Saturday, September 15, 2012

Grain Mains Giveaway Winners!

Last night I drew our contest winners for the Grain Mains Cookbook Giveaway.

Congratulations to commenter #5, Melissa, winner of a copy of a "Grain Mains" cookbook.

And, (drum roll please) the winner of the Grain Mains cookbook bundle, commenter #9, Michelle.

Congrats, ladies! Your goodies should be arriving at your doorstep shortly. Enjoy and thanks again for stopping by!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to Use Up a Lemon

Although we aren't super hardcore about it, our family tries to eat both locally and in season, as much as is possible.

When you live by Mother Nature's clock as we try to, you have to move fast to get your fill of what is ripe and ready while the getting is good, and, if you're lucky, manage to sock away a little extra for an upcoming rainy day via freezing, drying or canning.

Right now in the Pacific Northwest, we're well into our apple, blackberry, salmon and end-of-the-garden frenzies. Sun up to sun down is filled with food saving chores - harvesting, foraging, juicing, canning, dehydrating, smoking... you get the idea. Apple fatigue is setting in big time. But - and I have to remind myself of this occasionally - if I use what I have now, carefully and completely, then I probably won't need to purchase anything apple-y in the coming year. And if I can apply this attitude to a food that springs forth from my front yard with or without my help, then I certainly could and should apply the same rule to "exotic" foods that have taken a long boat ride (or series of truck rides) to get here to me. A prime example of this sort of rarefied foodstuff is my beloved Meyer lemon.

Up here in the maritime PNW, citrus doesn't grow, ever, at all. Therefore it must be shipped in, usually from California or Florida. So for us, buying citrus is a bit of a splurge both in terms of cost per fruit and the number of food miles racked up to bring it to our neck of the woods. As a result, I attempt to eke every last bit of sunshiney goodness out of every lemon, lime and orange that I buy. This is how I use up a lemon.

The peel:

I usually zest or grate the peel before cutting into the fruit to eat or juice. The zest can then either be used immediately, dried or frozen. Use a pinch here and there as needed to add zing to custards, sauces and vinaigrettes.

Once in a great while, instead of zesting the peel, I'll candy it.

Remove the spent pulp and the pith, reserving both.

Put the trimmed, sliced peel in a sauce pan and blanch at a simmer for 45 minutes. Drain peels and replace water with fresh water. Add an equal measure of sugar to make a simple syrup. Bring to a roil, then reduce to a simmer and let "poach" for about 45 minutes.

Let cool, then drain peel, reserving syrup. Air dry candied peels for 30 minutes, then "shake & bake" them in a bag with granulated sugar.

Lemony goodness!

The Pith:

The pith is arguably the most useless part of a lemon. It's spongy and bitter tasting - yuck. I've found just one use for the pith besides the compost heap - the garbage disposal.

That pith and pulp that you saved from the last step? Put it down your disposal while running some hot water to give your kitchen a burst of lemony freshness. I also think that the citric acid helps clean and break down greasy build up in your disposal and drain, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. ;)

The Pulp/Juice:

Whether you're eating the fruit by the slice or segment, or simply juicing it, odds are this is why you bought the fruit in the first place and already have grand plans for it. Nevertheless, I'll share a few of my favorite uses with you.

Soon to be blackberry lemonade!

Blackberry Lemonade
serves 4

*Juice of 5 lemons, diluted with an equal amount of water
*Simple syrup, made from 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar
*1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries

Put fresh squeezed juice and water into a pitcher, set aside. Simmer 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar together over medium to medium low heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture has reduced and thickened to the consistency of a thin syrup. Let cool.

Add frozen or fresh berries to the cooled simple syrup and muddle/mash a bit. Pour berries and syrup into the pitcher with the lemon juice and water. Taste, adjusting sweetness/tartness ratio to your liking.

Meyer Lemon Drop
Serves one

*1 (generous) shot of "Whipped" vodka
*1 ounce of Meyer lemon simple syrup (byproduct of candying peel)
*Granulated sugar for rimming

Mix vodka and simple syrup thoroughly. Serve either on the rocks or up in a fancy glass with a sugared rim. Sit in a lawn chair and enjoy. ;)


A Farmgirl's Friend - Reusable Plastic Mason Jar Lids

You know I'm not plastic's number one fan, but I must admit that these one piece reusable plastic mason jar lids have been incredibly useful around here.

Spicy infused vodka in progress

I especially like these when making things like infused booze or homemade vinegar; things that might react chemically with standard metal lids and rings.

But the reason I'm writing this here piece is not to get you to run out and buy a mess of these lids, but to show you another handy little feature that we stumbled upon while using them.

You can use a dry erase marker to label your jars! We've found that this is a much simpler and cleaner method for keeping track of the what and when of a jar's contents, compared with the old sticky label, which can be a nightmare to remove.

For the record, before figuring out the dry erase thing, we also tried post-it notes to keep track of what was what and when it came in to being. But, post-its won't stick when there's any moisture on the jar or lid, so we would end up with a pile of soggy, misplaced sticky notes and jars full of mystery items.

The way we employ these lids, and the dry-erase "trick" most often, is when storing our goat milk.

Labelled with the date of production and the lassie who produced it.

Nothing groundbreaking here, just another way to take advantage of something that you might already have in your kitchen. ;)

Happy jamming & canning!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pickin' & Grinnin'

Over the course of the past week or so, it has become increasingly clear to us that the apples and pears were ready to come down. In fact, Scarlet and I would go and gather the windfalls each evening to add to our goats' rations, and were noticing a definite increase in the amount of apples committing hara-kiri each day. Picking time was nigh.

But picking apples from our non-dwarf, very old apples trees is not a task to be undertaken lightly. This is no picturesque, Pinterest-photo op. This is a bark-chunks-to-the-eye, ladder-teetering, crinked-neck, farmer versus tree, battle royale.

Apple to the cheekbone - coming up!

Our tallest apple tree is in excess of 15 feet high. And in the torturous way of many fruit trees, seems to grow it's biggest, most perfects fruits in the unreachable branches located 15 feet up, dead center. Basically, they're completely inaccessible, which isn't to say that we ever learn to just leave those apples alone. Nope, our cider-greed blinds us to the futility of our pursuit.

This year, we judiciously decided to throw in the towel (for now) after managing to pick and knock down 140+ pounds of cider and sauce-worthy apples, leaving another frustratingly impossible to reach 30-50 pounds still in the trees.

We also managed to collect another 13 pounds of smooshed, bug chomped or otherwise "imperfect" apples to share with our goats.

The goaties' share of the goods.

Our share! :)

As if our epic apple haul weren't enough, we also finally had a pear crop. Granted, at just 20 pounds, it wasn't huge, but when measured against our previous best-ever crop of one lonely little pear, we counted ourselves exceedingly lucky to end up so flush with fruit.

Aren't they purty?!?

With the picking being done, we now enter phase two of the fruit-a-palooza; washing, peeling and juicing. Hooboy!

With 160+ pounds of apples and pears that will need dealing with, I predict a busy week, filled with intense paring knife, apple peeler and steam juicer usage. I'll have to keep my eye on the prize - that first pint of ice cold homemade cider.

Like last weekend's jam-o-rama, this fruit-a-palooza may require a little external motivation to get through. Cue the motivational montage!