Lemon "Shine"

You might know it would be on the eve of a full moon, when Cappy took to looking like a moonshiner. We had only just gotten back from town, him all freshly bathed and dressed up in his loud and colorful Cajun clothes that suit his larger than life personality so well, so as to fit in (if that's possible for us) with the "dinner crowd"  at one of our favorite restaurants in Thibodaux, LaPalma's, afterwhich we headed to the grocery store to pick up a few things, for the project I'm about to let you in on.
   Oh, and before he got all "spiffied up"  he had spent the morning and the better part of the afternoon at our friend, Sam's smokehouse, along with a bunch of his buddies, making andouille and "coon gumbo",  just laughing, tipping a few, having fun being all rowdy and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. (Louise and I stayed safely in her house working on a puzzle she had gotten me for Christmas.)
   Now, presently, Cappy had been doing research about what all we might do with our lemons and the leftover peels, etc. One of the things he hit upon was to make lemon extract, using vodka. Our trip down the grocery aisle included a couple of litres of Smirnoff's plain, unflavored vodka  (On one of his researches he learned that Smirnoff's brand was "celiac safe".) and a case of pint canning jars. 
  When we got home, the first thing he did was to get out of his "dress clothes" and get comfortable. He was in such a hurry to get to his lemon extract project that he didn't even take the time to put on a t-shirt, as usual, or his shoes for that matter. He was so excited that he dove right into the project. I thought he looked like one of those guys on the tv show, "Moonshiners". Whatcha think?
  As for what he did, it was simple enough; he just julliened the peels, stuffed them into the pint jars, filled them with the Smirnoff "wood-kah", and screwed the lids on. And now we have only to wait 'til.....once in a blue moon, or something like that, to see the results of his efforts.

Pressing On

The morning after harvesting this year's Meyer's lemon crop, I stepped outside and loaded a dishpan full and began the lemon pressing task.
Taking the lemons into the kitchen, I dumped them in da sink and we scrubbed each one, carefully ridding them of air pollution, dust and stuff that accumulates on their skin while ripening.  Some of them have skin damage, which doesn't affect the quality of the lemon at all. This cosmetic damage is caused by birds coming to land on the outer branches of the citrus trees, and "snicking" or essentially 'zesting' the skin to get the oil for their feathers. That being said, we cull out the worst of the bunch and separate them from the "prettiest" of the batches. It always surprises us how, after being washed, they shine and look wonderful, almost artificially perfect. Yesterday was a warm, breezy day so we opened all the windows and swung open the doors as well, enjoying the breeze and lovely "Spring" smells wafting in from the jungle that is our yard.
This quickly became the routine as Peg carried the lemons in from the patio, dumped them into the sink and gave them a good scrubbing. (this is me doing the first load)  The dishpan took up station on the kitchen island where I could reach it and we began the pressing process.

We started by cutting the lemons in half then quartering the halves.  This lets ya put more into the fruit press, exposes the lemon pulp and makes for lots easier, more efficient squeezing. 
This quickly became the routine for the day.  Over and over we carried, rinsed, scrubbed, chopped and pressed on into the night. We started working at 11:30 in the morning and didn't finish 'til after 9 at night, only taking a few minor breaks along the way. While one of us worked, the other took a break...thas teamwork!  What with the refreshing breeze, we talked and laughed and had fun as we worked.

It was all day and into the night but finally we got that wheelbarrow empty.

With my arms tired, shoulders and back starting to ache from turning that press handle all day, ya can't imagine how happy I was when Peg held up a lemon from the sink and said, "This is the one I've been looking for all day....the last one!"
Well, there it is folks; over 9 gallons of fresh pure Meyer Lemon juice.  The gallon bottles are going in the freezer to wait for future projects, like more lemon jelly, etc.  The small water bottles was this year's improvement.  They are gonna be frozen and taken out for home use, like sauces, dressings, desserts, etc.  Lemon juice lasts for years in the fridge, but folks look at us funny when we pull out a gallon of it, so these small bottles should be perfect for little projects and quick glasses of lemonade.  What a wonderful "fruitful" day for Peg and me as we pressed on into the night reveling in God's gracious bounty. No reason to be sour at all.......oh wait, maybe so, eh? But that's a good thing.


Taming The Lemon Monster 2013

Well, It's that time of the year again and our Lemon Monster is loaded with beautiful Meyer Lemons, so with Peg's help I took a deep breath and went to picking. Here is the video Peg made of this year's lemon pickin'adventure.



The Fruit of Our Labor

For the last 2 days Peg and I have been wandering around the yard poking holes in it.  We have finally completed our annual fertilization chore, which includes lugging a big heavy hole puncher around.  The thing is made from an old axle and has a T-bar for a foot brace.  When ya jam it into the ground, wiggle it in a circle it makes a hole that a lb. of fertilizer fits into. (We use "triple 13" or 13-13-13, which is best for our citrus trees.)
I lugged the heavy hole puncher around sticking it in the ground, hollowing the hole out and pulling the thing out again with a "smuck" sound.  Peg kept up with me pushing the wheelbarrow and pouring a red Solo Cup of fertilizer in the holes, humming, "Let's have a party...when's the party gonna begin?" and laughing.  While we were at it we looked over all the trees carefully and did some pruning where necessary. The "hes's touching me!" twigs and branches.  100 lbs of fertilizer; 1 lb. per hole and ya can see why it took awhile.  When it was all said and done we stood hand-in-hand surveying the yard and ya couldn't tell we had done anything.  I told Peg, "Sheesh all dat bending, toting, lifting, poking, squatting and pouring, and we got nothing to show for it". 
She just smiled and pointed at the grapefruit tree we were standing by and said, "When ya can walk out into the yard and reach up and pick Ruby Red grapefruit that big and fresh and sooo sweet, take 10 steps and pick a navel orange that is even bigger! Them's the fruit of this labor.
She didn't even mention the amazing Meyer "lemon monster" that lives at the end of the row 'cuz...... you guessed it...(thats another story.)

Deer Meat Sauce Piquante

Sunday morning when I got up, right after starting the coffee, I seasoned a qt. bag of deer meat I had thawing over-night.  The bag was very full so I figure it had 3 lbs of meat in it.  I dusted the meat with Cajun seasoning, splashed in a lil worcestershire (hadda look up how to spell it) sauce, and added a few vigerous shakes of a Crystal Hot Sauce bottle for good measure.
While the coffee was dripping I fried up a 12 oz. pack of bacon for breakfast in our lil black iron pot.  After the smell of the frying bacon and brewing coffee woke Peg up and we had breakfast, I dumped the deer meat into the hot bacon drippings, and flash browned it.
The meat sizzled away filling the house with wonderful smells.  It's funny how smells can trigger memories. I had a fond memory of deer meat sizzling at a camp site over an open fire. (but das another story.)
Once the deer meat had cooked down rendering a rich gravy, I took the meat and about half the drippins and put them in our crock pot on low.  In the black iron pot I put 3 chopped yellow onions and a lb. of smoked sausage cut in little cubes.
The onions and sausage simmered down to a brown caramelized thick sauce, and if I had stopped there and put the deer back in and let it simmer it would be "etouffee".  (But das another story.)
Once the onions and sausage cooked down, I added 2 cans of drained diced tomatoes, and 1 can of Rotel original tomatoes, stirred that in and let it cook and reduce over medium heat.
When the tomatoes were about halfway smothered down I added a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic.  Ya don't wanta add garlic too early or it will scorch and get bitter on ya.
My dad taught me the trick to this Cajun Creole Sauce (but das another story) He always cooked the tomatoes down, stirring more the thicker they got.  The trick he taught me is when done ya can make a hole in the middle of the pot and no tomato juice runs back into the hole.  If anything runs back in it should only be maybe a lil grease.
After the tomatoes were done I dumped them in the crock pot and added half a gallon of water, a cup of catsup, a rough chopped bell pepper, and a big drained can of sliced mushrooms.  Then I thickened it with a half a cup or so of Peg's dark brown roux (how to make dat is another story).  The sauce stewed away for hours in the ole crock pot while me and Peg played in the yard mucking out our asparagus patch and building a fire in the fire pit.  We had a wonderful afternoon, and around 2 pm our friends, Sam and Louise showed up, and then we really started having fun.  Me and Sam sat out by the fire-pit laughing and telling stories, and while we weren't looking Peg and Louise, made a killer coleslaw. In all the excitement what with the foot ballgame and such, we forgot to take a picture of the stuff plated up but trust me it was a thing of beauty.  Thick and rich, spicy and tender and so dang tasty we had the remaining lil bit for breakfast the next day.  Sauce Piquante (pronounced, pea-caw')  is the most complex of the country Cajun sauces and sadly, the original simple country fare of Cajun cooking is fast dying out.  (but.....das another story;-)


The Strawberry Patch

Now that I have been home for a few days I am starting on a few projects in the yard.  First on the list was to weed and muck out our lil strawberry patch.  We have an assortment of strawberry plants that have been in our 4X4' raised bed. I was very happy to see they were alive and well under the off-season weeds that had taken over the bed while I wasn't looking.  As I weeded, I uncovered blooming berry plants with some tiny green berries already forming.

At this rate Peg will be happily munching fresh berries before I get home next hitch.  This is a "honey-do" that will have a sweet ending. 


The LONG Hitch

The long hitch started December 20th, five days before Christmas. I left home early that morning with 2 garbage bags stuffed full of Christmas presents for the guys on my Boat who were getting off work that day, as me and my tankerman, Mike were getting back on the boat for our 28 day hitch.  Black garbage bags aint exactly Santa sacks, but Peg packed them that way so the other guys (the crew who had to stay on the boat) couldn't see what this year's gifts looked like.  The guys who were getting off the boat left with smiles, all excited that they would be home for the holidays, leaving the less fortunate of us to man the boat 'til they'd return.  The next four days on the boat seemed to drag as we started listening to Christmas music on the radio and watching some standard videos on tv, like A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life, and my MOST favorite, Tyler Perry's, "A Madea's Christmas" the play.  On Christmas Eve, my beloved Peg spent 5 hours on the road driving down to where the boat was parked, to deliver us our Christmas presents.  She brought everyone a stocking filled with goodies, topped with a musical, animated fuzzy toy, as she does every year and each of the crew a new pillow, with a set of individually themed pillowcases that she made from material she ordered online.  Also everybody got a big canister of fancy dipped pretzels.  The galley table looked like Santa passed Christmas morning with all the presents piled on it. This year we didn't have room to set up our little tree with all the fancy lights, etc., but that didn't really matter anyhow.

I laid everything out while the crew was still sleeping Christmas morning, and when they got up they tore into the presents like the kids we all are at heart.

My Texan tankermen loved their Houston Texan pillow cases, While my "red-necked" wheelman grinned at his NASCAR themed cases.  Not shown are the tankerman and my relief captain's pillow cases because they took home with them. New Orleans Saints cases for the tankerman and  The Three Stooges for my relief captain. 

They then got into their stockings, discovering an assortment of candy, peppermint candy canes, a bag of lumps of coal (made of chocolate) also included was some type of game for each, an activity book.  For a gag gift, the white box shown contains a log of "Poop Soap". Peg thought they could have fun 'pranking' their friends or family at home with them.  I hadda giggle cause as they opened them, they all looked it over then sniffed it.

The crew settled down and we had a Christmas dinner of Ham and all the trimmings.  The next week before New Years went by pretty fast as my days were consumed with driving the boat and doing all the computer and paperwork required to end a year and start another one.
New Years Day found us docked in Venice, so I had time to prepare our traditional New Years dinner of pork roast with black- eyed peas, smothered cabbage and cornbread.  I also made a couple sweet-tater pies with pecan praline topping.  The crew finished off a pie and a half in one sitting, so I guess they liked it.  I am not sure why I didn't take pictures of the meal, I guess I was too busy cooking.
The next 2 weeks seemed to drag by ever so slowly as the weather turned all damp, foggy, rainy and dreary.  Some days the fog wouldn't burn off at all leaving us stuck whereever we were, waiting for a break.  The crew would disappear as they walked to the front of the barge, and in the gloom there was nothing to see except for the occasional pelican perched on a pylon.

The fog played tricks on our eyes.  Every day common things took on an eerie glow and the big dock lights could be barely seen peering at us through the gloom like the eyes of some big creature from the foggy gloom.  They were very spooky 'til we realized they were big lightts facing away from us which gave the illusion of 2 dark spots with a glow around them.  The picture doesn't show the effect well, but if you use your imagination ya can see what we saw staring at us through the gloom.
On the rare days that the wind blew hard enough to blow the fog away, the water in the Sounds was rough and choppy.  On days like this the seagulls come along for the ride strutting around our barge.  Even the pelicans sometimes take a break from fishing and ride along for awhile, too


The barge kicked up spray as we plowed along occasionally ruffling our passengers' feathers.
If ya look close at the starboard bow corner ya can try to make out a rainbow effect in the spray.  The story is that when rainbows fade they fall into the water, and sometimes ya kick them up in the spray.
We passed a big house boat one day and the whole crew came to the wheelhouse to see us slowly pass it.  We talked about the lucky guys we saw on the stern drinking glasses filled with some kinda drink.  Based on the fruit we could see, we surmised "da lucky stiffs" were sitting there sippin' mojitos as we worked for a livin'.  All of us talkin' about how lucky they were to be lounging on that big ole boat.  As we passed by we began to talk and think about it and decided that just maybe we were the lucky ones.  After all we were in the same place, had all our food, fuel, etc. paid for, and were making a good livin', in the same place where these rich dudes decided to come to visit.  In a week or so they waved to us as they headed back up the river off to their world in the "Rat Race", while we kept right on riding around in our lil corner of heaven.  As me and the crew talked about it, we decided that maybe LONG holiday hitches weren't so bad after all .