When Life Gives you Lemons

Lemon Lavender Shrub on a  snow day

Lemon Lavender Shrub on a  snow day

We're pretty partial to San Juan Islands fruit - and love to labor with the good ol' stuff from island trees that have been producing fruit and sharing their bounty for over a century. But in the dark of winter, when the light tips beyond the solstice, we keep our hands busy with the citrus that accents all of our jams, organically sourced from California.

People often lament that we don't make a marmalade (we do, but not in the traditional sense -see Quince Marmalade.) It may sound silly to say it feels inauthentic to do so, in an era where local has multiple meanings (is the maker local? are the beans local?) but we count our blessings. We're blessed with legacy orchards, filled with luscious pears, apples, plums & quince. Not lemons. And yet what we do bring in to press for their perfect acidic antidote to sweet pomes, we want to make the most of. Enter our Lemon Lavender Shrub, hot off the copper pots. Island lavender meets bitter lemon oils from said lemon rinds & juice, organically sourced white wine vinegar, and fair trade organic cane sugar. The bitter/sweet/sourness is perfection for cocktails (French 75?) and refreshing spritzers. It captures winter in the south (lemons) & summer in the north (lavender), and reminds us that while we make throwback preserves and bow to the old dames, modern can be fun (and delicious) too! 

Just watching the late February snow melt away - I'm certain of it: cheers to spring! She's coming!

Marmalade Matrons: How to stay cozy this winter with quince

There is no fruit growing in this Land that is of so many excellent uses as this, serving as well to make many dishes of meate for the table, as for banquets, and much more for the Physicall vertues
— 1629, John Parkinson, the Covent Garden based herbarist to James I

As the rainy season descends upon us, and the darkness begins to outweigh the light, what could be more important on our sweet island than to stay cozy?  We can think of two enticing ways to enjoy these newly chilled evenings, and they both involve quince.

Originating in the birthplace of humanity, the fertile crescent, quince is an ancient fruit.  Spreading in popularity from Asia Minor to the balmy Mediterranean, it quickly became a favorite of the Greeks and the Romans. 

quince on platter

In the same family as apples and pears (genus Cydonia), and predating these popular cousins, quince was likely the fruit tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden and the gift Paris gave to the goddess of love herself, Aphrodite.  The Greek wedding gift of choice, young brides were said to have nibbled the fruit before they entered their marriage chamber to sweeten their kisses.

It's no wonder with its plump form and succulent smell that quince became associated with love and sensuality.  Or perhaps it is the soft down fuzz that covers its ripe flesh -- begging for petting and caressing.  Virtually inedible raw, Nigel Slater calls it, "the cooks fruit: one for the kitchen rather than the fruit bowl...".  (Ripe, p, 436)  And what a beautiful cook it can be, the golden ripe skin breaking down under heat and transforming into magnificent crimson -- like a blushing bride flushed with excitement. 

But why stop there? Ever heard of the Marmalade Madames?  If you've ever found yourself wandering through the red light district of seventeenth century London, you'll know that these ladies of the night were aptly named by the aphrodisiac fruit itself.  Where do you think Christina and “Lady Marmalade” got their know how?  "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?" anyone?  From the Portuguese word for quince, "marmello", marmalade was originally made from the juice, skins and fruit of quince.  Working with its high levels of naturally occurring pectin, the ancients cleverly noticed that drenching whole quince in honey and applying heat would develop a delicious and firm 'set'.  Viola, the birth of marmalade - long before the California orange.

Continuing the tradition, this year's batch of Girl Meet's Dirt's handmade, island grown, Quince Marmalade is juicier than ever and beautifully bright red to boot!  Sweetened within its own juices and packed with vitamin C, it's the perfect remedy for the winter blues.  It is positively delightful as a topping on toast or folded into a buttery tart shell.  But we love it on Manchego, Cheddar, Idiazabal, or any triple-creme for a guest worthy spread (delice de Bourgogne for a special treat).

All those fans of our Quince Cutting Preserve will be thrilled to see it back in stock and ready for spreading on your holiday cheese boards.  Hello holiday entertaining season!  We recommend quince with aged Manchego (quince love’s sheep’s milk!), Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Glendale Shepherd's Woodsman aged hard sheep's milk cheese (on Whidbey Island).

Quince Cuttings open-2365.jpg

Whatever way you choose to stay cozy this winter, may we recommend enjoying it with a side of quince?  It will leave you blushing with delight.

Each tree

Laden with fairest fruit, that hung to th’ eye

Tempting, stirr’d in me sudden appetite

To pluck and eat.
— John Milton, Paradise Lost (bk. VIII, l. 30)