Calling all citrus geeks!
The UC Riverside Citrus Variety Collection, a so-called germplasm repository, holds one of the world's most comprehensive collections of citrus trees—over 1,300 varieties at last count. This place is a citrus museum of the first order, a Noah's Ark, a Citrus Hall of Fame. Its holdings span the entire history of citrus from the crude ancestors (shaddock, citron, Papedas and Trifoliates) to the sveltest next-wave mandarin hybrids ("Tango"). It's a weird and unique place.
It's also locked up like Fort Knox. I visited the collection while writing my book, but it wasn't easy to get in—I had a friend pull strings at the chancellor's office to pry open the door for me.
Your chance to visit comes on April 16 this year, when the collection opens to the public for one day only. My tip to you: seriously go.
Seriously folks: this is a good invitation.
On Saturday 3/23 from 11am-5pm, I'm joining my friend Fritz Haeg at the Hammer Museum in Westwood to participate in his artwork Domestic Integrities. It's sort of an arty sit-in.
Band of Outsiders and I have collaborated on a cookie (sneak peak: lemon curd on shortbread), and Bettina Korek of For Yor Art is programming a day of live broadcasts on KCHUNG.
My advice? Seriously go.
The Fruit Detective, aka David Karp of the Los Angeles Times, devotes his column this week to a spring crop that, depending on where you stand, may or may not be a fruit.
He begins (and I concur):
Rhubarb is one of the great joys of spring, with its rosy color, earthy tang and old-fashioned allure, and the story of its local rise and fall is as intriguing as its flavor. Just a generation or two ago, it was widely cultivated in Southern California, but now local rhubarb is available almost exclusively at farmers markets, and just from a handful of vendors.
Read the rest of the story, including where to buy local rhubarb, here.
My upcoming book has 220 recipes. What you'll read below is the 221st—the one that didn't make it in.
Why did I not include limoncello in Saving the Season: A Cook's Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving? I'm not sure...deadlines? Exhaustion? Brain spasm? Hard to say. I kept thinking I would squeeze it in at the last minute, and then the last minute passed.
Which is a shame, because limoncello so easy to do—the quickest of the homemade cordials.
And every time I drink it, I think about the summer that I went to Capri with Samantha, and we hired a boat and swam off shore all day, and in the evening we dressed up in linen and nonchalance, and we went out to eat beneath the lemon arbor at Da Paolino, surely the most magical restaurant in the world, and when dinner was over, we lingered until the waiters brought frosted bottles of limoncello to pour into tiny glasses. The drink was chemically yellow and thick with cold and bright to the tongue, a reminder not to fall asleep yet, not when there's more pleasure in the night.
Made with Italian femminello lemons, sometimes available locally from Mud Creek at the Santa Monica and Hollywood Farmers Markets, this limoncello is equal to anything in Italy. The more familiar Eureka lemon will also work, as will California's favorite Meyer lemon.
2 pounds lemons
1 750 ml bottle Everclear (151 proof grain spirits)
4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1) Wash the lemons in cold water, and if using store-bought fruit, scrub it in very hot water to remove the wax. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the outermost yellow zest as thinly as possible, leaving behind every bit of the bitter white pith, the albedo.
2) Put the zest in a one-gallon glass jar and cover with the Everclear. Close the jar and set aside for at least one week, or as much as a month. Once the alcohol has become intensely yellow, discard the zest—it will be pale and strangely brittle—and strain the alcohol through a fine-mesh sieve or a damp jelly bag.
3) Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat just enough to dissolve the sugar completely. Allow the syrup to cool all the way to room temperature, then add it to the alcohol. Stir to combine. Funnel the cordial into bottles if you like, and age it in the cellar for a couple of months if you can wait. Or else just put it in the freezer and start drinking it as soon as it's cold.
Yields about 2 1/2 quarts
This just came over the transom:
My friend Janet Owen Driggs is in the running to produce a short documentary for KCET on California's first Fruit Park. Due to arcane legal doctrine, fruit trees are currently banned from public parks, but the LA artist collective Fallen Fruit is challenging the law with their dedicated fruit park, and Janet has written a piece, "Fallen Fruit and the Thin End of the Wedge," chronicling this radical experiment in democracy.
If Janet's story gets the most votes on the KCET website, the station will produce a documentary exploring why fruit and vegetables are banned from our public parks. She's currently ahead by a nose, and I'm calling on all fellow fruit lovers to help put her over the top.
Let's vote for Janet!
Vote here: http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/vote/
Here is a short extract from Janet's story. Read the rest by following the above link.
Fruit trees are neither sanctioned for planting in L.A.'s public parks and streets, nor for planting in public land in most cities in the United States. According to LACAC's due diligence and Fallen Fruit's eight-years of research, there is not a definitive law to which one can point here. Certainly there are California State and L.A. laws that regulate produce grown for sale, but public trees - which are by definition owned by us all, and which give of their fruit at no charge - are not specifically addressed.
The legal basis for the prohibition lies instead with the doctrine of attractive nuisance: a tort in common law by which a landowner may be liable for injuries inflicted on an "infant trespasser" by an object or condition appealing to a child, when the landowner could reasonably foresee the potential danger. Examples include: an unfenced swimming pool, a cute-looking dog with a propensity to bite, and, apparently, a fruit-laden tree.
It is beyond question that children must be protected from harm. But the question must also be asked: how much hazard is there, really, in a fruit tree?
I slept 9 hours last night—an almost unimaginable luxury—and awoke with a new lease on life. This morning I got to work on some neglected priorties, like putting together the Saving the Season webstore. With help from my friend Alex, who designed this blog, I'll be building out a shop to carry everything a home canner might need: jars, labels, hang tags, jelly bags, aprons, notebooks, note cards, and the various implements and paraphernalia of the trade. Well, that's the long-term goal. The short-term goal is to be able to offer you the chance to source a few handy tools, as well as jars of my own Saving the Season sweet preserves.
What kind of tools, you ask? Check out the ABOVE: a headspace measure handcrafted by a wood-worker I know using beautiful cherry wood. Coming soon...