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Bumper Crop!

I’m overwhelmed with citrus! Despite my best efforts to thin out the lemon, grapefruit, and citron trees earlier this year, we have probably a hundred lemons, hundreds of grapefruit and perhaps 40 citrons.

Fortunately, I have ways of dealing with large amounts of citrus. Now, it’s just a matter of finding the time to deal with them. Here’s my plan (which, hopefully I’ll be able to follow through on).

1. We started a batch of limoncello yesterday, and are planning to start a new batch every Sunday until we run out of lemons…which could be some time in June.

2. Grapefruit wine. While I personally don’t like to drink it, many people have told me that they really enjoyed the grapefruit wine that I made in 2008 and again in 2009. With how much grapefruit I have, there’s really no chance of finding enough breakfasts before they start falling off the tree. So, I need to find some of these people who like grapefruit wine. Are you one of them?

3. Citron. If you’re not familiar with Citron, do a search on this very site, then come back. The best use in the world for citrons is citron marmalade. I’m totally going to make some more this year.

There you have it! If you have any other ideas for what I might do with the citrus surplus, comment below!

Things I’ve Learned About Cooking Recently

I love food and beverage-making challenges. Making things that sound “hard” gives me no end of pleasure. This year, I’ve stepped it up a notch and taken on a number of the big ones, but I’ve also learned quite a bit about cooking some very simple things. Here’s my partial list of things I’ve learned how to make, maybe a short description of how I feel about it, and the thing I consider to be “the key” to success with that thing.

Cassoulette – very tasty, but made me become vegetarian – it’s not easy to find all those meats in the US. Try Asian markets, or find a more Americanized version.

Beer – homemade can be so much better – cleanliness is key.

Cheese – still very new to this – your thermometer is your friend.

Wine – if I could stop doing everything else, I’d just make wine – Best advice I’ve ever gotten came to me 2nd hand from a very famous winemaker: “Get good grapes and don’t fuck em up.”

Pizza dough – easy as pie! – With 3 to 5 ingredients, you kick ass and you’ll be so happy.

Tortillas – I can eat these all day. – With 2 ingredients, you kick ass! A tortilla press is inexpensive and helpful, but I’ve made some of my best tortillas using an empty wine bottle as a rolling pin.

Tamales – if you’re gonna do tamales, do a LOT of them. I make em vegetarian, and I make everything from scratch. Takes me 8-10 hours, but I end up with 70 or so of them. I hear they freeze great, but they never make it to that point here.

Guacamole – I thought I knew how to make guacamole until my Mexican friend taught me her family recipe. Sorry, I can’t say any more.

Crepes – Amazingly versatile and tasty. Just a few ingredients, but the cooking takes practice. Don’t give up! I always have to throw away the first one to get the amount of oil right in the pan.

Souffle – memorize the recipe you’re doing. At certain points, it’s critical that you work fast.

Pretzels – the dough is irritatingly dry. There must be a better way to do them. I have a lot of trouble making long and thin enough ropes of dough. Tasty, though!

Limoncello – I make the best limoncello you’ve never had (well, maybe a couple of you have). Filter the water, filter the alcohol. Wash those lemons. Be patient, it’s worth it!

I’m looking for new challenges. What else is there that a lot of people don’t bother to learn to cook, or that’s considered difficult?

Citron Marmalade

The basic idea for this came from our conversation with Darrell (see previous post). Unfortunately, his instructions focused mostly on how to prepare the citron for making marmalade, and not on how to make marmalade…so, we had to learn/guess at that part. Please let me know what we did wrong if you know something about making marmalade.

  • cut 2 citrons lengthwise
  • put them in cold water and bring to a boil
  • throw out that water
  • add cold water again and bring it to a boil
  • throw out that water
  • scoop the pulp and most of the white stuff out of the citrons
  • julienne the citron peel
  • for every pound of fruit, use 2.5 cups of sugar

At this point, Darrell just said “and make marmalade out of it”. He said this is how they make their orange marmalade (which we bought and tried…it’s very good). We’d never made marmalade before…so we found a recipe for “citrus marmalade without added pectin” on the website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation and tried to use that. We mostly made educated guesses at the quantities of things to use, but this site was very helpful for learning the basics of how to sanitize and seal the jars.

Our “marmalade” is in jars now, but it doesn’t look like it’s jelled…I think we either used too much water (for the record, we had almost a pound of peel and we used 2 cups of water) or not enough of the white stuff (where most of the pectin lives). It made almost 3 half-pint jars. We’re taking off for Michigan in the morning, and bringing a jar to my mom–I’ll report back on how it tastes next week.

Candied Citron

We got this recipe from Darrell Corti.

* cut citrons in half lengthwise and place in a stainless steel pot.
* cover with cold water and bring to a boil
* once boiling, throw out that water and cover with cold water
* bring to a boil, then take fruit and scoop out inside.
* measure the exercise/>lose-weight-exercise/>weight of the fruit
* for every pound of fruit, take 1 cup suger and 1 cup water and bring to a boil
* put citron in and bring it to a boil
* turn it off and let sit and cool down, leave overnight
* next day, bring to a boil. Afterward, use a thin knife to check tenderness. It should go in easily but not be mushy.
* put fruit upsidedown on a cake rack covered in wax paper and leave it to drip all night. Mine took much longer than one night to dry out.
* cut into smaller pieces
* put sugar and fruit pieces in a plastic bag and shake until covered
* store in a container with dry paper towel to dry out completely.

I made two batches using this recipe. The first batch was small (3 citrons), the 2nd was large (maybe 8 citrons in my huge 5 gallon pot). In both cases, I ended up with some very tasty stuff, but it wasn’t fully cooked or candied. I had a hard time getting the 1 cup of syrup per pound of citron to fully cover the citron. I ended up cutting the citrons into quarters at that point, which did help some, but there were still parts sticking out of the syrup and so I stirred frequently while bringing that to a boil.

I also had a hard time getting the candy to dry. I finally ended up spreading it out on a rack and pointing a portable heater at it for a couple days. It’s still not fully dry, but it’s also not fully candied, so it’s not going to last too long anyway.

Lessons learned: use a tall, narrow pot and figure out a better way to dry the candy.

A huge thanks to Linnea for following Darrell around and transcribing his knowledge and wisdom and for helping with the whole process.

Margaret and I took a jar of the candy to Darrell Corti last week. He said it was “not cooked enough”, but that it was “very good”. We ended up talking to him about citron, wine, and Rome for a while longer. I’ll post more recipes from that encounter soon.

Citrons and More New Hobbies

It’s that time of year when all of our citrus gets ripe! We have a huge crop of grapefruit, some lemons, and an astounding number of citrons. This is going to be the year that we actually use all of this stuff that grows like crazy in our yard.

Lemons are easy to use, and we have a plan for the grapefruit (like, 30 gallons of grapefruit wine!), but citrons are a little more tricky.

Before I go any further, let me tell you about the Citron. Citrons are mellon-sized citrus fruits that smell like lemons, are lumpy, and have very little pulp or juice. The rind of citrons is candied and used in fruitcakes.

In previous years, we’ve tried to make juice from the citrons, we’ve tried using them as decorations around the house, and we’ve tried just eating them. Last year, we gave some of them to a friend and she made lemoncello (or citroncello) from them (it was very tasty too). This year, however, I got it into my head to actually learn the traditional ways of using citron.

I started a new web site for the purpose of recording what I learn about citrons, canning, and candying, but I’m going to try to move everything over here.

So, stay tuned for more citrus ideas and info!