Ripe limes, lemons become breakfast treat -- no canning required
Lime marmalade is a delicious topping for a toasted crumpet or any breakfast bread. (Yes, that's a ripe lime in the background.)
When the fruit starts picking itself, it's time to harvest -- and use -- the rest of the crop.
My little lime tree had been shedding the rest of its very ripe fruit this past week, and I had to figure out how to preserve it quickly. I didn't want to juice all the limes -- no telling when I'd get around to using that.
Then I remembered a small-batch marmalade recipe I'd made several years ago. It called for Meyer lemons and blood oranges. Surely it would work for my ripe (yellow) limes.
The beauty of this recipe is that it's strictly refrigerator preserving. No water-bath canning required. I'm an experienced tomato canner, but that's a huge, several-day event in summer. I had nowhere near enough limes for that kind of production.
I've also had little success canning jam in the past. I didn't trust it to gel so I overcooked it, turning it into a sugary glob that could rival gumdrops in texture. I finally decided to leave the jam canning to others: I have a couple good friends (including Debbie) who are excellent jam and jelly makers.
This recipe, adapted from Melissa Clark's in the New York Times, makes about 2-1/2 cups of lovely, just-tart-enough marmalade. To the second batch I added one Meyer lemon, which gave it a slightly more complex flavor. So use what you have.
Citrus contains natural pectin, so water and sugar are the only other ingredients you need. Employ a heavy, non-stick pan and a good spatula, and use the plate test. (More on that below.)
Small-batch refrigerator lime marmalade
Makes 2-1/2 cups
5 medium limes, or 4 limes and 1 Meyer lemon (or whatever citrus you have)
1-1/4 cups or less granulated sugar (superfine works well if you have it)
1-1/4 cups or less turbinado (raw) sugar
2-1/2 cups or less water
Place a few saucers or small plates in the freezer. Wash the citrus fruit well, and trim off the very ends. Cut each fruit in half, and cut each half into 1/8-inch slices, removing the center membrane.
Measure the fruit: This is crucial. If you have 2-1/2 cups, you're set. If not, add another lime or lemon to make 2-1/2, OR just use what you have, but adjust the amount of water and sugar to match. Example: 2 cups fruit, 2 cups water, 1 cup each of the sugars.
Put the fruit in a heavy-bottom pot and add the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, sitrring occasionally, until the rinds are soft and fully cooked.
Then stir in the sugar and bring the mixture back to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium or less (depending on your stovetop) to achieve a consistent simmer.
Let the mixture simmer at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, before you start testing it. To test, remove one of those plates from the freezer and drop a half-spoonful or so of the hot liquid onto the plate. Let it sit for a few seconds, then tilt the plate up. If it runs, it's not ready.
Keep cooking and testing the mixture as it starts to thicken, stirring fairly often, and scraping down the sides of the pot. The marmalade could take anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes more to "set," in other words, to become soft and spreadable but not runny. The pot is hot, so the marmalade will be more liquidy there than on the plate -- trust the test. (Another tip: Look at your spatula out of the pot. If it's starting to set there, the marmalade's close to ready.) If you use a candy thermometer to test, the hot mixture should reach 222 degrees.
Remove the pot from the heat and allow the marmalade to cool to almost room
temperature before transferring it to clean jars or freezer-safe containers.
It will keep in the refrigerator about a month and at least 3 months in the freezer.
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Dig In: Garden Checklist
For week of March 26:
Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:
* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.
* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.
* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.
* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.
* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.
* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.
* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.
To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.
* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.
* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.
* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.
* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.
* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.
* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.
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