Citrus Celebration

Every year our gardens succeed. Not always in the way we imagine. This year along the Gulf Coast, citrus trees are producing a bumper crop of delectably succulent fruit. Lemons, Oranges, and Grapefruits can be seen covering the trees and the ground. As a citrus tree owner, a high yield can be overwhelming. Especially, when a generous portion of the harvest ripens all at once. Rather than simply giving fruit away, create a wonderful basket of homegrown gifts that will surely delight friends and family this holiday season. Let's make this year a Citrus Celebration.

Homemade gifts from the garden. Homemade gifts from the garden.

During the hot months of August, September, and early October, Texas had a reprieve from the rains and became dangerously close to a drought. Dry conditions can lead to splendid tasting citrus if it occurs at the right time of the season. When moderate water deficits are experienced in late summer to early autumn, the tree stops growing and assigns its energy to the fruit. Thus, the citrus will convert more acids to sugar and less water means a more concentrated flavor. Yum. Here are a few easy ideas to help preserve this year's delicious citrus harvest and amaze your friends with homegrown gifts from the garden. *When canning or preserving, sterilization is important. Some people I know use a dishwasher with the heated dry cycle. I use a large pot and boil all my tools and jars for 10 minutes and leave to dry completely.

Preserved Lemons
Preserved Lemons with herbs from the garden.
Preserved Lemons with garden herbs

The recipe varies depending on the size of the jar. Basic recipe for 1 jar, 16 ounces -Wash 3-4 medium size lemons or 1-2 large (however many will fit inside the jar) -1 1/2 cups Freshly squeezed juice from extra lemons -1/4 cup coarse sea salt -Boil a bottle of spring water and let cool -Herbs from the garden: Bay, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Coriander Seeds, Dill Seed, Peppers- such as chili pequin, cayenne, jalapeño or whatever your preference. I used Bay, Rosemary, Thyme, Peppercorns, Coriander Seeds and Chili Pequin.

1. Slice lemon in quarters but not all the way through.


2. Pack lemons with salt and place in jar

Salting lemon for preserving @ the botanical          

3. Once the jar is packed with lemons, salt, and herbs, pour in lemon juice. The liquid must cover the contents. If you do not have enough juice, spoon in boiled spring water to fill jar slightly below the rim.

4. Label the jar with the date. Leave in a cool, dark spot for 2 to 3 weeks. The outside peel will soften and is edible. Good for up to a year. May add additional lemon juice as liquid level drops. Be sure to use clean utensils when handling. If a lacy white substance clings to lemons, do not worry it is normal and can be rinsed off prior to using. The savory concentrated lemon flavor is outstanding in any recipe that calls for lemons, such as marinades, soups, salad dressing, fish, avocado, stir fry, hummus, bloody marys and more. My favorite is sliced avocado on toast with a tsp of the lemon liquid drizzled over the top.

Citrus Flavored Vodkas 
Flavored Vodka
Grapefruit, Lemon, & Pomegranate

Many fruits and herbs can be preserved in alcohol, also known as an infusion.  Crafted cocktails may not be for everyone on your gift list, however, the added benefit of citrus infusions is their use as flavoring agents in cooking or baking. Ever heard of Lemon Poppyseed Cake or Cranberry Orange Cookies, the flavoring comes from a concentrated alcohol extract that you can create without much effort.

Lemon or Orange Vodka is the easiest to make. Zest 1 lemon or orange per 16-ounce bottle. Fill with a mild tasting Vodka, like Titos, Absolute, or Ketel One... Leave in a cool, dark place for 2 to 3 weeks. Shake daily to distribute flavor. Use to craft cocktails or decant into smaller 4-ounce bottles as flavoring extracts.

Grapefruit Vodka takes a little more preparation. Thinly slice a pink or red grapefruit (fruit and peel) and place in a wide-mouth jar. Cover contents with a mild tasting Vodka. Leave in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks. Shake Daily to distribute flavor. Finally, decant liquid through a fine strainer into sterilized bottles. Makes a great Greyhound with fresh squeezed grapefruit.

Homegrown Greyhound Cocktail

Homegrown Greyhound Cocktail

There are many recipes that celebrate citrus, but the above delights are easy to prepare just in time for the holidays. If you make the above recipes and do not have time to wait for the infusion to finish, give the gift with a 'ready by' date on the bottle. Hope you enjoy. Happy Harvest! Happy Holidays!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published