Tag Archives | citrus

How to Make Your Own Tonic Water

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here to with a how-to post designed to help you make tonic water syrup! A fun DIY project for an August weekend. – Marisa

When hot weather comes to Philadelphia, that’s my cue to pick up a bottle of gin — because there’s no better quencher at the end of a long, hot bike commute or gardening session than a bright, herbaceous gin and tonic.

In recent years, I’ve started investing in better, locally produced gins to make my favorite summertime cocktail: bottles of Philadelphia Distilling’s Bluecoat and Palmer Distilling’s Liberty Gin are made in the city; Manatawny Still Works’ Odd Fellows Gin is produced about an hour outside Philly in Pottstown. All three are delicious in a crisp G&T.

With quality craft gin, homemade seltzer (thanks to my secondhand SodaStream), and fresh-squeezed lime juice, I found myself just one ingredient away from a truly bespoke cocktail: homemade tonic water.

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Citrus Salt and Makrut/Thai Lime Simple Syrup

mixed salt and zest

I’m at that point of the book writing process where I’ve canned something everyday this week, but I can’t share a single glimpse of it with you. However, I have made a couple simple little things from book testing remains that I thought might merit a peek.

zested oranges

The first is a batch of air dried orange salt. I was working on a recipe for an orangeade concentrate (it’s delicious!) and was juicing oranges four pounds at a time. Wanting to get the most out of my citrus dollar, before I squeezed those oranges dry, I took the time to run them over a microplane to salvage all that flavorful zest.

orange zest

When all was said and done, I had about a 1/2 cup of orange zest (don’t be fooled by the markings on the measuring cup, it wasn’t entirely full). I measured out an equal amount of coarse grey salt because it was what I had. Any coarse or flaky sea salt works beautifully here.

grey salt

I rubbed it all together (my hands smelled like oranges even after a thorough wash), spread it out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and let it sit on my dining room table for a day. I’ve already used it on a warm salad of roasted butternut squash, shallots, pickled cauliflower, and Israeli couscous and I will rub it all over the chicken I plan on roasting on Sunday afternoon. It would also be delicious sprinkled over a pan of warm brownies (now that I’ve written that, I may have to make some brownies).

thai limes

The other thing I made was a little jar of Makrut lime simple syrup. I’m on my second box of Meyer lemons of the season and like the first box, Karen tucked a few fragrant Makrut (or Thai) limes in with my lemons. I didn’t have enough for marmalade, but there was enough to lend flavor to some syrup.

thai lime syrup

This one couldn’t be easier. I combined equal parts sugar and water (a cup of each) in a small saucepan and added the zest and juice of my three little limes. I simmered it for a few minutes and then strained it into a jar (I didn’t want the bits of zest in my finished syrup). I use this one mostly to spice up sparkling water, but if you’re a creative cocktail person, it would make a very nice addition to your bar.

What have you been doing with your citrus lately?

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Tips for Selecting, Prepping, and Preserving Lemons

January 15

Every January, I order a ten pound box of unsprayed Meyer lemons from the Lemon Ladies in California. I spend the next week or two transforming those lemons into marmalade, lemon curd, preserved lemons, dehydrated slices, syrups, and even infused vinegars. These preserves satisfy many of my lemon needs and help bring a much-needed bright spot into an otherwise dreary time of year.

Now, I realize that spending $65 on citrus isn’t in the cards for everyone. However, that doesn’t meant that you have to write off all lemon preservation projects. There’s a lot you can do with regular grocery lemons that will be delicious and won’t break the budget.

First off, if you’re making marmalade or using the zest in some way, organic lemons are best (but no judgment here if you can’t swing it). When you’re selecting the fruit, make sure to search out the lemons with the very smoothest skin. That almost always leads you to lemons that have thinner pith layers, which will make for a better marmalade or preserved lemon.

You also want to look for lemons that have a touch of green on the tips. Many years ago, I went on a press trip hosted by Sunkist and they taught us that lemons are always picked with some green remaining on the skin. They yellow up during storage and shipping. A hint of green means that they haven’t been off the tree as long as some of their compatriots.

When you’re ready to use your grocery store lemons, put them in the sink. Bring a kettle of water to a boil, let it cool for a moment, and then rinse the lemons with it. When they’re cool enough to handle, give them a good scrub with a vegetable brush and rinse with warm tap water. This process will remove any traces of the wax that lemons are typically coated with to extend their lifespan.

Now you’re ready to preserve. You can make just about all the recipes listed in this post with your grocery store lemons. You can make Kaela’s citrus salts. You can juice them, heap the peels in a jar, and cover them with distilled white vinegar to make an effective cleaning fluid.

How are you all preserving your citrus this year?

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Air-Dried Lemon Peel

dried Meyer lemon peel

Next time you go to juice a lemon for a recipe, take an extra minute, grab a vegetable peeler and remove the flavorful outer layer of skin from your lemon. Lay these fragrant slivers on a place and perch the plate on a shelf or on top of a towering stack of cookbooks (if you’re me).

Check them a day or two later, or whenever you remember. Soon enough, they should be quite dry but still fragrant and vividly colored. Place them in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and stash them in a dark corner. Once you have this little jar of dried lemon peels, here’s how you can use them.

  • Drop a sliver into brewing black tea. 
  • Pulverize a few strips with coarse salt and sprinkle over popcorn.
  • Crush them and whisk the bits into homemade vinaigrettes and marinades.
  • Float them in a water bottle.
  • Simmer these citrus ribbons in a pot of creamy rice pudding.
  • Use the jar as a day-brightening aromatherapy devise.

 

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Grapefruit Jam

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I have a bad habit of buying a mountain of fruit without much of a plan and then letting it sit around while I ponder and research. It doesn’t get me into too much trouble this time of year since apples, pears and citrus can store fairly well. It becomes more of a problem during the summer months, when things ripen at lightning speed.

grapefruit jam

When I came across a tower of red grapefruit priced four for $1, I bought eight, figuring they’d keep until I determined how to deal with them. I tucked the bag into the back of the fridge while I considered marmalades, curds and jellies. By the time I came back to it, more than two weeks had passed. Thankfully, grapefruit are sturdy and so they didn’t suffer too terribly in the interim.

grapefruit jam

Because the fruit wasn’t organic, I decided against marmalade (always best not to use the whole fruit if you don’t know how it was treated) and instead opted for a grapefruit jam. I was inspired by the filling I made for this citrus tart a few weeks back. I also happen to love the flavor of grapefruit and I was hopeful that it would translate well to a spreadable preserve.

grapefruit jam

When it comes to grapefruit, I’ve never been one of those people who cuts it in half, carefully dusts it with sugar and digs it with a spoon. I eat ’em peeled and segmented, just like an orange. It’s a little messy, but truly, there’s no way to deal with a grapefruit that isn’t just a little messy.

grapefruit jam

This recipe makes two pints (or four half pints if that’s your preferred measure). It’s a little bit of work to supreme the fruit (instructions here), but once that part is done, it cooks up in about 20 minutes like so many speedier jams. Spread on a buttered English muffin, it’s delivers the grapefruit flavor nicely, without the bitterness you get from marmalade. And though I like a hint of bitter on occasion, I was entirely fine not to find it here.

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Meyer Lemon Zest Sugar and Salt

meyer lemon zest sugar

Last Friday, in the process of testing four recipes for the cookbook, I found myself awash in Meyer lemon zest. Knowing that I needed to juice 20 Meyers, I made sure to zest each one beforehand so as not to waste a drop of those precious babies. Because I had no time to be fussy, I split the zest into two piles and made quick work of it.

I tossed the  first mound of fragrant, juicy zest with three cups of plain sugar. Spread between this jar and a smaller one, I’m currently entertaining fantasies of sprinkling some across the tops of scones just before they go into the oven or rimming cocktail glasses with it when the weather gets warmer.

And the other portion of zest? Layered in a jar with kosher salt, for serving with fish and boosting the flavor of salad dressings.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to wait for those times when you’re wealthy in Meyer lemons to do something like this. Next time you go to juice a lemon, scrape the zest off with a microplane or even a vegetable peeler. In the beginning choose either salt or sugar and begin popping your unneeded zest into the jar each time you cook. Soon enough, you’ll have effortlessly made a jar or two of these flavor enhancers.

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