The past few months have been for me an experiment on change and perseverance. I’ve tried to learn when to let things go, and when to fight for what I need. I’ve faced having to give up a job I really enjoyed for one that would make more money, and deciding how to let go of that job for what could be “the” career opportunity I’ve really never quite had. I’ve faced almost getting kicked out of a school program, but ultimately passing classes by studying more than I ever have before in my life (except for taking the GRE – whew!). I’ve experienced minor but persistent illness, periods of utter despondency and repeated loss of motivation.
Through this, I’ve relied a lot on my husband of six months (as of Saturday), with whom I’ve now spent four years of my life with. It also helped to have the love and advice of two wonderful parents, the best kid brother anyone could ask for, great friends and extended family. I don’t mind admitting that I found another source of comfort in learning to let go. Although I take pride in finding a way to accomplish any kitchen task I set my mind to, sometimes it’s practical to admit that someone else has already perfected it, and it’s worth it to purchase what you need. Case in point: chicken broth – sure, I’ve made it, but was it really worth it? Not for me. Bread is another one – bread-making can be great fun, relaxing, and leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. Yet there are over a dozen delicious loaves I can pick up from local bakeries at the grocery store, and it’s much easier when making bread seems more than a chore than like fun.
What is almost always worth it to me? Jams and pickles. I make refrigerator pickles, meaning that I make a hot brine and pour it over fresh or blanched veggies. It’s easy because just a few small changes in spices can make for tasty new pickles. I find fresh, homemade jams to taste better than the jarred stuff, with only a few exceptions. When I made jam from Concord grapes last summer, it was a revelation.
This year I was lucky enough to get a bunch of Meyer lemons from an acquaintance of mine, and I couldn’t think of just the right thing to do with them, so I finally decided to preserve them. Recipes for marmalade I often found very involved and had so many steps, I almost gave up. Instead, I decided to simplify. Forget separating pith and peel from fruit and boiling in changes of fresh water, and so forth. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter and more floral than regular Eureka lemons, so if you like a somewhat bitter marmalade, it’s best to just go the simpler route of putting it all in together. Plus, tiny slices of lemon look excellent suspended in the yellow jam.
Easy Meyer Lemonade (makes about 6 c.)
- 3 lbs. Meyer lemons
- 5 c. water
- 5 c. sugar
- Wash lemons and cut them into tiny slices. I did it this way: halve lemons lengthwise, then each half lengthwise again. Cut each quarter crosswise in 1/8″ – 1/4″ inch slices. Seeds will essentially come loose from the flesh of lemon as you proceed. It might be useful to cut on a cutting board with a channel to catch the lemon juice that will be produced.
- Place all lemon slices and collected juice in a large pot or dutch oven. Measure out water in cups until they just cover the lemons. Add an equal amount of sugar to the pot. I needed 5 cups of water to cover the lemons (and thus added 5 cups of sugar) – your mileage may vary.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, lower heat, and simmer until the mixture gels. Recipes I read suggested a temperature of about 220F, but I still used the “wrinkle test.” Basically, you take a spoonful of jam and place it on a plate in the freezer. After a few moments to let it cool, push the pool of jam with the tip of your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s ready to be jarred.