then, he chopped up the single stalk of rhubarb we purchased at the farmer’s market last weekend into half-inch pieces, putting them into a sauce pot. It definitely could have used a few more stalks, but that is all we had.

Adding just enough water to cover, a half teaspoon of vanilla extract, half a cup of sugar and a few meyer lemon peels left over from our freezer, K brought everything to a boil and then simmered.

And simmered and simmered, until thick.

The rhubarb slices basically melted away into the compote, but after pulling out the lemon peels what was left was a delicious syrupy compote perfect with some local vanilla ice cream and Cabot whipped cream! Yum!

Summer, we’re ready for you!

Lemon Verbena Pound Cake

After sitting in my fridge for a week waiting to be used, I turned my lemon verbena syrup into a delicious glaze for the lemon verbena pound cake I made this past week.

I used a basic recipe from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book, tweaking it here and there to suit the ingredients I had on hand. It came out so delicious, I recommend it for everyone!

Lemon Verbena Pound Cake

(makes one 10-inch bundt cake or two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf cakes)

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) softened butter (unsalted)
  • 2 cups organic sugar
  • 1 tsp organic lemon extract
  • 1 Tbsp grated lemon rind (zest only)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions

1. Preheat over to 350F. Grease and flour pan(s).

2. Put fresh, un-cracked eggs in a bowl and pour hot tap water over them. Let stand for several minutes so eggs are slightly warmed.

3. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and sift together onto a large piece of waxed paper.

4. Put softened butter into a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth.

5. Slowly add the sugar while beating constantly, and continue beating until smooth and well blended.

6. Add eggs all at once and beat until light and fluffy.

7. Sprinkle half the flour mixture over the butter mixture and beat until well-blended.

8. Stir lemon extract, lemon rind (I used meyer lemon rinds from the freezer),  and chopped lemon verbena leaves into the buttermilk.

9. Beat half the buttermilk mixture into the batter.

10. Add the rest of the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture and beat until batter is smooth and well-blended.

11. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s).

12. Bake the bundt cake for 1 to 1.25 hours (mine was perfectly done at 1 hour), or the loaf cakes for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

13. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool the rest of the way on the rack.

 

Unfortunately, about half of my cake didn’t come out of the pan.

Oops! Luckily, I was able to get the rest of it out in one piece and put it back together, mostly.

Then it was time to make the glaze.  I poured about half of the lemon verbena syrup I had made into a bowl and added confectioner’s sugar. And then some more. And more. And more and more. I honestly don’t know how much I used but it was a lot! I definitely should have used less syrup because it was a lot of liquid! Finally, I got it to glaze consistency.

I used a spoon to drizzle glaze all over the cake. Unlike a regular cake that’s been iced, I couldn’t quite hide the two separate pieces I had, but I think it looked pretty good in the end! Not bad for my first time with a bundt pan!

This cake is light and fluffy and the lemon verbena adds a lemony-mint flavor to it. We loved it! I brought half of it in to a work friend (the pretty half, ha!) and got a thumbs up from her as well. This cake is definitely going into my recipe book.

Lemon Verbena Syrup

I love the smell of lemon verbena. It’s so light, so lemony, it’s one of the herbs we’ve been growing for 2 years now. It won’t survive frost outside, but will hunker down over the winter if you bring it inside, losing most of its leaves during the dark days, but growing back when spring is back in full force. Before the end of last fall, I collected the leaves to dry and make into a lovely, light tea, but already this Spring it has started growing back in leaps and bounds!

I wanted to do something different with the leaves, so I decided to look around for something different to make. And I came across an idea for Lemon Verbena syrup. It sounded delicious!

Lemon Verbena Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lemon verbena leaves
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

1. Blanch the lemon verbena leaves in boiling water briefly (no more than 5 seconds) then immediately plunge into ice water to stop cooking. This will kill any spores growing on the leaves of the herb.

2. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool.

3. Place the lemon verbena and cooled syrup in a food processor or blender and chop to “bruise” the leaves and allow the oil to flow.

4. Steep and chill overnight, then strain through a fine mesh strainer.

Keep the syrup refrigerated. It can be used on ice cream, cakes, or fruit salad. I’m planning to make a lemon verbena poundcake soon and use the syrup as the glaze. Yum! I’ll definitely post the recipe for that as well.

Easter Dinner

One 9.1 lb smoked ham from Predel’s Ranch, bought Saturday. The owner told us the pig was slaughtered on Monday and smoked on Tuesday.  Can’t get much fresher than that!

Baked for 1 hour at 325F, then slathered with a glaze of Pineapple Tidbits (I kid you not, they were called that. And that scared me) I picked up from WM at about 3pm on Sunday, when every other store in the area was closed, and brown sugar. And cloves.

 

Served with mashed potatoes with new chives from the pot on our deck (already growing!) and green beans from last year’s garden.

Most delicious meal ever.

Key Lime Curd

The food swap this month was a great reason to finally make key lime curd! I’ve been slacking on the citrus front after being home from Florida for a few months – juicing the key limes we picked was getting very tiresome! But I finally had something to do with key lime juice other than use it for my delicious limeade.

I’ve been waiting for my meyer lemons to turn beautifully ripe in order to make lemon curd, but making key lime curd with my hard-won fruit seemed like a great idea in the meantime!

Do not adjust your screens. This is a key lime, even though it’s yellow. It’s just very ripe.

There isn’t much out there are making specifically a key lime curd, but I just adapted the recipe for lemon curd from Put ‘em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup key lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (organic)
  • 1 tbsp key lime zest
  • 1 cup butter, cut into pieces (cultured)
  • 4 eggs (free range, cage free)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Once the key limes are juiced and zested, the hard part is over. Using a double boiler, combine all ingredients in the top part. If you don’t have a double boiler, just use a glass bowl on top of a pot of water. The bowl has to be large enough to seal with the pot, so no steam escapes through.

Continuously whisk all ingredients together while you bring the bottom pot to a low boil. After 10 minutes or so, the eggs will cook just enough to thicken the curd.

Some of the egg will also curdle a bit, so after the curd has thickened, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve in order to get out any bits. This may also strain out the zest, which is a shame, but what is left is a delicious, creamy, limey bit of heaven for your mouth!

You can simply keep your curd in jars in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

What do you with your key lime curd? So much! Make a key lime pie…

or some mini tarts a la Smitten Kitchen:

 

Or spread on bread or scones, use as filling in cupcakes, or as “icing” on a cake. The possibilities are endless.

The jars, however, are not. And before you know it, you are licking your lips and wishing for more.

Adventure in Food Trading

Just before Christmas, K and I finally went to check out Adventure in Food Trading, in Menands, NY. There have been many local blog posts* on this wholesaler who specializes in exotic ingredients, and who do much more justice to this business than my blog post can, not to mention much better pictures. If you live locally and blog or read blogs, there’s no excuse for you not to know about this place! But suffice it to say that I was still blown away by their hospitality and patience, giving us a tour of the warehouse, the freezer, the spices and the cheeses. Especially since we were neither high volume nor high-paying customers, leaving with only a few delectable items.

(*See All Over Albany, Decisive Reflex, DerryX.com)

Freezer with heaps of exotic meats

It truly is a pain in the ass to find, and even following the directions exactly from All Over Albany’s post led us to backtrack once or twice. I’m not sure I can even truly describe it properly.

Taking Broadway out from downtown Albany towards Menands you should make a right onto East Elmwood, the last right before you get on the ramp that takes you to Rt. 378. Make an immediate left onto Canal Road in front of the True Value and take that road as it winds all around (it turns back into Elmwood). You’ll pass Midland Farms, with it’s barn-like structure that houses its milk-processing plant, as you go around the curve, and, always bearing right, will eventually be dropped off into a maze of industrial-looking warehouses. Continue as far deep as you can go before warehouses prohibit you from going any farther, and then make a left, going all the way down to the end to Building 7A. You will see the Adventure in Food Trading logo as pictured above on their section.

I know they are primarily selling to restaurants and love that they are even open to the public, but I still wish for hours that coincided with a working person’s life. They are open M-Th 8am to 5:30pm and Fridays, 8-4. I presume restaurants have no need for weekend business hours as that is their most busy time.

Despite being enticed by the thought of biting into some wild boar sausage, ostrich tenderloin, gator, kangaroo and even llama, we played it safe and stuck to only a few items.

The wild boar sausage of course, but also some pheasant, goat camembert, and real mozzarella, made with water buffalo milk. We undoubtedly will have to return.

Use It Or Lose It: Lots of Leftover Jam

If you go to beginning of my journey (way back when I blogged at Little House on the Great Flats), you’ll see that I’ve been canning since the beginning of 2009, over 3 years now. My pantry was full by that summer – you can only imagine what it looks like today!

Some of my pantry back in 2009

I planned on giving away lots of jam for gifts, and I did. I planned on us eating a ton of it, and we did. But seriously, it’s more than 3 years later and we still have way too much jam in the house. Food preservationists tell you preserves really shouldn’t be kept for more than 2 years. Even at that point you need to check for mold and give it a good sniff to make sure it’s still ok.

Case in point, the first jar of strawberry jam I opened looked like this:

See that jar lid? Looks like mold to me. While the jam smelled and looked perfectly fine, I didn’t want to take the chance and tossed out this jar.

With all the work it was for me back in the beginning days of learning how to can, I really didn’t want to just throw them all out. So I’ve been looking for lots of recipes to use up the old preserves quickly. Martha Stewart Jam Crumb Bars seemed to fit the bill nicely. I used the other strawberry jam jar that was still good and a 2009 jar of cherry jam as well.

I tweaked it a bit for my purposes, so here’s the recipe I came up with:

Originally from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter (or 1.5 cups or 3/4lb if you make your own) brought to room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups almond meal (you can use almond flour for this as well, but the meal was cheaper and worked great)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups organic sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 half-pints (2 cups) of fruit preserves left over from your cupboard

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease a 15 x 10″ rimmed baking sheet with additional butter.  Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the long sides and put aside for later.

 3. Mix together almond meal, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Create crumbs of different sizes with your hands, squeezing the mixture together. Taste a few fingerfuls of the mixture – it’s yummy!
4. Spread half of the crumb mixture to the prepared baking sheet and put aside the remaining mixture. Using a flat utensil of some sort (a wooden spoon or something – I used a wooden spatula) pack the mixture into the pan tightly to form a crust.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the time. Remove from oven and allow to mostly cool.
6. Empty jars of preserves onto the baked crust and spread evenly.
7. Crumble the rest of the crumb mixture on top, so that it is evenly distributed over the jam.
8. Bake again for 20 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan halfway again. Allow to cool completely.
9. Cut into bars and keep in airtight container for a few days or freeze for later use.
These are delicious!

German Dinner Party

We’ve reached the end of our quarter cow we bought back at the end of October 2010, with only a few bigger pieces left. Our last chuck roast was saved especially for this meal, which K loves making in homage to his German heritage. I enjoy eating it, the slight sourness of the meat mixing nicely with the sweetness of the red cabbage he makes as well.

With only the two of us to eat an entire chuck roast, we invited some friends over to partake in a small dinner party, made almost entirely from local foods. It’s FUN to us to try to source out local ingredients as much as we can!

It was a great excuse to break out our fancy wedding china, which has only been used twice in almost 5 years! (Note to self: use more often.)

Table set for dinner

In keep with our German-dinner theme, our menu looked like this:

Appetizers: Beer and Cheese Fondue with pretzel sticks

Dinner: Sauerbraten (German pot roast), Rotkohl (red cabbage), and potato (bread) dumplings

Dessert: Apple Streudel

Sauerbraten takes awhile to make, as it involves a marinade of about a week. K followed this recipe.

The meat is marinated in a broth of pinot noir, red wine vinegar, onion, peppercorns, mustard seed, coriander seed, bay leaves, juniper berries and allspice. Penzey’s pickling spice is a perfect use for this!

The broth softens up the meat and turns it into a juicy and flavorful meal.

While you can buy a jar of red cabbage, I find our homemade cabbage turns out so much better. We follow the recipe in The German Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton, which uses a small head of red cabbage, minced bacon, sugar, apple, onion, vinegar, and red currant jelly or Preiselbeeren preserves. It’s sweet yet savory!

Shredding the cabbage with the KA mixer attachment

 

You could use this beautiful cabbage to make a wonderfully natural purple dye!

We bought premade potato dumplings from Rolf’s which made life so much easier and used apple slices we canned 2 years ago (time to use them!) to make the apple streudel for dessert. It came together so easily for once! And there’s nothing like feeling like a “real grownup” when you use your fancy china.

Our china is Vintage Jewel by Lenox. I love it – it’s not too girly and looks a little medieval to me.

A bottle of gewurztraminer and some friends and we had the makings of a great night!