Blood Orange Marmalade

Dear friends. I’ve learned a lot about the process of making marmalade since the days when I posted this recipe. I don’t recommend that you follow the instructions I wrote below. I’m leaving the post up because I hate leaving holes in the site, but I ask if you’re looking for marmalade guidance, you visit this post instead. It can be made with blood oranges in place of the variety of citrus, should you be wondering. 

blood oranges

This marmalade wasn’t part of the plan I had neatly laid out in my head. I figured that after the Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam, I would make a batch of Honey-Lemon Marmalade and then head to the savory, pickling side of things for a while. But then I found myself at Reading Terminal Market last Saturday with my friend Shay and Iovine’s was selling blood oranges 5/$1. At that price, it seemed like I would be a fool not to buy a few. Or fifteen.

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Have you ever bought fifteen pieces of the same fruit all at once, when they’re being sold by the count (as opposed to by the pound or the half-bushel)? It was certainly a first for me. I think previously, I’d never gone over ten. It was something of a physical challenge too, because Iovine’s has narrow aisles and is always crowded (more so on Saturdays), making it tricky to balance your basket, keep your bag from knocking people over and still managing to keep track of how many oranges you’ve tucked into the bag. I must have recounted three or four times before I was sure that I had the proper number.

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I spent a couple of days with the blood oranges on my kitchen counter, arranged in a old yelloware bowl. Each time I walked into the kitchen, I’d pick one up and give it a sniff, recalling the first time I encountered blood oranges. It was about six years ago, the only time I took a boy home to Portland for the holidays (Scott, the one I’m marrying, still hasn’t been to Portland or met my parents. I guess that’s what the wedding will be for). Matt, an old family friend, was bartending at Paley’s Place, a delicious restaurant in NW Portland, so one night, the boy and I headed out to have a drink while he was working and catch up for a bit.

That night, Matt too busy to talk much, mostly because he’d put several drinks on the menu that featured freshly squeezed blood orange juice. He made us some fancy, boozy coffees, with flaming cinnamon and we watched as he juiced the oranges and mixed drinks.

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Tuesday night, as beautiful at the blood oranges were, it was time to make marmalade. I approached it much the way I did the first batch, taking care to sharpen the knife I was using before beginning the process of chopping the oranges. It’s a tedious task, but even more if you’re sawing away with a dull blade. 12 oranges later, I had ten cups of chopped fruit, my left hand was dyed a vivid purple and my kitchen was dappled with red drops of juice.

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I cooked the oranges with 4 cups of sugar, one cup of liquid (I used half blood orange juice and half water, but plain orange juice or all water would be fine as well) and some lemon juice. I thought about adding something else to punch up the flavor, but after a taste, I determined that it was perfectly delicious as it. I used one packet of liquid pectin to firm things up a bit. However, the juice is fairly thin, so if you prefer a more jelled consistency, I’d recommend two packets.

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I think that this may be one of the best things I’ve made. The batch I made was a bit over four pints and so I had a small stash for myself in the fridge. I ate it on toast last night for dessert and the way the sweet and tart flavors work together is a joyful thing for the mouth.

I’ll be giving away a full pint of this marmalade to one lucky commenter. Since I didn’t get this post up until late on Thursday night, you have until Saturday at 5 pm to leave a comment for a chance to be the winner.

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Homemade Mayonnaise

jar of homemade mayonnaise

For years, I’ve been reading food books in which homemade mayonnaise is described in rapt, nearly euphoric terms. I recently read an essay (did anyone else read this? Where was it? Thanks to Taylor, the story has been found.) in which a woman describes how her aunt was known for her pimento cheese sandwiches and brought them to every major event in her community. The first step in making these beloved sandwiches was whisking the mayonnaise together from scratch. The sandwich maker stated plainly that the sandwiches weren’t worth preparing if you were going to resort to Hellman’s or Duke’s.

Thinking about homemade mayo, I’m also reminded of an essay in Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte, in which she recalls picking up Julia Child from the airport in France and they eat oeufs mayonnaise together at a small countryside cafe. The description of Child happily eating freshly made mayonnaise on eggs, french fries, baguette and from the tips of her fingers has always delighted me.

However, despite all these lovely literary evocations, until tonight I had never before made mayonnaise on my own. I’ve been talking about it for months, mentioning it as a possible Fork You topic, without settling down and trying it in my own kitchen. I followed a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, as I’ve always loved the way she writes about food, her instructions made me feel calm instead of anxious. I also was comforted by the fact that she offered several variations on how to save your mayo if it broke.

Mine did break at first, primarily because I chose to be lazy and use my KitchenAid mixer’s whisk to do the work (Nigella does offer it as an option, but also states that she always does it by hand). As I incorporated the olive oil, my burgeoning mayonnaise couldn’t hold another drop and became gloppy and loose. I tried Nigella’s suggestion of adding couple of drops of boiling water, but that did nothing to reconstitute it, so I broke open another egg, separated it and slowly incorporated my broken mayo into that yolk, hand-whisking it in. That worked perfect and I was rewarded with gorgeous, creamy mayonnaise. I used some to make egg salad, which I ate on top of a pile of baby arugula for dinner (Scott’s away and so my meals have become less structured in his absence).

I now have a half-filled pint jar of really delicious, homemade mayonnaise in my fridge. I think tomorrow night I’ll stir some minced garlic into some and turn it into aioli.

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Book: Fruits of the Earth

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Ever since the idea of starting this blog entered my mind (many months before I actually committed pixel to template), I’ve been acquiring books about canning, pickling and preserving at a steady clip. Since my collection of cookbooks is already stored in every room of the apartment (this in large part thanks to the tide of preview copies I got for Slashfood’s Cookbook of the Day feature), I need to put the kibosh on this habit quickly (it’s also getting painfully expensive).

I haven’t been buying these books for general canning information, as I’ve found that any comprehensive cookbook written in the last 75 years has a more-than-ample section on canning (and I’ve got plenty of those from every era as well). I’m particularly fond of the no-nonsense language found in the 1942 edition of the The Good Housekeeping Cook Book, as the instructions don’t coddle or baby the reader, but instead assume that any cook worth their pickling spices has some working knowledge of homemade preserves.

No, I buy these glossy new cookbooks for their ideas and images, as well as for the sense of comradeship they lend (there just aren’t that many people out there interested in investing the bulk of their disposable income in canning jars, vinegar and pectin, especially in Center City Philadelphia), so I need all the community I can muster.

One such inspiration book that I picked up just today (I need to learn to stay away from the cookbook stall at Reading Terminal Market) is called Fruits of the Earth and was written by Gloria Nicol. Ms. Nicol lives in the UK, runs a company that trades in vintage homewares and writes a charming blog (unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since the end of 2008).

It contains 100 recipes for jams, jellies, curds, marmalades and compotes. Since I’ve been on a marmalade kick of late, I found that section particularly inspiring, as she suggests a series of unconventional pairings that set my brain spinning (Apple and Black Currant Marmalade, for instance). I’m also intrigued by her recipe for Rhubarb and Lime Jam, particularly since I nearly squeeze lime instead of lemon into my last batch of rhubarb.

The pictures in this book are also breathtakingly lovely, full of gem-like jellies lovingly preserved in vintage jars and breakfast tables I long to join.

I haven’t made anything from this book yet, but I’ll be certain to share it here as soon as I do!

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Cumin Cabbage Slaw

cumin cabbage slaw

Yes, I realize there isn’t a jar in sight in the picture above. But I’ll have you know that the leftovers of that cabbage slaw are currently tucked away in a wide-mouth quart jar in my fridge, so at the very least, the recipe has come in contact with a jar. Also, the dressing is made by pouring everything into a pint jar and shaking vigorously. And, I’ve found that it continues to get more flavorful and delicious over time in cold storage, so it makes for an excellent keep-on-hand-in-a-jar salad.

I made this to go along with the turkey tacos I keep raving about (really, they are best), but it could go alongside any number of dishes. If you wanted to transform it from side dish to the main event, you could toss in some shredded chicken and chopped peanuts for a Mexican/Vietnamese flavor mash-up.

However you serve it, I’m certain it will taste good. And isn’t that the whole point? More specific recipe after the jump.

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Rhubarb Jam Winner

rhubarb-random-number The comments have been tallied and the randomizer has been consulted. The lucky winner of this week’s giveaway, a jar of delicious (if I do say so myself) Vanilla-Rhubard Jam, is Jessica, one of the lovely bloggers over at A Bit Better.

As for what’s coming next, I have a few ideas bubbling away. I bought a huge hunk of fresh ginger a couple of days ago, with the intention of trying a candying technique my friend Erin told me about. It’s a process in which you peel and thinly slice the ginger, and then pack it into a jar in layers, spreading a few spoonfuls of sugar out between each level of ginger. You pop it into the fridge and let it mellow for a couple of days, until the ginger releases its liquid and starts to crystallize. She recommends using it in fruit salad or scones.

Additionally, I’m still hoping to see some local asparagus at the farmers market this weekend and I’ve also got a batch of honey lemon marmalade in my mental hopper.

Anyone have any good cooking/canning/pickling plans for the weekend?

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A pint of Salsa Fresca

salsa fresca

I was 13 when I first learned that salsa was something one could make at home. Up until that point, I functioned under the belief that salsa was the product of some mysterious alchemy, making it something that could only be purchased at Safeway or Trader Joe’s. This culinary revelation came when my parents decided to go to Europe for work/vacation and left my sister and me with the older daughter of a family friend.

Deliah had a completely different approach to food than the 3 balanced meals a day routine that Raina and I were familiar with. She used lots of bright, vivid flavors and believed that dinner could consist of fresh salsa, tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream. Needless to say, we adored her.

One afternoon, I watched as she made the salsa, dragging the colander of tomatoes out to the living room coffee table, along with a cutting board, mixing bowl, sharp knife and salt shaker. She set up her tools in front of the TV and I observed as she chopped the tomatoes and added diced onion, minced jalapeno, torn cilantro, lime juice and lots of salt. She set the bowl aside for awhile, to let the flavors mingle and later we feasted until our lips blistered from the acids.

Later, I taught my mom how to make salsa and we would make batch after batch from the tomatoes that grew in the backyard, using it to top scrambled eggs or digging in with chips. The first year I was living in Philadelphia, my dad and sister came to visit me for Thanksgiving. My mom couldn’t fly that year, so in her place, she sent a quart jar of homemade salsa in her place, triple wrapped and tucked into my dad’s checked luggage. It wasn’t quite as good as seeing her, but nearly.

These days, fresh salsa is one of my summertime refrigerator staples. I make it at least once or twice a week, alternating between spiking it with jalapeño/cilantro/lime or black pepper/basil/olive oil (for an italian flavor instead of a Mexican one). It’s not something I typically make on a larger scale and can (although I am planning on canning some cooked salsas and tomatillo condiments this summer), but I always stash it in a canning jar for temporary storage.

Last night, I made Molly Watson’s Turkey Tacos for dinner and they cried out to be accompanied by some fresh salsa. Tomatoes aren’t even remotely in season at the moment, and so I stood in the aisle of Sue’s Produce for a moment, tortillas, limes and jalapeños heaped in the crook of my arm, debating whether to indulge or not. The craving won out and I picked up a single Ugly-branded tomato. It didn’t come close to the tomatoes I get in the summer, but it did the job.

My very basic recipe is after the jump…

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