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Catching Up…..Spring is on the Way

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The quiet time of winter is over here in my backyard just north of Houston. I have been eating beets from the garden as well as some carrots. In fact, last night I grilled a spatchcock chicken along with a handful of freshly pulled carrots…….FYI, I should have pulled up a few more carrots!

I love this water color app called Waterlogue…..orange and a couple of yellow carrots freshly pulled.
Obviously not enough carrots. Olive oil, a little sea salt and rosemary. 8-10 minutes over direct heat and about 15 minutes over indirect heat with the foil sealed shut. FYI, this is a good size of carrot to cook through and not be crunchy in the center.

I have both red and gold variety beets growing along with Romaine lettuce, about 50 new Chandler strawberries. The radishes are done and I could probably plant more but I’m the only one that eats them! Sugar snap peas have been planted, along with some turnips and another round of beets.

Bees are doing well and the early spring bodes well if the weather stays wet enough for the early spring nectar flowers. For you folks in Texas here is a very good list, link attached. Late winter does include my Meyer Lemon tree as a good nectar source….. looks like it will bloom very soon. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/travis/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/EAGF-2017-Central-Texas-Bee-Friendly-plants.pdf

My backyard topbar hive. Bees are storing honey…..this comb is a little wonky so I will pull it and maybe two other misshapen bars to crush and squeeze in a few weeks once I see more nectar flowers blooming.
Suited up but not for the backyard bees….my backyard bees are pretty sweet, no gloves or suit needed but I do always wear my veil. I was suited up here because I was cutting weeds and brush around some of my friskier bees!
Bonus image from our recent trip up to North Dakota. These two whitetail boys were sparring a bit, not real energetically but grunting a little.

More spring stuff in the works.

TTFN

Bishop

Mmmmmmmm………..Meyer Lemons!

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The Meyer Lemon is not really a lemon. Bottom line, Meyer Lemons are both sweeter and less acidic than a true lemon.

“Citrus × meyeri, the Meyer lemon, is a hybrid citrus fruit native to China. It is a cross between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid distinct from the common or bitter oranges.[1]

Mature trees are around 6 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m) tall with dark green shiny leaves. Flowers are white with a purple base and fragrant. The fruit is rounder than a true lemon, deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe, and has a sweeter, less acidic flavor.”

From Wikipedia.

My Meyer Lemon tree has finally become productive after the hard freeze of …. I think 2017! I thought it had killed my lime tree and it obviously heavily damaged the Meyer Lemon. I trimmed the Meyer Lemon back and ignored the lime tree. As spring arrived the Meyer Lemon was sprouting new growth but the lime was bare. As I ripped the lime out of the ground I saw new growth….. too late – the was likely below the graft. Task done!

Meyer Lemons make a lemon curd that is both heavenly and bursting at the seams with both flavor and calories. Today’s cooking adventure does not involve lemon curd – it involves a first for me…….lemon Jelly. This will be a variation of the Meyer Lemon Honey jam I have made in the past. I have to give credit for the inspiration to Max Moszkowicz….he makes “lime jelly” and I just thought….Why not Meyer Lemon Jelly!

The process creates a wonderful aroma throughout the house. The aromatic lemons were thickly sliced and left soaking overnight in the kitchen. Then the aroma really amps up as they boil for 2 hours!

You can almost smell the aromas emanating from the photo of the boiling pot!

I am posting the recipe which includes the jelly variation. A disclaimer……only the Meyer Lemons are organic in my version……I know that for a fact as I have 100% control over the lemon growing. The honey is also mine, not lemon blossom, but it is local and raw – I can’t guarantee that it is organic………I tell bees to stay away from non-organic sources but I am not sure they pay much attention to me.

Once the jelly is done and allowed to set for a few days I will post a taste test update.

Meyer Lemon Honey Jam

INGREDIENTS 

*3 lbs Lemons (Meyers, of course!) 

*6 cups filtered Water 

*5 cups Organic Cane Sugar 

*1/4 cup Organic Lemon Honey (or other delicately flavored honey like Orange or Clover) 

*6 drops pure Lemon Essential Oil (1 drop for each cup of juice) 

 

INSTRUCTIONS ~ WASH lemons. 

~ TRIM off ends. Cut into fat slices. REMOVE pits (if making Jelly) 

~ COVER with filtered water. Leave to soak overnight or 7-8hrs

~ BOIL for 2 hours covered. ~ Then STRAIN through a jelly bag. COMMENT: Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag or your jelly won’t be clear! ———————- 

NOTE: If you want to make Lemon JAM, skip the straining & whir the hot lemons and water carefully with an immersion blender. You definitely wouldn’t want the pits in the mix for jam though! So pick them out.

~ MEASURE juice. ~ ADD 1 cup sugar per cup of juice. STIR to dissolve sugar over low heat. ~ BOIL again until set. (15-30 minutes) ~ FILL sterilized jars as usual. ~ STORE in a dark cool cupboard. Jelly will keep for 1-2 years, but the flavor & color tend to fade beyond that time. 

Recipe from – http://www.figswithbri.com/

One of the web sites suggested that a slice of lemon would enhance the beauty of the jelly in the jars. I thought it would look great too! I sliced up a lemon, filled the jars, placed the jars in the canning water bath, turned around and what did I discover? You guessed it.

They will pretty good on top of some grilled salmon filets! LOL.

Almost looks like a light spring honey as a finished product!

TTFN

Bishop

Additional trivia for those that are curious……

“The citron (Citrus medica) is a large fragrant citrus fruit with a thick rind. It is one of the original citrus fruits from which all other citrus types developed through natural hybrid speciation or artificial hybridization.”

“Mandarin – mandarin orange

Pomelo – “The pomelo is one of the original citrus species from which the rest of cultivated citrus have been hybridized. 

Benefits of a Cool Spring

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Spring of 2018 here in the Houston area has been cool and reasonably wet. Good for my garden and also for the flowers and plants that the bees forage upon.

I got started late on my sugar snap peas…. actually I started too early and our January freezes did them in. So, I had to replant! It is unusual to be harvesting the sugar snaps and green beans at the same time. The green beans are just beginning to produce and they do love the warmer weather soon to come!

A nice big handful of sugar snap peas. This photo is just the survivors of the trip from the garden to the kitchen. I love to snack on them while I wander through the garden.

My Swiss Chard is also enjoying the pleasant spring weather.

Swiss Chard behind the strawberries. So easy to grow here in Houston and prolific!

My Meyer Lemon tree has been a casualty of the winter freezes. I was optimistic when I saw new growth and a number of blossoms a few weeks ago. Unfortunately no fruit has set!

Forecast is favorable for at least the next 10 days….. relatively cool and a little rain. More sugar snaps, Chard, green beans, strawberries and the last of the beets!

More later.

TTFN

Bishop

Garden Macro

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A few macro looks at stuff in the garden.

I have a little sugar water feeder in my backyard to attract neighborhood bees. Who knows, maybe word will get out and I will get some scout bees looking for a home in my swarm trap nearby!

Yum!!!! Strawberry season is kicking in. I have about 100 plants, about 1/3 newly planted so they won’t produce much. Love watching them mature and ripen up!

I put in some 2-3 year old blueberry plants in this winter. Looks like I may wind up with enough for a snack or two from my Backyard Garden.

JBD_1952

Blue Lake pole bean plant wending its way skyward. It is fascinating to see how the vines grab and wrap themselves in a ……….. I tried to google the direction question about the pole beans and became confused…….mine all seem to grab and twist to the right….is that counter-clockwise? I think it is!

JBD_1938

Signs of life. My Meyer Lemon tree was very hard hit by the winter’s extended freeze her in Houston. Over the past several weeks it began to leaf out. Closer inspection yesterday shows a handful of blossoms emerging. I do think it will survive! Yee Haw.

TTFN

Bishop

The Orange Blossom Special

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Not the Johnny Cash version but my backyard version. It is also not a true orange but rather it is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or common orange, native to China, a Meyer Lemon. Today is January 26th and my tree is blooming.

If you are not familiar with Meyer Lemons, buy a few and enjoy the difference. I saw a phrase recently that said, ” If life gives you Meyer Lemons, life is sweet.” Very true. The scent from the blossoms are truly intoxicating.

Case in point, last week I met with a couple that will be hosting a couple of my beehives. While waiting for the husband to arrive I was offered a glass of iced tea with a slice of lemon. As soon as my nose moved over the glass I knew it was a Meyer Lemon. The scent is sweet and unique!

Once the husband arrived we wandered his garden area to select a good hive site. He has several citrus trees, including a very nice sized Meyer Lemon. His tree was showing buds and we both agreed that it is a bit early. I shared with him my memories of late night motorcycle rides down Sunset Blvd. from UCLA to the beach. The early spring night air was filled filled with a heavenly citrus blossom scent! He keeps a chair in the garden for those early spring evenings to sit and take in the incredible citrus scents! We seem to be kindred spirits!


Even a single blossom sends out and amazing scent! Photo with my iPhone 6S.

TTFN

Bishop

Where Have The Bees Gone?

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In the past my Meyer Lemon tree and the lime tree have been mobbed by bees when those blossoms burst out. The amazing citrus blossom scent can be detected by my puny olfactory senses from many yards away. Intoxicating! Spring of 2015 is very different. I have not observed a single honey bee visiting the blossoms. Not a single bee. What is odd about their absence? I have a huge bee hive in my backyard, 30 yards at the most from the two citrus trees. I see the bees returning to the hive loaded with pollen and the top two supers are packed with honey.

My Lemon Tree blossom being visited.....LAST YEAR!

My Lemon Tree blossom being visited…..LAST YEAR! Thee blossoms in 2015  have been lonely.

My Lemon tree just burst out into a second round of blossoms and they are lonely! For this second round of blossom I now have an additional two top bar hives, very active top bar hives! For whatever reason, my three hives are foraging somewhere else! The set of fruit has been very light this year but, this has been a very wet and stormy spring……not sure if that is a factor but I assumed that my bees would visit my citrus trees in large numbers….Wrong…..

This is what should be happening...again this is from 2014!

This is what should be happening…again this is from 2014!

Someone …. Probably many people in the neighborhood are benefitting from my bees, and yes, I do get a major benefits. The honey they are producing is mine to share as I see fit but, I may need to coach them a little better. Anybody speak bee? I could use a translator!!!!!

Maybe I need smarter  bees!

Maybe I need smarter bees!

TTFN

Bishop

Spring Must Be Near

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I haven’t been faithfully keeping up with the posting here but I would like to offer up several excuses. I will give you the option to decide which one or, if you choose, you can pick several.

  1. Work – I am a consultant, albeit par-time by my choice, but I sometimes don’t say no often enough….. Yes, dear I do hear but may not always listen.
  2. I get to surfing the web becoming distracted by; seed catalogs, bee keeping supplies & information, fishing spots & advice, Politics…..ugly politics goading me into writing letters to the clueless, Facebook, Trivia Crack, Blog reader…..I think you get the picture.
  3. I am actually spending some time in the garden…..the weeds never take a day, an hour or even a minute of of their evil plan to overtake my garden.
  4. Football – can’t use too much of that now but then there is the Six Nations Rugby starting up this weekend – First round!
  5. Lazy….the fire in the fireplace lulls me into that comfortable kicked back, laid back and mellow mindset.
  6. There is a box with many thousand photographic slides that need to be digitized….I sometimes go through a few when other duties call. Distracted again.
  7. I have a bowl chucked up on my lathe that needs to be finished. I need someone to give me a “Roundtoit”
  8. Wifely pressure to do something more productive, i.e., the tax return, organizing my business files, storing my beer making gear somewhere other than the dining room(we only use that room twice every year – I have till next Thanksgiving don’t I?).
  9. Procrastination – I suppose their is an element in most of the above.

Ok, enough of that. Garden news. The strawberries are beginning to produce. I hope I can harvest quicker than the squrrels and my wife eat them “au naturale”. Hmmmmm…….Hun whatever makes you happy. The strawberry towers seem to be safe, at least for now, from the furry marauders but not from my sweetheart. I added 100 new strawberry plants to the towers this fall. This year’s harvest will be small compared to next year’s.  Once they become established I should/could be overwhelmed.

Some nearly ready and more on the way.

Some nearly ready and more on the way.

Good looking and almost ripe.

Good looking and almost ripe.

My blueberry plants are beginning to bud out now and if the buds are an indication I should a nice little crop this second year growth. I have 4 plants in containers and two in ground plants.  I also inspected my lemon and lime trees…..no evidence yet of budding and blooms….I am a bit concerned. If nothing by March I could be longing for my Meyer Lemon Curd at this time next year.

The bowl that needs to be FINISHED! The rim is undercut and I need to ad some more depth to the undercut before finishing.

The bowl that needs to be FINISHED! The rim is undercut and I need to add some more depth to the undercut before finishing.

My bees seem to be wintering well. I am hoping for 30 lbs. or more of harvestable honey. I have tried to be very good to my bees but apparently I made one mad yesterday evening. The little bugger stung my arm! Oh well – the life of a beekeeper!

More soon.

 

TTFN

Bishop

Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam – A Sensuous Kitchen Experience

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The title….The title is an apt description of the jam making experience but I will keep the blog descriptors “G” rated. What was actually going through my mind – is open for interpretation. I found this recipe in the same place I found the Meyer Lemon Curd recipe in the “Food in Jars” blog I mentioned in the post published on December 27th…..wait, wasn’t that yesterday? Life has given me lemons, more correctly, Meyer Lemons, and lemonade is not high on my list. Three alternatives made to date; 1. Limoncello – still a few weeks from completion, 2. Meyer Lemon Curd – a double batch, and now 3. Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam. Three decadent treats and the decadence is not restricted to flavors.

I will attempt to recreate the “cooking” experience as safely as I can. It has been a nasty, drizzly and cool day here in the Houston area. I stepped outside into the drizzle and hand selected 5, plump Meyer Lemons for the primary ingredient! Don’t try to read my mind, I will tell you that Led Zeppelin lyrics did not pop into my head until just a moment ago, so lets put that one to rest. I also used local honey…not mine but very similar in flavor.

The first non-cooking thought that hit me while stirring the batch was triggered by the aromas caressing my nose…. it was the mix of honey and, what must have been the volatile oils from the Meyer Lemon peels. The aromas were like the spring blossom time for citrus, most notably, from a midnight ride many years ago on my motorcycle down Sunset Blvd. The trip started on the UCLA campus and ended at Will Rogers Beach in Santa Monica. I have written in the past about the intoxicating scent of those Sunset Boulevard citrus blossoms on that cool and clear night. Just an amazing memory of the scents burned into my memories. My passenger that night I’m sure has similar memories of that scent filled ride, along the sweeping turns, cool and scent filled night leading down to the beach. Mmmmm – great memories triggered by the aromas buried in my gray matter.

As I was day dreaming and replaying that ride down the windy Boulevard the aromas coming off the batch of jam began to change. My first impression was that of a citrusy – Jasmine perfume scent. I had some, uh hum…. interesting thoughts….if a women was wearing a scent like this, the temptation to nibble and nuzzle her neck would have been overpowering. Plucked from somewhere deep in my memory banks was a connecting thought….pair this perfume aroma with the fresh scent of Herbal Essence shampoo and the beast within would have been testing the chains! – Careful Bishop…. I wondered if it was just my maleness fueling the thoughts when my wife popped into the kitchen and noted the perfume like aroma coming off the pot on the stove. She provided confirmation that my olfactory sensors were correct. Her comment pulled me back to the task at hand…..Jam!

The boiling process went on longer than the recipe called for. In hindsight, based on how thickly the jam set up, 15 minutes of boiling is probably correct time. I went well beyond that based on my sense of the thickening. During that time the aroma changed from arousing….(can I use that word?) to something very pleasant. The new aroma made me think more about hot, buttered and toasted sourdough bread lathered with this jam…I am very basic in my desires! I went from carnal to primal over the course of about 25 minutes.

I wound up with almost two pints of jam, probably a little darker in color than expected. If I had cut off the boiling time at 15 minute’s it may have been several shades lighter. I am assuming some “carmelization” took place. The jam is very well set and very tasty. I have many more lemons to pick so my next batch may be a little different….in results, but I hope that some same memories are triggered, memories that still make me smile. My lemons could not have been any fresher, once picked they were washed and in the boiling/simmering pot in less than 8 minutes….that may help explain the abundance of volatile lemon oils in the kitchen. Note to self……lets go ultra fresh again.

Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam

Yield: 3 to 4 half pints, plus a little for your morning yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds meyer lemons
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups honey

Instructions

  1. Wash the lemons and place them in a saucepan that can hold them in a single layer. Cover them with the water and bring to a boil.
  2. Once the water is bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the lemons for 25 minutes, until the skins are tender but still hold together.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the lemons cool completely.
  4. Place the lemons in a blender carafe and add two cups of the cooking water.
  5. Blend at low speed to break up the lemons. Take care not to puree them entirely smooth.
  6. Pour the lemon mix into a low, wide pan and add two cups of honey (choose something mild in flavor so that it doesn’t overpower the lemons).
  7. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to medium-high.
  8. Cook, stirring regularly, until the jam thickens and sheets off the back of your spoon or spatula. You can tell it’s nearly completion when it hisses and spits when you stir. My batch took all of 15 minutes of vigorous boiling to achieve set, but times will vary.
  9. When jam is finished cooking, remove pot from heat.
  10. Funnel jam into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes.
  11. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel.

By on February 19, 2014 in jams, jellies, marmalades

 

My little dwarf Meyer Lemon tree on an earlier day.

My little dwarf Meyer Lemon tree on an earlier day.

In a few more weeks I should see my bees working the Lemon blossoms....Mmmmm so good!

In a few more weeks I should see my bees working the Lemon blossoms….Mmmmm so good!

TTFN

Bishop

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

 

Rainy Day Garden Blog

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We had a rainy and stormy night last night. The thunder was the booming and it was the rolling type followed by the sound of heavy rain drumming rain on the roof. The last 24 hours brought 2.76 inches of rain in my neighborhood and as much as 3.64 a few miles away. As I write the sound of rain beating down of the roof is accelerating again…. Gotta love it!

Too wet to have coffee with the bees but I am enjoying my coffee. I am kinda sorta having coffee with my oldest daughter and her husband – they are out in Camarillo California to be precise, but with me in spirit. They sent the family a gift pack the past several Christmas’s from Harry & David, well known for their pears, but this pack had a 12 ounce package of coffee beans. The Northwest blend flavored – Hazlenut, Praline and Cinnamon. So, Melissa and Tayna….here’s to you! I am also snacking on my homemade sourdough bread, 30 minutes out of the oven…..still warm enough to melt the butter under a layer of my Serrano pepper and peach preserve.

Fresh and warm sourdough - Yum - I love making bread but even more so...... eating it!

Fresh and warm sourdough – Yum – I love making bread but even more so…… eating it!

I did check on the bees and the garden yesterday and they are busy buzzing away and gathering pollen. The strawberries are kicking out blossoms like crazy and I noticed a handful of blossoms on the sugar snap peas. I suspect I will be picking some snap peas well before New Years Eve. The carrot seeds sprinkled a few weeks ago are coming up nicely and should be ready to thin in another few weeks….I say should….seems like I have good intentions and always wind up with crowded carrots!

I will be picking my lemons this week and I need to decide how to reward my self, hmmmm – Lemon Curd is high on the list and may also be compatible with making Limoncello. How about both! Claire from “Promenade Plantings” gave the best advice for using lemon curd – open jar, insert spoon, pull out a heaping spoonful and insert into your mouth and let your taste buds celebrate….She said something like that

  • 1.5 Liters of Everclear – available in Texas
  • 14 Lemons
  • 1.5 Liters of water
  • 2.333333333333333333 pounds of sugar

Peel lemons taking care to not use the white portion of the peel…..just the yellow.

Place peels and Everclear in glass jars, seal tightly and place in a dark cool place for two weeks.

Mix sugar and water – heat and stir until dissolved. Let sit for an hour or so.

Drain lemon peels from the jars and mix with sugar water. Make a calculation a head of time in order to have on hand enough bottles to accommodate the new volumes.

Be patient and allow the bottled Linoncello to sit for a full month in a dark and cool place.

Store in the freezer and enjoy shots….I am looking forward to the fruits of my labors.

TTFN

Bishop.

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