Sunday, January 20, 2013

Seeds and Citrus

I put in my Fedco seed order last week. It feels nice to cross something off the list.

In case you might wonder how I pick out which seeds I will purchase this year out of the thousands of varieties that Fedco offers, this is my process:
1) Leaf through the Fedco catalog while watching television and circle or star anything that looks interesting - this is the longest part because I like to read ALL the descriptions, even of plants I know I will never grow in my garden.
2) Look through my box of seed packets from past years, and identify which seeds of staple plants I still have and jot down which I need to order.
3) Go back through the Fedco catalog and put together a list of the varieties of staple plants as well as a short list of new plants I'd like to try.
4) Cull my list by half.
5) Cull my list again until it's down to one column on the Fedco order sheet.

Note that 4 and 5 are repetitions of each other - with a small garden, it takes time to whittle down the list to something that is manageable. If you are buying a whole set of new seeds or have a larger garden, your order may likely be larger. Having a small and diverse garden means that I only plant a small number of seeds out of most packets each year - so a packet of tomato seeds lasts me several years. Two notable exceptions to this rule are lettuce and cucumbers - we plant lettuce rather densely and in multiple successions, and it seems that we have to re-plant our cucumbers a few times each year due to bad weather or pests.

January's Can It Up Challenge was to make something featuring citrus as the star ingredient. I figured this would be a good time to try something new - and then I thought about it for a while -- I've really never canned anything featuring citrus as the star ingredient. Just think, I've been canning for most of my life, and haven't done a marmalade, a citrus jelly or a citrus curd. Oh, how limited I have been.

So, I tried out a Meyer lemon curd - it was excellent with one exception. Quick to prepare, quick to cook, tastes fantastic, but somewhat long to clean up. You have to strain the curd through a fine mesh sieve to take out the lemon zest and any cooked egg - the recipe doesn't tell you that the lemon zest then gets severely stuck to the fine mesh. In case you are interested, the recipe is over at Food In Jars.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Freezer Space

It was an especially busy summer in 2012, which meant that I didn't have as much free time to spend in the garden or in the kitchen as I would have expected. My canning larder is still somewhat stocked, but instead of canning quarts and quarts of peaches, I put a lot in the freezer. They fit nicely into gallon-sized bags and I created quite a stack in our small chest freezer.

Fast-forward a few months and we have also frozen blueberries, wild mushrooms, duck breasts and ready-to-eat foods like meatballs and crab cakes. the freezer is packed to the gills. it is a good thing, but the point of freezing food is to save it for eating, not for indefinite storage.

So for this month's Can It Up challenge, I looked to those peaches from New Hampshire in the freezer to make some peach compote flavored with maple syrup from Vermont and maple whiskey from Canada.

I let a gallon bag of peaches defrost in a saucepan. As they defrost, they release a lot of liquid, which means that I didn't need to add any water. I ended up with 7 cups of peaches and then added a half-cup of maple syrup. I brought the whole concoction to a low boil and then watched until the smallest peaches started to break apart but the larger pieces were still intact. Then I took it off the heat and added about a quarter of a cup of the maple whiskey. I used the Sortilege brand of maple whiskey because our friends who live in Quebec had gifted us a bottle, but Cabin Fever is a similar product that is sold in the US.

Poured into pint jars, I processed three jars for 25 minutes, plus had a scant cup leftover for tasting. This is when I realized I should have doubled the alcohol, as the fruit really soaked up the whiskey flavor. I think a half cup or even slightly more would have been a better proportion. I was happy with the half-cup of maple syrup as it wasn't overly sweet.

Another fun, easy canning project - perfect for the holiday season.
Happy New Year 2013!
Here's to enjoying the food in our freezers and pantries with people we love.