Sunday, May 16, 2010

When the Front Walk Hands You Too Much Lemon Verbena...

make Lemon Verbena Jelly. Which is what I did this morning.

(Yes, it's been so long since I've posted that I nearly forgot my password.)

This spring I read a thought-provoking book called Radical Homemakers. I'd first seen it referred to in a New York Times article, and since have seen it popping up everywhere. The book, written by radical homemaker Shannon Hayes, looks at the history of homemaking, something shared equally by men and women historically, and how it devolved from making a home to making enough money to buy things we're convinced we need for our home. I have been very taken by the idea of our little household becoming more of a productive than consumptive unit.

Reading this book has dovetailed nicely with my current reading of Gone with the Wind, a mammoth tome my book club inexplicably chose this month. (Thank God for the Kindle, which weighs only 10 ounces, as the print book weighs more than Tommy.) I'm at the point where the South is going down and Scarlet is back at Tara and trying to feed her family. Without what the Yankees left in the garden -- and Scarlet blowing the head off of and robbing a soldier, but we'll forget that part for now -- the family would have starved. It gets a gal thinking.

So, taking baby steps, I've been looking for more ways for us to be self-sustaining and more wisely use what we have.

When I recently read a post from my favorite blogger about making violet jam from the violets peppering her lawn, I started eyeing our little yard. I'd spent a couple weekends earlier pulling up two wheelbarrows full of violet, intent on destroying them, not eating them. Again, gets you thinking.

Several years ago I got a tiny lemon verbena twig. Someone with a house on the way to the CVS we walk to twice a week used to have a perennial exchange; you'd leave little cups of perennials and pick up a couple. Since I picked up the innocent looking styrofoam cup of lemon verbena, it has become a near-nuisance, taking over any time I have my back turned. So last night Sylvie and I went out and picked a bunch, which didn't make a dent in the plants, and this morning I made lemon verbena jam.

I was worried the color might be a little blah, but my disorganized shopping took care of that. I ran out of white sugar and had to include a cup of sucanat sugar, which made the jelly a lovely honey color. Next time, I'll just plan to use a cup of sucanat.

The recipe I used came from Gifts from Your Kitchen. Here's all you do:

Lemon Verbena Jelly

2 packed cups chopped lemon verbena leaves
Large pieces of zest from 1 lemon (I just used a peeler to scrape off big pieces)
2-1/4 cups water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 cups sugar (3 white, 1 sucanat)
3 ounces liquid pectin (Certo)

Combine the lemon verbena, lemon zest and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and let this sit for several hours; I let it sit overnight because I got sleepy about an hour into it.

Strain the mixture (I did it through a coffee filter) into a big pot. Be sure to squeeze all the liquid from the leaves and zest. Add the sugar and lemon juice, bring to a boil. Add the pectin and bring to another boil; boil for two minutes. Now take off the heat, skim any foam, put in canning jars, and seal. (This link tells how.) If the idea of actually canning makes you woozy, you can just freeze the jars. I don't, since my freezer is full of beef and popsicles, and I love that *THINK* sound the jars make when the lids seal.

This made about five 8-ounce jars.

The taste is really pretty and subtle; I'm thinking scones and chicken glazes.

Lavender bushes that are taking over and I haven't had the heart to cut back, don't think I don't see you...

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Anonymous Cari said...

And here I've been composting all the lemon verbena because it's trying to eat my allium bed! I'll definitely give this recipe a try.

10:20 AM  
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8:35 PM  

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