A Freeze Update
So the “Polar Vortex” is “coming back again” this week so I thought it would be perfect timing to discuss how the trees and the garden fared during the last one a few weeks ago. Here where we live, I believe the temperature got down to around 15°F for two nights. It makes me feel a little silly complaining about 15°F considering most of my family live in much colder areas of the country; but we are talking about little vulnerable citrus trees and greens here. Anyways, they (the plants) certainly didn’t appreciate it. With all of the blankets and lights, the citrus trees in the front that we planted recently all did fine with a little leaf damage at the stem ends. The lime tree though lost all of its leaves and many of the outer branches appear to be dead. We aren’t sure if it was due to the cold, since it is the least cold hardy, or if it was due to over watering right before the freeze. I think (and am hoping) that it will make a recovery and won’t completely die.
The annuals in the kitchen garden also took a big hit from the freeze. We lost all of the daikon, almost all of the mustard greens, the broccoli, and I think some of the other greens look very unhappy. To make up for it, we sliced up all of the daikon radishes and dehydrated them to preserve what we could though the greens weren’t salvageable at all. Thankfully, all of the onions, garlic, and all that weren’t fazed in the slightest as you would expect.
As for the lemon tree that we have been bragging a bit about, it did not do well either. I was a bit surprised how badly it was affected even after I put some sheets and Christmas lights on it. But honestly, I shouldn’t have. It just looked so healthy before. As a result, all of the lemons froze on the tree.
Processing the Lemon Harvest
Since all of the lemons froze, they basically become ticking time bombs just waiting to turn into blue moldy lemons. The signs of lemon freeze damage are soft spots on the lemons. These soft spots are where the flesh inside is pulling away from the skin.
Anyways we picked at least 3 five gallon buckets worth which all had to be processed pronto. I decided to make: lemon extract, dehydrated lemon peels, satsuma lemon marmalade with vanilla, and canned lemon juice. A very important step to not skip is to wash and scrub your lemons if you are going to do anything with the skins. If you are just going to juice them, don’t bother since this really adds time to a long process of juicing each one.
This is a super simple one. I simply peeled about 4 or 5 of the washed lemons and submerged the peels in vodka. Every couple days shake your jars to fully extract out all of the lemon-y goodness. I have heard that you can start using it within a month. As a bonus, I made a little bit of satsuma extract using the same process as before in preparation for making a King cake for Mardi Gras.
Dehydrated Lemon Peels
So at first I thought, yes I am going to juice AND peel all of these lemons to get a ton of lemon rind for the rest of the year. Ha, yeah right… you wouldn’t think peeling each one would add that much extra time, but it did. Anyways bitching aside, I did do quite a number to almost fill up our dehydrator. I set the temperature on a low setting, around 120°F for about 4 to 6 hours to dehydrate the peels. I found that this gave them a very crisp consistency and kept their bright yellow color nicely. When I left some out to dry by themselves, they seemed to lose some of that bright color though they seemed otherwise the same (this did take much much longer). A word of CAUTION. I didn’t try it, but I have a feeling grating your lemon peel out with a micro planer as you normally would fresh and then dehydrating will probably cause a big mess. I saw that the peels were pushed back away from the fan in the dehydrator when they were done processing. I can just imagine if I had fine grated rind, how they would have flown all over in the dehydrator.
Satsuma Lemon Marmalade with Vanilla
I made a small batch of marmalade which didn’t use that many lemons, but turned out to be very tasty. The recipe doesn’t call for vanilla, but I bought a whole bunch of vanilla beans last September for extract, so I figured why not. If you remember from my last marmalade post, I found that vanilla pairs quite well with lemons and oranges as seen in the Flavor Bible. Anyways the recipe I adapted is from Canning for a New Generation. This is one of my other favorite canning/preserving books that I always turn to when I want to make something, and she even has recipes using some of the preserves.
- ~4 lbs of satsumas, scrubbed
- Water or additional juice that would complement citrus
- 2 lemons, scrubbed
- ~1/3 to 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
- 3 cups of sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Peel the zest (not the white pith) from at least 3/4 of your satsumas and cut thinly into strips. This should give you about 11/2 cups of zest and if you really like chunky marmalade, I would go ahead and use the zest from all of the satsumas. Next segment your oranges over a bowl to collect any juice, add the segments to your preserving pan (6 to 8 quart, wide pot), and save the membranes separately as well as the seeds. (I am going to warn you, this is going to take some time, but hang in there. It is necessary so the marmalade does not become bitter with too much membrane in the final product.) Squeeze the rinds and membranes as you segment the oranges to get as much juice out of the satsumas as you can.
Measure out the saved juice (I had about 1 1/2 cups) and add additional water or juices to get 3 cups. I used lemon juice and a little mango and coconut juice that we had in the fridge since I figured why add water when you can add more flavor. Add the juice and the zest to your pot. Next segment your lemons in the same fashion, add them to the pot as well as your freshly squeezed lemon juice. Also now is a good time to add your vanilla bean and the seeds to your pot.
Make a bag of membranes and seeds in a jelly bag, layers of cheese cloth, or as I did, a couple layers of coffee filters tied into a ball with kitchen string. This will be your major source of pectin for this marmalade so I added some extra seeds from other lemons. Bring your pot to boil over high heat, then lower the temperature to simmer until the zest is tender, about 30 minutes. Squeeze the bag of seeds and membranes after this point in a strainer with a spoon over your pot to get as much liquid as you can.
Add the sugar and bring the pot back up to a boil over high heat. Boil the marmalade, stirring occasionally, until 220°F or until it sets. This was about 35 to 40 minutes.
Process by water bath canning for 5 minutes for 1/2 pint jars.
Yields 4 1/2 pints (the recipe calls for 6 so I am not sure about the discrepancy here)
Canned Lemon Juice
Ideally, many people can lemonade concentrate instead of lemon juice since that cuts some steps out of processing drinks later. Since we had so many lemons, this didn’t seem like a good idea to me, and this way I could use the juice for savory dishes and for making jams and things later in the year. I found a recipe that Jackie Clay recommends over at Backwoods Home Magazine that worked just great. As a side note, she is definitely my hero when it comes to all things canning and homesteading, highly recommend you check her out.
- Strain your lemon juice (if you like, at least get the seeds out)
- Bring the juice up to 165°F
- Fill your jars with the hot juice up to 1/4 inch head space
- Process for pints for 15 minutes using a water bath canner
All told, I believe I canned over 24 pints of lemon juice. Enough for lots of lemony things throughout the year I expect.
I saw a nice tip a little while back about saving your lemon seeds to use as a source of pectin for making jams and jellies at The Kitchn. All you have to do is save up your seeds and then add a few lemons worth to a jelly bag or coffee filter and throw it into your next batch of jam. I haven’t tried this with low pectin jams yet, but I saved what seems like a freezer quart bag full of them. I will let you know how they work out the next time I make a batch of jam.