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Marmalade Winner!

marmalade-random-number According to the random number generator, the winner of this week’s jar of Orange-Ginger Marmalade is the lovely E. She is an extremely talented baker (you can check our her cakes at Northern Liberties’ A Full Plate Cafe) and blogger (find her at Foodaphilia and The Sugar). Her win is particularly lucky for me, as I’ll be seeing her tonight at the Philly Food Blogger potluck (oh how I love me a good potluck!).

This weekend, depending on what the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market yields, I’ll either be making Pickled Asparagus (using a recipe based on the one in Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling) or Vanilla-Rhubard Jam (recipe plucked from the depths of my brain). If they have both, well then, good times will truly be had by all.

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Canning Diagrams from ‘Girls Can Tell’

canning-diagrams

Canning diagram from Girls Can Tell

As with any good kitchen task, the more seriously you take your canning, the more paraphernalia you can acquire to ease/enhance the process. While I’m relatively low-tech and use an old aluminum pot and regular old kitchen tongs for the bulk of my hot water processing, you can get yourself a nifty pot with a removable rack to make the canning process run more smoothly.

Local Philly artist Sara Selepouchin (who is also a friend of mine) added a new diagram to her Etsy shop today (I featured her Joy of Cooking diagrams on Slashfood several weeks ago) that celebrates the homey beauty of those specialty canning tools. She’s printed this diagram onto dish towels, pot holders, notebooks and canvas tote bags (I bought one to add to my already-bursting supply of reusable grocery bags, I just couldn’t resist) and they’re all available now.

Support an independent artist and buy one for the canner in your life (even if that canner happens to be you)!

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Orange-Ginger Marmalade

oranges-ready-for-chopping

I’ve never been much for marmalade. It wasn’t a condiment we kept around the house while I was growing up. When it came to peanut butter sandwiches, my sister and I preferred the strawberry jam that came in a blue plastic tub with white lid and handle, like a little bucket. My mom always had a stash of something homemade tucked in the back of the fridge for her toast, while my dad typically gravitated towards the squeeze bottle of honey.

Chopping in progress

The only person I knew who kept marmalade on her grocery list was my grandmother Bunny. She would often spread a fine layer on a piece of morning toast, or use a bit as a pork chop glaze. On occasion, she’d offer me a bite, and I always found it displeasingly puckery and not nearly sugary enough for my young taste buds.

Bubbling Marmalade

Several years ago, I watched the movie Gosford Park. There’s one scene, in the final third of the movie, in which Maggie Smith’s character is breakfasting in her room with her lady’s maid. She lifts a cut glass lid from a preserves jar and complains bitterly when she discovers that the marmalade it contains was bought, as opposed to being house-made. That scene settled into the depths of my brain and took root, sending out shoots that carried the message “homemade marmalade is always preferable to mass-produced.”

Filling the jars

Last week, that dormant message finally bloomed and I headed to the kitchen to make a batch of Orange-Ginger Marmalade. I did some research prior to applying knife to orange and discovered a wide array of marmalade recipes. Each was a bit different from the one before. Some recommended removing the zest from the fruit with a vegetable peeler, peeling the remaining pith off and then chopping, while other recipes instructed you to chop the whole fruit. After reading seven different recipes, I decided to wing it, basing my method on my previous jam-making experience.

Filling a jar

I chopped eleven medium, organic oranges into tiny bits (they yielded a bit over eight cups of orange) and combined them with four cups of sugar, two inches of grated ginger (next time, I’d use far more, as the flavor is very faint) and the juice of two lemons. I ended up using one packet of liquid pectin to get things to jell a bit, but if you happened to have some cheesecloth in the house, you could bundle up all the seeds and orange membrane and cook it along with the fruit, as there’s a lot of natural pectin in the seeds. I didn’t have any cheesecloth (I used up the last of mine on a yogurt cheese experiment a few weeks ago), so in went the pectin.

Jars in hot water bath

The resulting marmalade is sweet, but not cloyingly so. The chunks of orange peel are a bit more toothsome than I find to be ideal, but they add good flavor and texture, so I don’t regret their inclusion (in the future, I’ll try for an even finer dice). I do wish the ginger flavor was more aggressive, next time I make this, I’m going to mince it instead of grating it, and will use a generous three or four-inch length. However, all in all, I’ve produced a really delicious spread that is perfect on toast, scones or stirred into a dish of cottage cheese.

Sealed jars

For those of you who want to taste my marmalade, I’m giving away a half-pint. Leave a comment below if you want a chance at it. I’ll pick a random winner out on Friday, March 20, 2009 at 12 noon. For those of you who don’t win, the recipe is after the jump. This contest is now closed.

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Note to Self – Remember the Okra

Fried Okra

I’ve been in Austin, TX for the SXSW Interactive conference over the last few days, so I’ve been running hither and yon, attending sessions about things like Misogyny on the Internet and Is Online Privacy Broken. It’s been a fascinating whirlwind, although I’m looking forward to getting back to home and routine tomorrow night.

Last week, I made a batch of Orange-Ginger Marmalade, but I’m finding that I can’t quite muster the mental organization to write about it, especially when my meals have been consisting of things like barbecue ribs at Iron Works and an amazing Tex-Mex dip that consists of queso (melted Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes*) poured over a mound of guacamole.

However, I did want to mention the fried okra I ate last night, at a lovely restaurant on 6th Street called Parkside. Everything I tasted there was absolutely delicious, but the fried okra continues to linger on my palate-brain and it has me convinced that I need to incorporate okra into the canned vegetable rotation in the coming season. I’ve always been one of those who shied away from okra, fearful of it’s mucus-like reputation, but after Parkside’s okra, I am converted. I know that Rick’s Picks makes a pickled okra (and it’s a product with a loyal following), but now I’m going to be on the prowl for a recipe to do it at home. Anyone have any suggestions?

*It is one of my goals to can a batch of homemade tomatoes in the Rotel style (chopped with roasted jalepenos) over the summer/fall canning season. Hold me to it!

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Waiting and planning

doughnut-peaches

Last year, my approach to food preservation was totally haphazard. I made blueberry and blackberry jam, because those are the things I like to eat or give as gifts. I froze several pints of grape tomatoes on cookie sheets, because they were threatening to become over-ripe before I had a chance to eat them. I intended to do more with peaches, nectarines and the spinach from a local farmer, but each time, I turned my head for (what seemed like only) a moment and missed the season.

This year I hope to plan better, to can tomatoes for the winter and have slices of nectarines tucked away in the freezer for February smoothies. I’m preparing now, gathering jars (oh jars!) and lids, studying the charts that indicate seasonal ripeness from my favorite U-Pick and making arrangements to teach a few canning classes as Foster’s (because what better motivation is there for preparedness than the commitment to stand in front of strangers and talk?).

I’m looking forward to the coming weeks, when the asparagus begins to pop through the surface of the soil and offers its tender tips for steaming (and pickling). I’m dreaming of a small stash of green garlic pesto tucked away for a dark chilly night and of offering friends and family jars of sour cherry preserves for the holidays.

For now I’ll wait, make a batch of marmalade and imagine.

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Israeli salt from my sister

Israeli salt

Back in January, my younger sister Raina went off on one of those birthright trips to Israel. Before she left, she asked if there was anything she could bring back for me. Never having been to Israel and uncertain about the specialties of the country, I asked for the first thing that popped into my head. Salt. I’m not exactly sure why I thought Israel was a destination for good salt, but off she flew, determined to bring me back some salt.

Raina’s been on tour lately and pulled into Philly late Saturday night, with another musician named Rebecca, a car full of dirty laundry and a plastic take-out container filled with salt, tied up in a small plastic grocery bag. As she handed it over, she apologized, explaining that she didn’t think it was particularly good salt, but it was the best she had been able to find. On one of the last days of the trip, they had gone to an open air market. One man had a table, set with various containers of spices, herbs and finally, salt. The merchant hadn’t spoken any English, but a couple standing next to her helped with the bargaining and she ended up spending the equivalent of $3 American for the squat tub of salt.

israeli-market

Even before I opened it, I told her that more than anything, I appreciated the simple fact that she had kept me in mind while traveling and had added weight to her suitcase with my request. Then I pulled the lid off the container and encountered the most gorgeous, moist, perfect grey salt. I ran to the kitchen and pulled down the jar where I’ve kept my stash of precious grey salt, purchased in a 12 ounce bag for a ridiculous sum. Showing them to her side-by-side, I explained just how well she had done by her foodie sister. She grinned and gave me a hug. I love both my sister and my new supply of Israeli grey salt.

side-by-side-salts

I’ve done some internet searching, and haven’t been able to find out much about salt production in Israel. For all I know, this is French grey salt, imported to the Middle East and then repackaged for sale. If anyone knows more, I’d be happy to be informed!

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