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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For week of Dec. 10:
Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!
* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.
* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.
* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.
* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.
* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.
* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.
* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.
* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.
* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.
* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.
* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.
* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.
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