Thursday, June 9, 2016

Orange you glad it's Summer?

I was born and raised in California, the land of citrus, and I had no idea there are orange trees that produce a crop in early summer. Summer oranges? That's about as strange as a homegrown tomato in February. Simply preposterous!  

Our neighbor Steve has such an orange tree. He says he hates them, they're a pain, full of seeds and did we want them? Never being ones to turn down free food, Ernst went over and picked a bushel or two. I'm not really sure exactly what a bushel is, but if a bushel means a giant amount of produce that you can't believe just entered your life, we did indeed get a bushel or two. 

What's a person to do with so many oranges? First, and this is the easy part, we tasted them. Yes, they had more seeds than maybe the average person would prefer. But we are far from average and we kept eating. And eating and eating because these were the sweetest and juiciest oranges I've ever had in the middle of the beginning of summer. I dare say they are better than our oranges, but it may just be the excessive amount of Vitamin C in my body talking.

The enormous load of oranges made their way to the back patio where we could start dealing with them, Then Ernst picked another bushel or so, because by then he too was a bit loopy on Vitamin C. This was serious, it was hot, our patio was covered in citrus, oranges don't last forever and we had to start preserving these things. Here's what we did.

A very small portion of the very last of the bushels upon bushels.

I sliced them thin and dried them in the dehydrator.
They came out tasting like candy.
Yummy, orangey, chewy candy.
I have to limit myself to a small mountain of them each day.

We ate lots of this amazing Orange Olive Salad.
Looks weird, tastes great.

I whipped up some Orange Smoothies.
This had bananas, oranges, and a cucumber, with water.
It took me to the moon and back, all before 8 am.

We filled the fridge with orange juice for making Orange Cider for the California State Fair.
We sadly missed the deadline for the entrance fee.
Very sadly.
Tragically is not too strong a word.
We may have to drink Orange Cider to drown out our sorrows.

Having missed the deadline to submit our Orange Cider and Lemon Cider for judging at the California State Fair, I knew I had a mission ahead of me. Make Orange Jelly, and do it right. My goal is to better my performance of my Plum Jelly from last year's fair, no pressure of course. The jelly I had made from our oranges this January turned out too stiff and solid and the marmalade was just not that great. Here with these summer oranges, I was given another chance. I really took my time and measured the ingredients perfectly (well, is anything really ever perfectly perfect?).

The first batch turned out great, so I decided to do a second version with oranges and lemons. That one's even better. But we still had oranges left, and by then I was on a roll with this whole canning process, so I made some orange marmalade too. I cut off the rind, leaving the white pithy stuff out. I sliced the rind up into really uniform slivers, like I was on a cooking show. Then I came up with my secret weapon, my most amazing technique, like I was some sort of marmalade expert and this wasn't only the second batch of my whole life. It worked. It turned out yummy. I hope the judges agree. Maybe we can get them all liquored up first with Orange Cider. We've got bushels of it.
Lemon Orange Jelly

Secret Weapon Orange Marmalade!