Still Life, With Cats

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Sunlight in a jar

It is that time of year, where the Meyer lemon shrub in the backyard tries to take over the world, and I do my best to call its bluff. And what better way to clear out half a dozen lemons than a double batch of lemon curd?

Curd is one of those things that is easy to make, as long as you are paying attention, because you’re dealing with eggs and if you wander off and leave it alone, you get lemon-flavored egg scramble. It needs to be cooked low and slow, and you need to stir it constantly the entire time (it’s a lot like gravy in that regard). But if you are patient and follow the steps, you end up with a lovely thing at the end.

This is the same recipe I have used ever since I first made curd, back when we moved into this house in 2007. It’s half a cup of lemon juice, 2 eggs, zest from a couple lemons (it usually takes about 3 lemons), 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks. You whisk everything but the butter together in a metal bowl until it’s blended, then put the bowl on top of a pot of simmering water, add in the butter, and start whisking non-stop. Eventually, if you did it right, the mixture should start to thicken, and start to turn a lovely bright yellow. That’s when you pull it off the heat, and then run it through a fine sieve, because no matter what you did, there’s probably some tiny bits of cooked egg lurking in there, plus that will also filter out some of the zest, which is no longer needed.

I’ve tried actually canning lemon curd in the past (following approved recipes) but it doesn’t turn out as nice after the hot water processing, so instead I just freeze mine in batches, so that throughout the year, I can pull out out whenever I need it.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.


The blackberry vines we planted last year are currently going crazy. Basically, they have spent the last twelve months going from two puny little stalks to doing their level best to take down the fence between us and the next door neighbors. The vines have been covered in flowers, and berries are popping out all over. Only recently, however, have some of them been ripe enough to pick, although admittedly it’s taking us a little while to figure out exactly when that might be. My excuse is that I think berries are horrid, nasty tasting things full of seeds, but Richard loves the little suckers, so I’d have thought at least one of us would be better prepared to distinguish a ripe berry from a not-quite-ripe one. Ah well.

Anyway. Aside from the random strawberry or three every few days, so far the only thing coming out of our garden right now is blackberries. Lots and lots of blackberries. Last night, we picked a great mound of them – big, fat berries that stained our fingers red. So what does one do with a giant pile of blackberries? Do you really have to ask that question? Obviously, I had to make jam.

Time between when they were picked off the vines and when the jars were pulled out of the boiling water bath to cool on the counter – just about two hours. Richard licked the spoon when I was done filling the jars and pronounced it delicious. I did not share his opinion, but that has more to do with the fact that I cannot stand the vile little fruits than any actual commentary on the state of the jam itself.

There are still oodles more of them on the vines, so it’s pretty obvious that we’re going to be dealing with large quantities of blackberries in the near future. I’m looking forward to giving other recipes a try – perhaps some blackberry syrup, or blackberry jelly, or even (if they get too out of hand) squeezing some of them down to juice and using them to dye some yarn (several kitchen towels are now sporting spots of the most beautiful blue).


Well. NaBloPomo went well, hmm? Or…not. On to Holidailies, then. We’ll see if this goes any better.

Every year I try to make pomegranate jelly. Pomegranates are usually insanely expensive in the stores, which is especially galling considering how well they grow around here, so I usually try to find someone with a tree who wants to get rid of them (it always surprises me how many people have pomegranate trees but don’t like pomegranates). For the last few years, I’ve gotten pomegranates from a friend of my mom’s. She passes along a bag of fruit, and I pass back a few jars of jelly in payment once I’m done processing them. She gets rid of her pomegranates; I get to make jelly, and we’re all happy.

This year Richard and I went out to their house to pick them ourselves, since the trees had gotten a bit huge. We were a bit unprepared for the sheer scope of what we were dealing with. In the past we’ve been given a paper sack or two, with enough pomegranates for just a few batches of jelly. This time, however, we were faced with two huge trees, loaded with pomegranates – some of them of massive size. And they really wanted us to take them all.

This is what we came home with:

That is 107 pomegranates. Do you have any idea how long it takes to shuck 107 pomegranates?

So far I have made 3 batches of pomegranate jelly, 1 batch of pomegranate syrup, and 1 batch of grenadine. I had no idea grenadine was made from pomegranates, but then I am not a drinker, and before this past month I had never actually had a Shirley Temple.

There are still about 1 1/2 dozen pomegranates sitting on my kitchen island, waiting to be shucked, but I am so heartily sick of shucking pomegranates that I admit sometimes I try to pretend I just do not see them. Maybe if I leave them there long enough the magical elves will come along and shuck them for me. Or maybe I’ll just get tired of Rupert and Ingrid flinging the smaller ones onto the floor and finally deal with them myself.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies