Archive for February, 2014

Making Lemon Curd from Your Ponderosa Lemons

What a champ, just 22" tall and two lemons!

What a champ, just 22″ tall and two lemons!

I love my little Ponderosa Lemon Tree.  The year before last it came in from its summer on the patio with a near terminal case of scale and I thought I would lose it, but it has recovered and this year has borne me two lemons instead of the customary one.   I have plenty of jams left from the summer and decided to make Lemon Curd with my bounty instead of the marmalade I usually make.  [I have previously posted the directions for Ponderosa Lemon Marmalade here .]  I first encountered Lemon Curd on a birding trip to the Cornwall area of England.  It is a delightful sweet/tart custard-like topping for a hot scone or muffin, but my favorite way to use it is as a filling between the layers of a lemon cake, with a dollop on the top.

My husband gave this four stars.

My husband gave this four stars.

I first turned to the internet to search for a recipe and found a vast variety to choose from.  Upon analysis, most had the same ingredients in common although in varying amounts.  The constants are lemon juice, butter, eggs, sugar and zest.  I decided that the determining factor was the amount of juice I had to start with, so I  first removed all the zest and then juiced the lemons.

Nearly six inches long

Nearly six inches long

IMG_1856

The lemon is big but they have a surprisingly small fruit cavity.  Trimming off the white pith makes squeezing easier.

Just shy of a cup of juice and all this zest.  I froze the rest of the zest for future use.

Just shy of a cup of juice and all this zest. I froze the rest of the zest for future use.

I was just shy of one cup of juice so I added about two tablespoons of regular lemon juice to make a cup.  The sugar amount in the recipes varied from three cups to one and a half.  I don’t like things too sweet, but Lemon Curd is often made with Meyer Lemons which are sweeter, so I thought that two cups would be about right, a 2:1 ratio.  For the eggs (varying from six to eight), I chose to use only four whole eggs.  Some of the recipes also used yolks but I never seem to use the leftover whites, so I just opted for whole eggs.  For butter, the recipes varied from eight to sixteen tablespoons, so I chose eight.  My lemons gave me a magnificent bowlful of zest, but the recipes all called for paltry amounts (1/2 tsp, etc.).  I threw caution to the winds and added a quarter cup, tightly packed.  To temper the sweetness I also added a scant pinch of salt.  Here is the recipe I came up with:

Ponderosa Lemon Curd

  • 1 C. Ponderosa Lemon juice

    I located my long unused double boiler to cook the mixture.

    I located my long unused double boiler to cook the mixture.

  • 2 C. sugar
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 C. zest
  • scant pinch of salt

Ina Garten’s recipe called for pulsing the sugar with the zest first, so I did that and added it into the butter which I had previously creamed.  Add eggs, one at a time beating between each.  Finally add the lemon juice and salt, beating well.  Heat, stirring constantly until it reaches 170º F, remove from heat and store in the refrigerator.  I canned mine, but will still keep it in the refrigerator (the eggs).  If you have it in an open bowl, lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top so it won’t form a skin.  I used an instant read thermometer to keep and eye on the temperature, but if you don’t have one, it is ready when your finger leaves a track on the back of the stirrer.  Do not let it boil.

It took about 20 minutes to reach 170º

It took about 20 minutes to reach 170º

At 170º my finger left a track that didn't fill in.

At 170º my finger left a track that didn’t fill in.

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Winter Birding on Long Island Sound

All eyes are on the water as we go out on our census

All eyes are on the water as we go out on our census

In an effort to help with a census of winter birds on Long Island Sound (an effort championed by the Scientific Committee of the Connecticut Ornithological Association) I went out three times during the month of December.  A reliable, comprehensive census of our winter bird population in these areas, inaccessible without a boat, hasn’t been done in recent memory, if at all.  The recent influx of more northern birds such as Murres, Dovekies and Razorbills highlights the need for this data collection.

Faulkner's Island with Goose Rocks in the foreground.

Faulkner’s Island with Goose Rocks in the foreground.

Those of us without winter-worthy boats still have a couple of choices to get out there on the water to bird.  There is a ferry from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Port Jefferson, Long Island and one from New London, Connecticut to Orient Point, Long Island.  You can buy a walk on round trip ticket on either ferry for around $27.00 and get a cheap pelagic experience.  Go with a group of like minded friends, dress warmly, and it’s a really fun filled morning.  On a trip just before Christmas, friends and I had at least 75 Northern Gannets, many performing for us with their spectacular plunge dives.  Another alternative is to charter a lobster boat.  I went along on one of these trips with some serious birding friends visiting areas where bird censusing had never been reported.   We went to Goose Rocks, Faulkner’s Island and the Thimble Islands, a total of 31 miles.  The data from the counts, submitted by many participants from New York and Connecticut are now being analyzed.

The boat ride wasn't quite enough and we went looking for unusual gulls.  We had just the usual suspects this time although this spot (Circle Beach in Madison, Connecticut) is a noted hot spot for them.

The boat ride wasn’t quite enough and we went looking for unusual gulls. We had just the usual suspects this time although this spot (Circle Beach in Madison, Connecticut) is a noted hot spot for them.

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More on Hyacinth Forcing

Once the buds get to this stage, move them to a cool place with indirect light.

Once the buds get to this stage, move them to a cool place with indirect light.

As an addendum to my last post, I want to add these additional hints.  My bulbs were in the bright, sunny windowsill for a week and the buds have risen so they show in the leaf cluster.  If I leave them in the warmth and sunshine, they will get leggy and the weight of the flower will make them flop over.  I now move them to the window in front of the kitchen sink.  There they will be cool as this window gets no direct sunlight and is on the north side of the house.  The bonus is that I can see them close up when I am working at the sink.

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Bring Spring In Early

It doesn't look like much now, but just you wait...

It doesn’t look like much now, but just you wait…

The very first thing I did the morning after we returned from Florida a week ago was to take my Hyacinth bulbs out of the refrigerator and bring some of the Amaryllis that had been resting in the basement up into my sunlit window.  I had already put the Hyacinth bulbs into the old forcing vases I have collected over the years before we left, and I had the Amaryllis all potted up.  Warmth and light will be all they need to burst into bloom in a few weeks.  This will cheer us up through March and early April when it will seem as if spring will never come.

One of the Amaryllis buds is already poking out.

One of the Amaryllis buds is already poking out.

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Growing Lettuce in Cold Weather, Part 2

Lettuce under the snow.

Lettuce under the snow.

In my post of 11/9/13 I worried that I had planted my lettuce in the cold frame so late that it was probably hopeless that they would survive.  Add to that the fact that we have been in Florida for a month and the little dears had no protection from the bitter cold we have experienced here in CT, other than the plastic cover.  We returned this weekend and I went out to the garden, fully expecting to see lettuce corpses, but no!  They look beautiful and healthy.  The temperatures here huddled in the single digits for much of the month so I am amazed to see the lettuce, but perhaps there was snow cover that protected them.  They aren’t very big, but they’ll grow some more when it warms up.

I'll clear off the snow when the sun comes out, but for now, they are safe at right about freezing temperature.

I’ll clear off the snow when the sun comes out, but for now, they are safe at right about freezing temperature.  (Those white streaks are snowflakes.)

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