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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

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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.

Strawberries for my Birthday

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This morning I woke up on the green side of the earth rather than the under side……That was a good thing and made even better with a handful of fresh picked strawberries – <strong>Yee Haw</strong> – the strawberry harvest has started. I picked a nice handful of red, ripe, sweet berries. Once in hand the self-talk started. Should I share them? Should I eat every one of them before I get into the house? A bit of a dilemma for me.

I didn’t share-(sorry Kathy) and I didn’t eat every one of them. The very best berries found their way into my mouth and several others started the frozen package being accumulated for the jam making later this spring. There is something so very special about berries picked at the peak of their flavor. That first berry I bit into caused a wonderful flood of true strawberry flavor and my mouth was overjoyed.

A handful of Birthday Berries for me!

A handful of Birthday Berries for me!

A healthy berry bed....more berries on the way!

A healthy berry bed….more berries on the way!

While wandering through the garden on this beautiful birthday morning I found a few early stalks of asparagus….Not enough to save for anyone other than the birthday boy. If you have never had asparagus picked and savored the freshest, you are missing the sweetness that is missing from commercially farmed and shipped from who knows where asparagus.

My lemon tree is showing signs of blossoming soon. I can’t think of a flower blossom that is any more intoxicating than that of citrus. It is amazing how some scents and aromas can cause flashback memories. When my lemon tree blooms I am always transported to a late night motorcycle ride from UCLA down Sunset Blvd., to Will Rogers beach. That cool night ride took us through what used to be extensive citrus orchards before the land was converted to homes and estates. Fortunately many of the home owners kept the citrus trees, helping to fill the air the night with that intoxicating citrus blossom scent…..I said <strong>intoxicating</strong> before didn’t I! Let me dive into the Thesaurus! Intoxicating is a good word for the scent filled night air but…..there could be a stronger word or something better able to convey the sweet olfactory assault that created the enduring memory!

How about “enthralling” – no, doesn’t capture the feeling/memory/brain recalled sensation. “stimulating” – not quite strong enough either. “Enchanting” – close. “ Exhilarating” – needs a little more to meet up with the sensations and emotions connected to the sensory memory . I’ll have to wave the white flag and give up on finding the perfect word….I will take any suggestions – English majors preferred! Just trust me…..it was an amazing memory.

The garden is shaping up nicely; onions, strawberries, snap peas, asparagus, beets, turnips and yes, tomatoes are in the ground and putting down roots. I’m another day older and the garden is entering the new growing season….It may sound trite but I feel renewed….not older – just entering a new phase…. TTFN Bishop

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