Although my sister Martha had already given me an enormous bag of juicy, sweet pink grapefruit from her tree, she told me that ‘it barely made a dent, you have to come pick more!’ So today I went out with a large cache of reusable bags plus my biggest laundry basket, and came home with a carful of pink grapefruit, limes and lemons. My niece Emily took the lead and filled bags and even loaded them in my car, and I estimate I’ve got about 130 pounds. We’re going to share the grapefruit fresh, so the Co-op basket is loaded with the first grapefruit distribution now.
Preserving options are marmalade and also candied grapefruit peel. Be careful using grapefruit in a mixed fruit marmalade – it overwhelms everything else. I’ve found it is better to just make a simple grapefruit marmalade using the marmalade rule of 6: cook 6 cups of prepared fruit in 6 cups of water, let sit for about 6 hours, then measure out 6 cups of cooked fruit mixture, bring to a boil and add 6 cups of sugar. Bring to a gel stage (about 20 minutes) then can and process 10 minutes.
We’ll salt some of the lemons and limes for Moroccan preserved citrus. In addition to adding this to stews and couscous, it is also a welcome addition to a winter boiled meal of potatoes and greens. Boil new potatoes, add any sort of greens you like for the last 15 minutes along with minced preserved lemon. It not only perks up the cooked greens with a citrus brighness, it adds the salt the dish needs.
If you’ve gotten comfortable with your sourdough bread, here’s something a little different. When you dump the dough onto your floured tray for the second proofing, divide the dough in half. Let it proof about an hour. Preheat your dutch oven as usual. Take out your insanely-hot dutch oven and dump one of the halves into it, spreading it out as much as you can -which is difficult as the dough is moist and super-springy. Poke into it roughly with a floured wooden spoon – or the edge of your bench scraper – to push it to the sides of the pot. Dot with crumbled feta cheese, lightly spritz with olive oil, and liberally sprinkle with zatar. Put the lid on, bake 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10 minutes. With the second half, maybe just spritz with oil and sprinkle with zatar for the vegans and dairy-averse. It is also terrific with olive tapenade, as well as roquefort cheese and black pepper.
sourdough minis with zatar and feta
crusty, moist and chewy with nice big holes, this batch has a spoonful of whole flax seeds in the dough.
I’ll be talking about how to start your own Co-op, how we operate, and offering samples of our preserves to taste next Thursday evening.
Tim and I were invited by an old friend to harvest some of her family’s Fuyu persimmons for the Co-op. Despite filling 6 bags, about 75 pounds of fruit, I estimate we harvested less than 10% of this one tree’s persimmons. This family also shared their sweet, juicy Valencia oranges. Again, this is a fantastic micro-climate for fruit. (Google: plant an orchard!)The Bay Area has many of these persimmon trees, as they do really well in the climate there. Here in Los Angeles, Eagle Rock and Glendale have the most persimmon trees, from my unofficial tally. This sumptuous fruit only appears for a couple of months once a year, so Co-op members are enjoying them fresh as we contemplate making chutney. (The Fuyu can be eaten when firm, like an apple, and are not astringent like the Hachiya which must be soft-ripe.) Meanwhile, I dried some of them, and they are fantastic. I don’t have a dehydrator so I used my oven, set at 170, the lowest setting. I sliced a bit off the end, then into 1/4″ slices and placed on a baker’s cooling rack on a baking sheet. After 5 hours, I switched the pan positions, and after another 5 hours, took them out. That is a total of 10 hours in the oven at the lowest setting. Now we’ll be able to have persimmons in April – if I can successfully squirrel these delish morsels away!
Shan’s passion fruit were one of our favorite Co-op projects last year. This year her vine is producing an even more abundant crop! She calls them her ‘baskets of Easter eggs in the kitchen’.We use the whole fruit technique in our preserves and marmalade, in which the seedy center is scraped out and then the shells are boiled and peeled for the pectin-rich pulp. The only thing that goes into compost is the thin, papery shell and some of the seeds. To strain out the seeds, give the seedy juice a quick whirl in the blender, then put that in a strainer and let gravity extract all the juice. All we add to the tart juice and relatively tasteless pulp is sugar, as this whole fruit has exactly what is needed to set up a perfect preserve. Adding the chopped pulp gives it body and texture as well as pectin, and if someone has some oranges, those go in as well. Simply core, seed, and thinly slice the whole orange and boil it briefly to soften, then add that to the mixture. We use the standard ratio of 1:1, that is, 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of fruit. Like all preserves, it works best when done in batches of 6, or 6 cups of fruit boiled with 6 cups of sugar. You can see step by step instructions in an earlier post on this blog. If you have some passion fruit, first, congratulations, and second, try making preserves. Although there are several steps, it is actually relatively easy. And your house will smell extraordinary!
The Co-op received about 50 pounds of white nectarines, which were harvested fairly green. These are so delicate when ripe that it does make sense to harvest them early, but the flavor was not well-deveoped. In the past 3 years we have made preserves and jam with these, but this year I wanted to try simply canning the pitted fruit in a light simple syrup. Perhaps the canning process will develop the flavor? We’ll open a jar and taste the fruit in another ten days. If it doesn’t pass muster, they may be turned into chutney, or perhaps salsa.
Perfectly ripe Meyer lemons in their bath
The Co-op received a generous bag of perfectly ripe Meyer lemons. These had to be processed right away, as they were at their peak and would spoil quickly. A quick way to preserve lemons (or limes) is to make preserved lemons with salt, known variously as Moroccan preserved lemons or Indian lemon pickle. You’ll find smallish jars with impressive prices at specialty stores, but it is so easy to make your own. Wash thoroughly and slice off about 1/4″ at both ends. Slice nearly through, but leave one end intact, a bit like an open flower. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of kosher salt in your clean jar, then sprinkle the open lemons with salt as you layer them in. Push down forcefully to press them and extract juice so that the uppermost lemons are covered in juice, then sprinkle with more salt. Close tightly, then let sit for 4 to 6 weeks. Periodically shake the jar. To use, simply rinse the lemons and finely chop the rind, and use instead of salt. Add to couscous or rice, or add to stews and dips. You’ll find lots of uses for anything seasoned with lemon and salt.
Meyer lemons simply preserved with salt and their own juice
These lemons were also made into a marmalade base, using the standard citrus prep technique.
Citrus prep for marmalade, with a pectin bag for cores and seeds
Using the golden 6 cup rule, 6 cups of the mix was cooked with sugar and then flavored.
For a tarter marmalade flavored with sprig of fresh rosemary in the jar, only 4 cups of sugar was added. Pomegranate molasses is a tart addition, so 5 cups of sugar went into that batch. When three tablespoons of orange flower water was added, the standard 6 cups of sugar, or 1:1 ratio worked well. All are good and fun to try, but honestly, with a Meyer lemon base, just about anything tastes brilliant!