Sunday, July 4, 2010

Of lemons, limes and figs

Well, one of my favourite sayings in times of distress is that when life gives you lemons, you have to make lemonade. Sometime I have even asked the universe, in a moment of sheer overwhelmed fatigue, if it could possibly stop sending lemons. Well yesterday I took the lemons by the horns. Gerry and I finally went to purchase the lemon and lime trees that I had ordered from Fruit Trees and More in Deep Cove (just south of the Schwartz Bay ferry terminal on Vancouver Island). Bob and Verna Duncan have made a tropical paradise of their relatively small plot, growing lemons, limes, oranges (in a greenhouse) and even a banana tree! Theirs is a effort of passion that shows just how much dedication and understanding can pay off. In the spring, I will pick up a bare root Cortland apple and a bare root Cox Orange Pippen to plant somewhere on this rocky lot. The Cortland is ultimately destined for cider but the orange pippen is an eater....and a gorgeous one at that.

We bought one 2 gallon Meyers lemon and a Bearss Lime (in the picture the lime is on the left, the lemon on the right and the fig up above). A confusion with my name (there was another Chris Martin who had ordered) and Verna thought I had also ordered a fig. Well after walking around their property and looking at the massive quantities of figs on their trees a little 1 gallon Desert King fig trees, complete with some small figs, also came home with us. Nice thing about the lemon and lime is that they will do just fine in large pots. The fig on the other hand will have to be planted then fenced to fend off the ravenous deer.

I learned from Bob that lemons flower constantly and that the tree sustains fruit in a variety of ripeness stages. The huge ripe lemons on one of his little (it was only about 4 feet high but abot 3 feet wide) trees were over a year old. I also learned that you can leave lemons on the tree until you need them and the tree will accomodate them quite nicely. Fantastic! Being that the tree is constantly flowering, it will be quite easy to supply our house, and probably a couple of others, with enough lemons each year. I have posted before about middle eastern preserved lemons, so those will definitely become a staple.

I don't know yet about the prolifieration of the limes, but that will be part of our journey in this self-sufficient lifestyle we have chosen.

As I sit here writing, the lids on the raspberry jelly are popping, the clouds have rolled in again (remind me what month this is) and two large liverwursts are boiling away. The chorizo from yesterday hangs in the kitchen perfuming (haha) the air with garlic and paprika. I think my grandmothers would be proud.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

On berries and sausages

It has certainly been a while since my last blog entry. A brutal work schedule for both Gerry and I has meant not as much time to pursue one of our passions, self sufficient living. With the start of decent weather and the official entry of summer we are back at it. This weekend has been one of berries, jams, and chorizo! The Cowichan Valley is a localvore paradise providing all we could ever want in the way of food, drink, and ideas.

Local strawberries and raspberries have been successfully made into jam....but today's experiment is our chorizo sausage. Gerry got the sausage stuffer attachment from his mom for Christmas and it has taken us this long to try it out.

Chorizo is an Argentinian dried sausage full of garlic, paprika and pepper. Drying the sausage concentrates the flavours and I have to thank Jocasta Innes for the recipe for this in her book "Notes from a Country Kitchen." I inherited this book from my dad and it is my favourite cookbook--in the depths of winter when nothing is growing and all is grey.

We purchased 4 lbs of cheap pork (nice and fatty) and 2 lbs of beef, ground them up through the Kitchenaid, made a marinade of red wine, garlic, salt, paprika, peppercorns, nutmeg and cloves. Mixing all this together it sits overnight in the fridge. Next day, soak some beef casings in water, changing twice to get rid of the salt and make the casing pliable.

Filling the casings is easy with the Kitchenaid. Once filled, tie them off in approximately 2 ft sections and hang in a warm place for a week to begin drying. After the first week, move to a cool dark place and use as necessary. The longer it hangs, the more potent the spices, and the drier the sausage. Might need some liquid when cooking if it gets really dry.

This is a fabulous tasting sausage.