That Was The Week That Was

For those of us extremely online people, this pandemic has been real for quite a while. I feel, though, that this is going to be the week where it became “real” for most people. The unemployment numbers leaped as companies finally came to terms with normalcy not returning for some time. The restrictions have gotten tighter (but arguably not tight enough), there are very real case numbers and death tolls in the US, and we were finally told yesterday that we should wear masks when out, although, “It’s voluntary. You can do it, you don’t have to do it, I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that’s okay.”

* facepalm *

This has also been the week of finding some balance here at Chez Brubaker. We don’t have a routine yet, but there’s some level of normalcy to this life, for now. The follow-up interview hasn’t happened yet – with the changing times it has caused the process to slow down a bit, but I did hear from a couple of recruiters today.

This week also found the local loquat trees in full fruit. This is a phenomenon I discovered when I first moved into the city after finishing college. There were a couple in the neighborhood where I lived, and the bright orange fruits seemingly appeared out of nowhere, only to vanish within weeks. Our humid subtropical climate is good for the trees, but the heat keeps our picking window very short – I’d say less than a month from the first ripe fruit and the end. If you’re not familiar, loquats are somewhat like plums, with large brown seeds inside. They’re sweet with a tart kick.

I’d picked Lil a few to taste on one of our walks. She absolutely loved them, and so we’ve respectfully thieved a handful here and there from the overloaded trees in our area. There seems to be one every few blocks. That’s when I started scheming to acquire a larger quantity. I left a note with a neighbor down the block, asking if we could pick some of their heavy-laden tree. Two days later they texted back that we were welcome to any and all of it. I picked a bag for each of us.

But by then, I had already encountered another tree in the neighborhood – one with the largest, brightest orange fruits I’d ever seen. There’s an odd business two blocks down from our house (hooray, lack of zoning!) in a pair of old bungalows that is apparently a security training company. I just knew the gate was open and a single car was in the small lot, and that they had a loquat tree I wanted to pick. I found the one person at work (billing, of course) and asked if I could pick, to which he replied, “uh, yeah, sure. Yeah, like no one ever picks those, and no one’s going to be here, so knock yourself out – take whatever you want.”

And so, with my bountiful harvest, I set about making loquat jam. It’s really, really good. Processing the fruit is labor-intensive, due to the flesh-to-seed ratio and the soft nature of the fruit, but once that’s over this is a pretty easy and foolproof recipe: you let the fruit rest covered in sugar, add some lemon juice and cardamom, bring it to a boil, and simmer for a while. Then blend it, pour it in jars, and seal those puppies.

It strikes a nice balance between sweet and sour – almost like orange marmalade – and so far I can tell you that it is excellent on buttered toast and a hit on our peanut butter and jelly* sandwiches. Thanks to my dual harvest I was able to make two oversized batches, which means that I had something like a full gallon of jam. The loquats are high in pectin, so there’s none of that needed, but it does mean this jam is a little loose. I’m really hankering to top some vanilla bean ice cream with this.

* Lil loves tart jam, apparently. We brought some cassis jam back from France, and that’s been her absolute favorite. “Sour! Yummy!”

Y’all stay safe out there. Here’s a great no-sew mask option, in case you need to get out to the store – all you need is a bandana and a couple of hair ties (rubber bands would work in a pinch), and you can add a dryer sheet in the middle as your removable filter. Just make sure to throw that out after you’re done and wash the bandana.

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