Monday, October 27, 2014

Preserving Lemons

It is hard to believe that winter is just around the corner!  With all the glorious colors of fall all around us, every leaf that is falling to the ground appears to be whispering quietly as it falls... winter is coming, winter is coming!  Each season passes far too quickly here.... except for winter!  Winter just hangs around forever and ever... and then it never seems to fail that a dose of the cold or the flu seems to make its rounds.

One thing that I've always used to help fight back against colds is hot tea with a dollop of honey and a squeeze of lemon juice or perhaps apple cider vinegar, just depending on what is on hand.  It is not often in the winter that I stock lemons, and so when I saw this recipe for preserved lemons, I immediately placed lemons on my grocery list for the week, and intended to try this out.  This way, I'll ALWAYS have lemons on hand, ready for that cup of hot tea in a jiffy!

I found the recipe for the Preserved Lemons from Shaye Elliot's book "From Scratch" (which, by the way, is an amazing book!).  Here's how I made them...

First off, you want to scrub the lemon skin really well, because you will be preserving the entire lemon. It is best if you can use organic lemons.  I couldn't find any organic lemons in my local market, so I went with what I could find.

Take the lemons, and slice them up, and then quarter each slice.  Place the lemons in a bowl.

Add 3 Tbsp sea salt, 3 cinnamon sticks, and a pinch of whole cloves.

Now comes the fun part.  Take your lemons, and add them to a clean quart-size jar.  Pack the lemon mixture in tightly, pressing down with a spoon to squeeze out as much  juice from them as possible.

Here you can see the juices being released from the lemons.

You will need the juice from an additional 2-3 lemons poured over the lemons in order to completely cover the lemons in juice.  Leave at least 1-inch of head space to allow for expansion during fermentation.

Once you have the lemons compacted as tightly as possible, and covered in lemon juice, screw the lid on the jar and set on your counter.  Once a day, turn the jar upside down, and back upright again to move things around a bit.  Let it sit on your counter for about two weeks until the lemons have fermented and are bubbly.

After the lemons have fermented, transfer the jar to the refrigerator.  Now your preserved lemons can be used in any recipe calling for lemon juice, zest or peel... and for sure in that wonderful steaming mug of hot lemon tea!

I am waiting for my lemons to finish fermenting, and can't wait for my very first cup of hot lemon tea :)

If you would like to print off the recipe for the lemon preserves, here it is:

Lemon Preserves 

7 organic lemons (divided)
3 Tbsp sea salt
3 cinnamon sticks (optional)
Pinch of cloves (optional)

Cut 5 lemons into thin slices, and then quarter the slices and transfer to bowl.  Add in the sea salt, cinnamon and cloves.  Stir to mix together.  Scoop lemons into a clean wide-mouth quart-size jar. Smooch the lemons down with a spoon to release the juices.  Keep squishing until all the lemons fit. Squeeze the remaining lemons to release their juice.  Pour the juice over the lemons just enough to cover the lemons, leaving 1" head space to allow for fermentation.  Screw the lid on the jar.  Allow the jar to sit on your counter for about two weeks, turning upside down, and upright again once a day. Once fermentation takes place, the lemons will look bubbly.  After fermentation, transfer the jar of lemons to your refrigerator and use in any recipe calling for lemon juice, zest, or peel...  or in a cup of hot honey lemon tea!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Glorious Golden Tamaracks

This time of year the tamaracks (also commonly known as larch) are turning glorious shades of orange-yellow, and they make a remarkably incredible display of color throughout the mountains.  This past weekend, the tamaracks were at their height in color, as shortly after they turn orange, then they begin to lose their leaves, so there is a somewhat short window to see the color of the tamaracks in the mountains.

So this past Saturday, we got up early and took a short one-day road trip across a couple of local mountain passes to see the golden tamaracks in all their glory.

The sky was overcast, grey, and hanging low as we left.  The weather man promised that the sun was going to break through, so we believed him, and started on our journey, hoping the clouds would break as the day continued.

Even though the skies were overhanging with gray clouds, the color of the shrubs and trees still served to brighten the view as we drove.

Of course, since it was a drive, my husband promised he would stop to let me take pictures, but obviously he couldn't stop every time I saw a photo opportunity.. so bear with the telephone wires :D

The skies were gray and overcast as we continued our drive.  I kept hoping that the weatherman might be right... but right now, it didn't look like it!

As we drove along though, we began to see the fog and clouds lifting off the distant mountains, and hope began to rise in our hearts that the sun indeed was trying to shine!

We stopped at a pull-over area along the river to get some pictures.  The sun had not made much progress, but the view was still gorgeous.

As we headed up the mountain pass, the tamarack trees really were at their peak of glory, showcasing their lovely golden feathery limbs throughout the mountainside.

We came to a little mountain lake.  There was a nature trail open to hike around the lake, so we got out to stretch our legs and hike around the lake.  It was lightly misting rain up here, and the sun looked farther away than ever :(   But!  The hike around the lake was just a short one, and perfect for us.

We were excited to see that a warming hut had been placed on this lake, and that we got to explore it.

It was a very cute, cozy and fully functional cabin area!  Someone had split and stacked  a bunch of wood that was on the front porch.

There was a picnic table, and a lovely bench outside the cabin.

One side of the front porch were chairs to sit on.

On the other side was all the firewood.

Inside the cabin, which was very nicely built, were all the basic necessities one might need to warm up around the fire should the weather warrant it.  

Some wooden chairs were placed around the room, and the wood stove sat on a concrete slab.  All windows were able to be closed from the inside with the wooden doors.

Annie immediately made her way to the woodpile.  There was a sign on the door about leaving rodents alone, and not trying to touch or catch them.  Evidently the rodents were in this woodpile, and Annie was determined to flush them out.

We never saw whatever it was that Annie knew was there, and that was just fine by me!

Great wood stove with an area for cooking on top of it.

This was the view from the cabin looking toward the lake.

It was just lovely.  It would have been so nice if the sun had welcomed us, but even though there was no sunshine, it was still a beautiful scene.

A picture of the cabin closer to the lake looking back towards the cabin.

There was a woodshed just behind the cabin called "The Guide Wood Shed".

Even though we didn't start a fire, both my husband and son went to work splitting up some firewood, just for the fun of it :)

And every log cabin that is truly authentic should have an outhouse - although this outhouse was a very nice modern one, if there is such a thing!

Another closeup of the front porch - of which I just loved! There was a part of me that thought - could I live in a space this small?  It was small, very small, but I could just imagine how cute and cozy it would be with a few little touches here and there.  It got my husband thinking again about building a log cabin on our property...

As we walked back down the trail, Annie was not too happy about the cattleguard.  She went over it, but very reluctantly!

As we finished our hike, we noticed someone out on the lake fishing in a little boat.

The trail was covered in soft pine needles, and was just beautiful for a hike.  There is something about hiking in the woods, even on a rather cool, misty day like today that is just really invigorating!

We continued on across the mountain, and it wasn't long before we came to another sign announcing waterfalls ahead.  Of course, we pulled over and jumped out to see.

The falls were magnificent!  The color of the trees and shrubs surrounding them, along with the splashing droplets of icy water, was simply thrilling!

Our son immediately spotted the "downward" path, and off he went.  I looked at the path, and declined. Since it was misting rain, I didn't feel like taking a slide because of the steepness of the path, and the slippery rocks.

But I did choose to walk another path around the falls that was not downhill, and gave us a closer view of the falls.

It was just a beautiful place, and we explored as much of it as we could without being prepared to hike further than just a short hike around the falls.

Here is my son making his way back up the slope.  On his hands and knees - not for me! (at least not today!)

You can see how steep the cliffs are surrounding the falls.  We carefully stayed a distance away from the edges of the cliffs, even though the path took you right up to the edge.  With the misting rain, we didn't want to take any chances!

Oh, it was so beautiful! I would like to come back here, and bring a picnic lunch, and just explore - when the weather is better!  

Truly magnificent! We were very glad we stopped!

As we continued on our trip across the mountains, we did begin to see more blue sky as we climbed over the top of the pass, and began to pass down the other side - yeah!

Oh it 'twas lovely to see the sun peeking out from behind the clouds!

We came to a little town with some quaint and lovely little shops and stores.  After first stopping to eat - since it was quite close to 4:00 in the afternoon and our bellies were rumbling - we continued on through the town, and chose to stop at this quaint little antique/grocery store with this beautiful array of pumpkins outside. I was hoping to snag a few pie pumpkins to can.  To our dismay, the lady told us that they had a huge event earlier in the day making fresh homemade apple cider, and that all of their pie pumpkins had also sold out :(  Well, that was too bad, but we enjoyed perusing around the little store anyway.

There were lovely views all around, including this old tractor nestled up against an old wooden fence with the mountains as a backdrop.

This side of the little store showcased flowing green valleys with rich farmland, and tall mountains backing them up.  With the color of the tamaracks, trees and shrubs, it was a beautiful sight to see.

We continued on our journey.  Soon we turned off to cross the next mountain pass.

As we began to climb, the clouds had rolled back in - such is often the case with mountains!

You could see the snow markers along the road as we drove.  These markers help the snowplow drivers in the winter know where the edges of the road are, and how deep the snow is.

We climbed to a little over 4000 feet and at the top of the summit, we saw the ski resort ahead.

I can just imagine how those hills look when they are snow covered! It won't be long now before the snow will be falling, and the skiing season will be ramping itself up!  We promised ourselves that we would try to get back over here this year and ski for a day.  It was so beautiful.

This was the bottom of the ski lift, looking up to - no doubt - the beginners hill.

We began our descent down the pass, just as it was getting dark.

We saw some beautiful clouds forming as the sun was setting over the horizon.

It had turned out to be a lovely day, even if the sun didn't fully cooperate!

We enjoyed the last lovely rays of sunshine as we traveled down the mountain.  What a fun day it had turned out to be for our little family as we enjoyed the time together, visiting, laughing, and just having a wonderful family trip together.  Our kids are getting older, and have more things on their schedules, and it is hard to get everyone together, even with our little family, to do something like this.  So this made the day even more special that we were all able to be together, to enjoy each other, and the beauty of God's creation!