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The lazy approach to this post. I have made jam from Texas wild dewberries and jelly with wild plums. I and anxious to add a jam or jelly from each to the wild Texas offerings from below. This is an article from Texas Parks and Wildlife, link included.

Use Texas’ bounty of native fruits for your next pie or jelly.

By Dyanne Fry Cortez

Illustrations By Clemente Guzman

http://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2013/aug/ed_3_wildharvest/

I still recall the summer I discovered mustang grapes.

I was 18 years old, working in a Youth Conservation Corps camp at Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery. One of our projects was clearing undergrowth from the Colorado River bank west of the rearing ponds.

When we started, the place was a jungle. It had huge, lovely shade trees, but they were hard to find in the tangle of weeds, shrubs and vines. Any visitor who wanted to bushwhack a path to the water risked a run-in with poison ivy. Within a week, nearly everyone on our crew had a rash.

Less hostile, but equally abundant, were the gray-green, heart-shaped leaves and twisty, grooved wood of wild grapevines. I’d seen them before (they’re everywhere in the Hill Country) but didn’t know they actually produced grapes until I glanced at a vine we’d just chopped down with our loppers and pruning saws. It was loaded with small clusters of round, deep-purple fruit.

Mustang Grapes

Mustang grapes make a zingy grape jam.

Assured by a supervisor that they were safe to eat, I picked one and gave it a try. Extremely tart, but it had a definite grape flavor. Within the fleshy outer skin, a sweetish blob of white pulp enclosed several seeds. I looked up and saw more grapes hanging in the trees. Not the kind of thing you’d eat by the handful, but they were so pretty. In my teenaged, tree-hugging heart, I just knew they had to be good for something.

On my next off-duty afternoon, I “rescued” a tub of mustang grapes from the riverbank and dropped them off at my mom’s house in Burnet. When my summer gig ended, I came home to jars of zingy grape jam.

Since then, I’ve spent many a July day in search of wild grapes. Along the way, I’ve gotten acquainted with dewberries, agarita berries and prickly pears. There are wild fruits all over Texas. Finding them, gathering them and turning them into something good to eat add up to a great recipe for connecting with the outdoors.

Free food, you say? I wouldn’t call it that. Some wild fruits grow in inconvenient places. Many are armed with thorns or other natural defenses. Some seasons produce abundant crops; other times, it takes a lot of foraging to gather a batch. And some harvests are followed by days of work in the kitchen.

Maybe it’s the challenge that attracts me. Or maybe that first spoonful of mustang jam gave me a lifelong taste for untamed flavor. Here’s a sampling of what Texas has to offer.

Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata)

Range: Edwards Plateau and Trans-Pecos, may appear in other areas
Harvest time: May to early June

agarita

Agarita

With sharp-pointed leaves and red berries, this hardy shrub resembles a holly, but actually belongs to the barberry family. Agarita grows under oak and elm trees, along fencerows and at the edges of wooded areas. Plants that get sun at least part of the day are more likely to produce fruit.

Picking agarita fruit is hard work. The berries are small, a quarter-inch or less, and well protected by the prickly foliage. My favorite way to harvest them is to spread a sheet on the ground and whack the bush with a broom handle or other suitable stick. Scraping branches with barbecue tongs works, too. You’ll lose some fruit in the dirt (but they’ll be enjoyed later by wild creatures), and you’ll get a lot of leaves and twigs mixed in with your harvest.

Back home, I dump the whole collection into a large cooking pot, fill it with water, and let it sit for several hours. Leaves and dirt sink to the bottom; berries float to the top, where I can scoop them out with a strainer. That’s the idea, anyway, and it sort of works. If I spend half a day picking and wind up with two gallons of cleaned fruit, I feel as if I’ve done well.

Agarita makes a pretty red jelly with a flavor all its own. I’ve also seen recipes for a sweetened juice cooler and an agarita wine.

Dewberry (Rubus trivialis)

Range: East and Central Texas, coastal river valleys
Harvest time: May

Dewberry Agarita

Dewberries

Dewberry is a wild blackberry that grows on a low, trailing vine. Its thorny stems and white, five-petaled flowers mark it as a member of the rose family. Berries start out green, then turn red, but are sweetest when they’re black and fully ripe. This is one wild fruit that’s good to eat right off the vine. It’s also good for pies, cobblers and preserves.

Botanist Scooter Cheatham, director of Useful Wild Plants Inc. and lead author of its multivolume encyclopedia, offers this tip for Texas wild harvesters: “When the dewberries are ripe, the green [mustang] grapes are coming along. If you can’t find enough dewberries, put in an equal amount of green grapes, and it makes a scrumptious cobbler.”

Mustang Grape (Vitis mustangensis)

Range: Eastern two-thirds of state
Harvest time: May through July

Several species of wild grapes are native to Texas. The tart, highly acidic mustang grape is the most common. It climbs trees and drapes itself over fences. Large, old vines can be found in wooded areas. I’ve gone hunting many times and found a good bit of fruit hanging too high to pick, even with a good ladder. When they’re within reach, grapes are easy to harvest. Pull them off the stem one by one, or clip clusters with a small pair of garden shears and remove the stems later. Wear latex gloves: the acid in the fruit can irritate skin and leave hands itching for days.

Guten Appetit!, a cookbook published by the Sophienburg Museum in New Braunfels, offers this advice on picking green grapes for preserves or cobbler: “Use grapes that are not mature, about the size of an English pea and before the seeds are hard.” For my own jam, I wait until they turn purple in July.

Other Vitis species grow in various parts of Texas. Wherever you live, there’s probably a vine nearby that could provide fruit for jam, jelly, cobbler or wine. All of our native grapes are dioecious, producing male and female flowers on separate plants. Only female vines will bear fruit.

Western Mayhaw (Crataegus opaca)

Range: East Texas near Louisiana state line
Harvest time: April through May

mayhaw

Western mayhaw

Mayhaw is a type of hawthorn, a small to medium-sized tree that flowers in spring and produces a cranberry-red fruit. It grows in acid soil along rivers and sloughs, often standing in shallow water, but will also grow on dry land. Jim McNeill, a jelly maker of long experience, had a grove of large mayhaws at his home in Nederland.

“They were probably in excess of 75 years old, but Hur­ricane Ike flattened them,” he says.

The fruit falls off when it’s ripe, and mayhaw pickers harvest it from the ground. McNeill would spread a sheet under his trees, catching the fall over several days. If spring rains come at the right time, some locals gather the fruit by taking boats up the backwater sloughs. Rising water lifts fruits that have fallen at the river’s edge, and people scoop them up with nets.

McNeill uses a three-pot steamer system to extract juice for jelly. “Raw mayhaw extract is so bitter it would roll your tongue,” he says, “but the jelly is tops, I gotta say. It’s about the best, other than maybe fig preserves.”

Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana)

Range: Central and South Texas, Coastal Plains and Big Bend area
Harvest time: Fall

persimmon

Texas persimmon

A small tree with attractive peeling bark, Texas persimmon produces black, tomato-shaped fruits about an inch across. As with the wild grapes, fruit appears only on female trees. Common persimmon (D. virginiana) grows in East Texas and makes a slightly larger, orange-colored fruit. Persimmons contain high levels of tannin and are not fit to eat until they fully ripen, begin to wrinkle and go soft.

“When they look bad, they’re actually good,” reports Scooter Cheatham.

Ripe fruit can be eaten fresh or baked into puddings and breads. I’ve seen recipes for persimmon jelly, but never had much luck getting it to jell.

Plums (Prunus species)

Range: Statewide
Harvest time: July through September

plum

Plums

Texas is home to several species of wild plums. The most common, perhaps, is the Chickasaw plum (P. angustifolia), a small tree that forms thickets on prairies and savannahs from East Texas to the Rolling Plains. The rose-colored plums can be picked and eaten right off the tree. Mexican plum (P. mexicana) trees grow larger, up to 35 feet, and are more likely to be found scattered among other trees in riparian woodlands. Its purple fruit is less palatable on its own, “but it makes wonderful preserves,” Cheatham says.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia species)

Range: Statewide
Harvest time: Late summer to fall

Prickly Pear Cactus

 

Prickly pear

It may take an expert to identify the particular species, but most Texans know a prickly pear when we see one. The plants produce showy flowers that mature into cylindrical fruits known variously as pears, cactus apples or tunas. The flattened stems are usually armed with wicked spines. The tunas have spines too: clusters of tiny stickers called glochids, more treacherous because they’re so easily overlooked. Tunas can be eaten fresh, but take care to peel them first.

When harvesting prickly pear tunas, it’s best to wear protective gloves, long pants and boots. Katy Hoskins, who grew up in the Trans-Pecos area and now lives in Sweetwater, uses barbecue tongs to pick tunas off the plant.

“Then I hold them with a meat fork and use a hand-held propane torch to sear off the spines,” she says. Prickly pear fruit makes a hot-pink jelly, a syrup for flavoring candy and drinks or a wine that turns golden yellow after a few months on the shelf.

The Responsible Gatherer

You don’t need a hunting license to stalk wild fruit. However, some practices followed by good hunters apply to gathering as well.

Know your target. Just like shooting the wrong bird can get you a stiff fine, sampling fruit from the wrong plant can make you sick, or worse. Don’t eat anything you can’t identify.

Respect the resource. Birds and wildlife eat wild fruits, too, so don’t take more than you can use. And don’t gather fruit or seeds from rare, threatened or endangered species.

Be careful where you pick. It’s against the law to collect plants or plant parts in state and national parks. Parks run by local governments may have similar rules. Picking on public roadsides is not recommended because of safety concerns. Your best bet is to collect on private property, with permission. If you don’t find any of these plants at your own place, check with a friend or relative who owns some land. Many people lack the time and inclination to harvest their own wild fruit, and are happy to let someone else do the work — especially if they get a pie or a jar of jam as part of the deal.

Recipes

Wild Plum Jelly

(From Janell Turner of Claude)

5½ cups prepared plum juice (see below)
6½ cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin
½ teaspoon butter or margarine

Start with about 5 pounds of plums. Remove pits; do not peel. Put in pot with 1½ cups water and cook until tender. Mash through colander to strain. Bring juice to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Measure 5½ cups juice into 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Measure sugar into separate bowl. Stir pectin into juice. Add butter. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugar. Bring back to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any foam with metal spoon. Ladle quickly into prepared jars.

Persimmon Chiffon Pie

Graham cracker crust
1 cup persimmon pulp
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup and ¼ cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ tsp salt

Beat pulp and egg yolks together. Mix 1/3 cup sugar, gelatin and salt in saucepan. Add pulp and yolk mixture to saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds up on a spoon. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add ¼ cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in the cooked persimmon mix, pile into graham cracker crust and chill.

Online Extra: More Recipes

About jellies and jams

When great-grandma made jelly, she cooked it until it jelled using the natural pectin in the fruit. That’s possible with many of the fruits mentioned here, but it’s tricky. When I’ve faced chiggers, rattlesnakes and Texas heat to harvest my fruit, I don’t take chances in the kitchen: I use powdered pectin (Sure-Jell and other brands). The basic cooking and canning instructions are in the box, so the recipes in this section won’t go into detail about that.

The challenge is getting your harvest to the cooking stage, then figuring out the right proportions of fruit, pectin and sugar – because the recipes in the box usually aren’t written for wild fruit.

Agarita Jelly

Place cleaned berries in a large pot and add enough water to cover fruit. Cook until berries start to pop open, or until they appear tender when pressed against the side of the pot with a spoon. Pour fruit and water into a jelly bag and let it drip overnight. It’s okay to squeeze the bag once or twice, gently. Combine one box of pectin with 6-1/2 cups juice and 7 cups of sugar.

Dyanne’s Low-Sugar Mustang Jam

I’ve made grape jam according to a standard Sure-Jell recipe (5 cups grapes, 7 cups sugar), but sometimes I like to dial back the sweetness and let the tart flavor really come through. This requires specially formulated pectin. It’s a little harder to find: look for a box labeled “light”, “low-sugar” or “no sugar.”

Wash grapes, add water to pot and boil for an hour or so. Pour mixture into a sieve and stir vigorously, forcing through quite a bit of pulp along with the juice. Discard seeds and leftover skins. Use one box low-sugar pectin, four cups pulverized fruit and 2-1/2 cups sugar.

Mayhaw Jelly

(Gail Smith, Harvest Time Farm Stand, Canyon Lake)

Cook mayhaw fruit, mash and strain. Use 4 cups juice to 1 box pectin and 5 cups sugar.

Prickly Pear Jelly

(Reprinted with permission from Native Plant Society of Texas News, July/August 1988)

Rub fruit with a heavy cloth to remove the tiny bristles. Or, better still, hold it over a flame and burn the bristles off. Wash and slice the fruit into a saucepan, then add 2 cups water for each cup of fruit. Cook until soft – don’t hurry! – and strain the juice through a jelly bag or several thicknesses of cheesecloth.

For jelly, use:
3 cups prickly pear juice
½ c lemon juice
1 package pectin
4-1/2 c sugar

Marmeladenkuchen (Marmalade Cake) with Green Grape Preserves

(From Guten Appetit!, Courtesy of Sophienburg Museum, New Braunfels)

Preserves
Pick stems and wash grapes (use grapes that are not mature, about the size of an English pea and before the seeds are hard). Put in large kettle with sugar, a pound of sugar for each pound of grapes. For 5 pounds of grapes, add 2 cups of water. Gently boil until a dark red in color, about 3 hours, stirring often.  Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

Cake
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
¾ cup milk
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt

Topping
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups pecan bits

Marmalade – 1 pint green grape preserves (see above)

Cream butter and sugar together; add eggs one at a time and beat. Add milk that has been combined with vanilla, alternately with flour which has been sifted together with salt and baking powder. Pour into a greased and floured pan (9” x 13” x 2”) and bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 30 minutes.

While cake is baking, prepare topping. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until light and foamy. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until very thick. Fold in vanilla and pecans. Remove cake from oven when done and spread marmalade over hot cake. Pour on topping and return to upper third of oven; bake until lightly brown and crusty. When cool, cut into squares and serve.

Mustang Sorbet

(Justin Arecchi, Justin’s Ice Cream, San Antonio)

Put 1-1/4 pounds cane sugar in large jug and fill with water to make 1 gallon. Stir and refrigerate overnight. Add 1 quart strained grape juice and freeze in ice cream freezer.

Berry Pudding

(Marie Offerman, New Braunfels)

Ingredients for 2 servings:
1 cup crushed dewberries (or any other berries)
2 to 3 T sugar
2T cornstarch mixed with cold water. Adding a small amount of berry juice won’t hurt.
Whipped cream

Combine sugar and crushed fruit in saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, being careful not to burn mixture. After sugar is melted and mixture starts to boil, stir a few spoonfuls into cornstarch/water mixture, then add that back to the saucepan. Continue stirring on low boil until pudding thickens. Put in bowls and cool. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Prickly Pear Juice – No-Cook Freezer Method

(Barton Hiatt, Dripping Springs)

Pick tunas when they are very ripe, almost ready to fall off the plant. Peeling is optional, because the tiny thorns will be filtered out in the final step. Mash thoroughly with wooden mallet and freeze, which will help break down remaining fibrous material. Thaw mash and push through a colander, then strain again through fine mesh. Juice from the first pressing will be very concentrated; it’s good for some recipes, don’t drink without diluting! You can get a second press from the same mash by adding water and putting it through the strainers again. Juice and concentrate can be frozen or used right away.

Prickly Pear Popsicles

(Courtesy of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture)

2 cups prickly pear juice
1 cup water
2T lemon juice concentrate
½ cup sugar or agave nectar

Blend juice and water; add lemon juice and sugar. Freeze in ice-pop makers.

Prickly Pear Punch

(Courtesy of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture)

Two 2-liter bottles lemon-lime soda
8 oz prickly pear juice concentrate
4 oz lemon juice concentrate (to taste)
10 sliced limes (to taste)
Ice (as much as possible)

 

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Pepper Jellies

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I am doing some Fall clean up in the garden, pulling up the pepper plants, cucumber vines and pulling more of the ever present weeds.

I grew three types of pepper plants this summer. The most prolific of the trio was the Poblano pepper. The Serrano came in second and the Red Bell pepper was a very distant third. An outcome of the clean-up was a large number of peppers to be used/consumed. In the past I have used the poblanos as trading material at the local farmer’s market as well as trading for a dinner at one of the local Mexican restaurants. I need to qualify the comment about the Serrano pepper plant – three weeks ago it was loaded and I failed to harvest. The result today was barely enough to make a batch of Serrano Pepper Jelly. Poblanos to the rescue!

jbd_9951

Poblano on the right and Serrano the left.

First up this morning was the Serrano Pepper Jelly. It so tasty when completed. We mix it with soft cream cheese as a spicy dip. The use of store bought Red Bell Peppers creates a nice red hue and the bits of finely chopped pepper pieces creates a “confetti” look in the finished product. I don’t usually use liquid pectin when making jams and jellies but past pepper jelly efforts have made a less than firm set. No troubles with this recipe.

Serrano Pepper Jelly

Yields 7 8-oz jars or 14 4-oz jars

Ingredients 

§  1 cup chopped red bell pepper

§  1/2 cup chopped green Serrano peppers/Poblano peppers

§  5 cups white sugar

§  1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

§  1 (6 fluid ounce) container liquid pectin ( like to use Certo brand)

 

Directions 

Step 1: Sterilze jars, lids and rings according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Heat water in a Large pot or water canner.

Step 2: Remove stems, veins and most of the seeds of the bell and serrano peppers. Mince peppers in a food processor.

Step 3:  In a 5-quart pot over high heat, combine bell peppers, jalapenos, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil; boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.  Skim off any foam.

Step 4:  Stirring constantly, add the pectin and let mixture continue to cool for 3 minutes more.

Step 5: Pour into hot, sterilized jars and top with sterilized lids. Secure lids with bands and put back in pot hot water and boil for 5 mins.  Remove from water and allow jars to cool slowly, creating a vacuum seal.  Jars may make a popping noise as they cool.

 Tip: let cool, gently remove the rim and dry the lid and rings (do this very carefully) so that you do not get rusty lids.  Place rings back on but be sure not to screw too tightly then set overnight. Sometimes it has taken 2 weeks for this jelly to set so be patient.

This recipe makes 14 4-oz jars.  I like to put them in small jars because at this size they are a perfect addition to a cheese and cracker plate.  Isn’t the coloring gorgeous?  The flecks of peppers look like confetti.

http://www.marinhomestead.com/recipes/dessert/serrano-pepper-jelly/

I guarantee that it won’t take two weeks for this jelly to set. I had to use a spatula to get the jelly out of the pot when filling the last two jars from each batch. My yield was a little lower than the recipe – 11, 4 oz. jars. In the future I will smoke some of the Poblano peppers and make a “smoked” Poblano pepper jelly. I plan on using pecan wood…..a nice mellow wood. I have read that some that make Chipolte, smoked Jalapeno peppers, use mesquite for a stronger flavor. Maybe next time I’ll use the mesquite.

jbd_9952

Yummy Stuff.

 

TTFN

Bishop

Lots of Blueberries

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Yesterday, June 11th, was the day after the opening of Moorhead’ Blueberry Farm. The crowd was very large and traffic in and out was a zoo…..we learned a lesson, the smart people park outside the gate along the road….it is just a short walk in! I have been wanting to go gather blueberries at this farm for several years now but life seems to get in the way. Swim meets, soccer games, vacation, chores or the dreaded disease of age, CRS. (can’t remember shtuff).

http://www.moorheadsblueberryfarm.com/

On, Friday my “Goo” friend John and I had – (I just discovered an interesting tidbit, the difference between friend and fiend is a missing “R”) – Now back to the story. John and I had gone to inspect a house with bees in the wall. Structural cutouts are not my thing but the gentle man that called me to recue bees from a storm downed tree at his machine shop called me to help a friend. The owner of the house is an amazing creature lover, refusing to kill any insects. He wanted someone to safely relocate the bees.

The job was well out of my expertise, so I decided to decline. I knew the people in the house, the home owner’s daughter and children were anxious, as the bees had also found access to the babies bedroom…..just a few but disconcerting for the mother.  I knew two people that are “one with bees” to refer the owner to. One of them was booked for weeks the other, I leaned on him a bit, and he took the job as an emergency job.  I will share the full story later….I am going over to help/observe the removal in a couple of days.

On the return trip John and I wandered by a mutual friend’s house, one that is hosting one of my hives. He and his wife had just returned from the opening day of picking blueberries at Moorhead Blueberry Farm. Mike and Anette had 35 pounds of blueberries spread out to do the culling and drying before bagging and freezing. That piqued my interest as well as John’s. We decided to go on a berry picking adventure the next day. The wheels were turning and plans were being made. Mike and Annette suggested going early, they arrived at 7:00 AM and people were already leaving loaded down with bags of plump and ripe berries.

We didn’t take the advice to arrive early, but managed to gather three full buckets in a relatively short time. Entering and parking around 8:45 in the morning was very congested, thus the recommendation to park out on the road. John grabbed a small bucket, he put 6 + pounds into it. Kathy and I went big and each of our buckets ultimately held over 12 pounds of berries. Note for berry pickers; bring a couple of small towels. The buckets have a cord that hangs the bucket around your neck….one towel will provide cushioning and the other to wipe hands, sweaty brow and whatever else.

 

Berries 1

Two 12 pound buckets and a 6.5 pound bucket of plump and seet berries.

Berries 2

Kathy and John showing the fruits of our labor. We finished just before the rain hit.

Arriving home, we spread berries out in single layers on butcher paper to dry as we sorted them before bagging. Kathy over-filled 8 small freezer bags, labeled pint size, but they hold much more than that. I made two batches of jam, 10 cups of berries in each batch and we still have a bowl to eat fresh. YUM!

Berries 3

Some of the many iterations of sorting and drying before bagging. In the background are some jars of wild plum jelly.

The first batch was straight up blueberry jam made with SureJell light….less sugar, only 4 ½ cups per batch. The result was 10 half pint jars. The second batch, also made with less sugar plus a vanilla bean steeped in the hot and boiling jam. FYI, scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean before using. In the future I may experiment with vanilla extract – vanilla beans are too friggin’ expensive.  The Vanilla Bean version made 4 pint jars and 2 half pint jars….identical yields…… and so very sweet!

Jam 1

1o half pint jars of wonderful and sweet blueberry jam.

Now, plan a blackberry picking trip!

TTFN

Meyer Lemon Curd – So Damn Good

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I apologize if the curse word that shocked movie audiences in 1939, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) to Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) still offends….. I resisted using language from the “Thug Kitchen” a fun and irreverent look at eating healthier. Here is the trailer for the book…..be prepared – it is not G Rated!!!!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar7g_26QWu0      I thought the trailer was a joke…..it is tongue in cheek and the book is very real and has some great recipes!

Back to the curd…..It really is that good! I made a double batch. A doubled batch yields a little more than couple of pints and includes 12 egg yolks, two sticks of butter, two cups of sugar and –  Oh yeah lemon zest and lemon juice! I processed two of the 8 ounce jars in a boiling water bath so I could ship one of the jars to my great grandson up in Wyoming. Unfortunately, processing changes the color just a bit and the texture is not near as silky smooth as the fresh stuff! Given a spoon and left alone for a short time I could finish a jar on my own!

Yum - A plate of Lemon zest, 12 egg yolks, two sticks of butter, two cups of sugar and one generous cup of lemon juice. In the background is my sourdough starter bubbling away.

Yum – A plate of Lemon zest, 12 egg yolks, two sticks of butter, two cups of sugar and one generous cup of lemon juice. In the background is my sourdough starter bubbling away.

Do you think the lemon zest looks like shredded cheddar? My daughter Ashleigh did! We had a good laugh!

The patience in cooking was rewarded with a silky smooth and decadent lemon curd. Before dropping the utensils used in the process into the sink, I had to play Momma kitty and lick everything clean…..Yes I know, some may say bad form, but frankly, I don’t give a damn!

Ready to ladle into the hot and sterile jars.

Ready to ladle into the hot and sterile jars. My canning funnel has been well used!

 

Trying my best to not make a mess!

Trying my best to not make a mess!

Meyer Lemon Curd – USE MEYER LEMONS!

Yield: 2 half pints – single recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Meyer lemons, juiced (you should get a generous 1/2 cup. Make sure to strain it, to ensure you get all the seeds)
  • zest from the juiced lemons
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. In a small, heavy bottom pot over medium heat, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.
  2. Add the lemon juice and zest and switch to stirring with a wooden spoon, so as not to aerate the curd.
  3. Stir continually for 10-15 minutes, adjusting the heat as you go to ensure that it does not boil.
  4. Your curd is done when it has thickened and coats the back of the spoon.
  5. When you determine that it’s finished, drop in the butter and stir until melted.
  6. Position a fine mesh sieve over a glass or stainless steel bowl and pour the curd through it, to remove any bits of cooked egg. Whisk in the zest.
  7. Pour the curd into two prepared half pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. If you want to process them for shelf stability, process them in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (start the time when the water returns to a boil).
  8. According to So Easy to Preserve, it is best to process only in half-pint jars or smaller, as they allow better heat infiltration.
  9. Eat on toast, stirred into plain yogurt or straight from the jar with a spoon.

Here is the link to the recipe – http://foodinjars.com/2010/01/meyer-lemon-curd/

A very good canning blog by Marisa McClellan. Check her stuff out

TTFN

Bishop

 

When Life Gives You Lemons…….be Decadent!

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I know, that’s not how the standard saying goes, but life is too short to be just ordinarily optimistic. I suggest that you amp up your response and make people wonder about your sly smile. Do something out of the ordinary when life gives you lemons….maybe, step out and do something decadent!
Life did give me lemons, some wonderful Meyer Lemons from my dwarf tree in the backyard. My wife left for Orlando yesterday with my daughter and on her way out the door she pointed to the bag of lemons and said, “Do something with those lemons!”
She wasn’t smiling and I wasn’t sure if the tone in her voice had any latitude or hint of humor!

I figured I just better give the standard Texas husband’s response and said, “ Yes dear,”
I had intended to deal with them on my own time and schedule but I never found one of those handy “ round to it’s” lying around …..Until her comment. That was a genuine “round to it” handed to me!
I had some errands to run and decided that if I am getting a “round to it”, I may as well be decadent and enjoy the thrill. I knew that if I was to be really, really decadent with the lemons I needed lots of eggs and lots of butter. Decadent Lemon Curd was going to my afternoon plan! The recipe to make one single pint of this luscious, sensual and decadent curd requires one stick of butter, six egg yolks, one cup of sugar and of course fresh squeezed lemon juice with zest.
I took a risk and made double batches, two to be precise. The yield was about 4.75 pints. I am licking my lips right now…..there was a trace of this Lemon curd from the toast I just consumed before starting the post! Oh my, yes a bit of a cliché, but, Oh My…..it is so good!

The recipe;
Ingredients
• 6 egg yolks
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 meyer lemons, juiced (you should get a generous 1/2 cup. Make sure to strain it, to ensure you get all the seeds out)
• 1 stick of butter, cut into chunks
• zest from the juiced lemons
Instructions
1. In a small, heavy bottom pot over medium heat, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Add the lemon juice and switch to stirring with a wooden spoon, so as not to aerate the curd. Stir continually for 10-15 minutes, adjusting the heat as you go to ensure that it does not boil. Your curd is done when it has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. (my research finds that about 170 deg F is good).Drop in the butter and stir until melted.
2. Position a fine mesh sieve over a glass or stainless steel bowl and pour the curd through it, to remove any bits of cooked egg. Whisk in the zest.
3. Pour the curd (a single batch will make one pint of curd) into your prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. If you want to process them for shelf stability, process them in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (start the time when the water returns to a boil). According to So Easy to Preserve, it is best to process only in half-pint jars or smaller, as they allow better heat infiltration.
4. Eat on toast, stirred into plain yogurt or straight from the jar with a spoon.
Notes
Adapted from “The Martha Stewart Cookbook”
Step 4 is well stated – several years ago when I made my first batch of this decadent concoction, I made a comment about the uses for such a treat. One of my readers and author of the wonderful blog, “Promenade Plantings” suggested that the best way to use it is by the spoonful, straight out of the jar! She is spot on!
Give her blog a look….great stuff, stories and recipes. http://promenadeplantings.com/

I put three of the pints into pint jars....A bit much but once a jar is opened it doesn't last long!

I put three of the pints into pint jars….A bit much but once a jar is opened it doesn’t last long!

TTFN

Bishop

Jammin’

2 Comments

This growing season saw a bumper crop of strawberries. The result was lots of fresh berries for snacking and tons for jam making, lots of jam! The blackberries were starting to look really good toward the end of May. I had high hopes for a good blackberry harvest based on the number of blossoms and the large size of the developing berries – and JAM!.

The blackberry harvest started out strong. When I was home more berries made the freezer bag than we used for fresh eating. During my out of town work assignments the ratio was reversed. I still thought I had a chance to load up the freezer but the local birds discovered my luscious, juicy and organically grown berries. I would see dozens of berries that needed another day to finish ripening only to discover them gone, missing – nowhere to be found the next day. Evidence of birds sitting trellis wire was abundant. I guess next year I will have to invest in some netting.

Friday this past week I needed to clear some freezer space for my wife. I had partial freezer bags of blackberries, strawberries and some wild dewberries. I spent an hour and a half scratching the living daylights out of my arms and legs as I braved the thorny dewberry patches only to be rewarded with less than ½ gallon of berries! They have great taste but they are, oh so small. I decided to make a mixed batch of berry jam! Problem solved, room in the freezer and a 9 +  jars and jam! I say 9+ because I fill a jar of the foam skimmings’ and the bottom of the pot for my wife. She makes an interesting oatmeal frittata with egg whites and tops it with the lower grade jam. Still tastes great but doesn’t look as nice in the jars.

Garden chores out of the way for today consisted of removing 5 tomato plants that gave their all against this brutal summer that Houston has been suffering through. I replaced them with some grafted varieties and hope to get them well established during the tail end of summer. I hope to have tomatoes through Thanksgiving again this year!

My son and his friend kept the garden well watered including all of those pesky weeds. I should have provided some more detailed instructions on weeding while watering – an alliterative activity that aids the garden. That said….I have been pulling weeds like crazy! They have made a nice layer in the compost bin. I added about 6 inches of leaf mulch and 10-12 inches of grass clippings on top of them. The pile should really heat up now!

I pulled the leaf mulch out of my second bin. I am nearing the bottom of that bin and found some nice finished compost. I spread about 8 – 5 gallon bucket loads of the compost into the bed holding most of the tomatoes and cucumbers. Today being a three t-shirt day in Houston I will postpone spreading the remaining compost for another day…..none of the upcoming days look to promising in the next week so I guess I will just have to suck it up through a few more days and shirts until the job is done.

Thorny, scratchy and very tasty wild dewberries.

Thorny, scratchy and very tasty wild dewberries.

 

Kathy's Frittata - Her first bite was followed by these words, "Ewww seeds, but tasty!"

Kathy’s Frittata – Her first bite was followed by these words, “Ewww seeds, but tasty!”

TTFN

Bishop

Jams, Jellies and Jars

3 Comments

I just pick up an issue of “Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications” titled

Canning

preserving+freezing+drying.

I was in awe of how my limited jam and jelly efforts are/were compared to the world opened up in this issue.

Canning Issue

Canning Issue

Let’s start with the jellies

  • Blood Orange-Vanilla Bean
  • Habanero-Mint
  • Apricot-Rosemary
  • Flower Petal – I made Rose petal jelly – pretty but lacked flavor, search edible flowers for potential petals
  • Ruby-Red Grapefruit
  • Jasmine Tea
  • Grape Juice – not unique
  • Rose Wine Jelly with Pink Peppercorns
  • Balsamic Vinegar-Ruby Port

I am not including recipes – US folks can probably find this issue, if you can’t send me a request and I will accommodate y’all.

Jams were next and I saw some very mouth watering combinations.

  • Cinnamon-Peach
  • Sweet-Basil Peach
  • Chipotle-Peach
  • Bourbon-Peach
  • Caramel Apple
  • Sweet Cherry
  • Peach
  • Cinnamon-Spiced Triple-Berry
  • Gooseberry-Mango
  • Nectarine Mango
  • Honey-and-Thyme Blackberry
  • Tomato-Basil
  • Dried Apricot-Fig Jam with Anise
  • Strawberry Margarita & yes it includes a 1/2 cup of Tequila and a 1/4 cup of Triple Sec
  • Cantaloupe Jam with Vanilla

I have a vision of returning to Houston and creating some amazing Jellies and Jams. I am on a garden break and my son’s good friend and former teammate is keeping the greenery alive and hopefully enjoying some of the bounty…..the long extended heat wave in our area has slowed a lot of my harvest. Old faithful cucumbers should overwhelm him….as long as he keeps them irrigated!

My return at the end of July may include a hunt for some Fredericksburg Peaches!

TTFN

Bishop

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