Friday, March 29, 2013

Bar Top: Frozen Pomelo Minty Margarita

Now this is a margarita you can eat with a spoon!

This is quite a yummy take on margaritas and my own special concoction!  Since pomelos are pretty fibrous and not very juicy, this margarita is best serve frozen.  Remember the left over  mint syrup we had from canning the grapefruit in minty syrup?  We are going to use it here (see, I told you not to throw it out!).

First, you will segment your pomelo.  Now that you have your pomelo ready to go, you will need the following:  Tequila, cointreau, fresh lime, minty syruip, pomelo segments, ice, bar shaker, shot measure, and a blender.

Ignore everything in the background...I have a small kitchen, ok!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Don't Waste That: Citrus Peels

I hate waste of any kind.  If I throw something out I feel so ashamed and guilty.  Some people may call me cheap but when something is perfectly fine, I try to find another use for it.  One thing that has a lot of uses are citrus peels.  I save them.  All of them.  If I take an orange to work, I wrap up the orange peel in a paper towel and bring it home - I know, I know.  I can feel your judging eyes.  If I use the juice of a lemon or lime in a recipe, I save the peel. 

These last few weeks I've been eating an orange a day and I've been saving those peels for another use:  Orange Vinegar.

When I make orange vinegar for eating, I always zest the orange because the pith will give the vinegar a bitter taste.  Add the orange zest to a quart jar, fill with vinegar, and steep. 

After it's steeped for a good amount of time (a month or more; taste it to make sure it's at the flavor you want), strain and bottle.  This vinegar is yummy in a lot of things: adding it in marinades, adding to sauteed greens, using it in a salad dressing.  The possibilities are endless.

Another tip: do not throw the pith out after you zest it.  Throw the pith down your garbage disposal, turn it on, and it will help disinfect and clean it!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homemade Extracts

I do *a lot* of baking hence I use quite a bit of extract.  Extracts can be so expensive to buy in the stores; $3 or more for a tiny bottle of extract.  Because of this, I have started making my own.  My very first extract that I ever made was vanilla extract.  This year, I'm going to make four:  Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit, and Vanilla.  I'm a little little nervous about the grapefruit extract because I don't generally like the taste of grapefruit peel, I find it too bitter, but the cost to make homemade extracts is negligible so I'm going for it!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Preserved Oranges

Remember when we did Preserved Lemons?  Well, you can do the same thing with oranges (and limes and gragefruit, basically any citrus)!  I don't use preserved oranges as much as preserved lemons but they are great for a well stocked home bar.  You know all those annoying drink recipes that call for a "twist of orange" and you're like, "Damn it!  I'm not going to buy an orange just for a twist!"  I just replace that twist with a sliver of preserve orange rind!  It gives your drink the same oomph as a fresh twist and you don't have to do without; plus, you can eat the rind!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Three Citrus Marmalade

I've always been on the fence about marmalade.  Some commercial marmamalades are too tart, some are too bitter, and some are too sweet.  There are hardly any that I could find that I really truely liked.  So, when I recieved Eugenia Bone's book Well-Preserved, it surprised me that I really wanted to try her Three Citrus Marmalade.  It sounded so good on the page.  Yes, the very first jam I ever made was a marmalade (what can I say?  I'm an overachiever!).  It was hell.  I stayed up until 4 am making it...but you know what?  The next day when I tried some of the excess marmalade with toast, it was amazing.  The.  Best.  Marmalade.  Ever.  Having a mix of three different citrus really balances out the individual strong flavors of all the citrus.  I really want you to make this marmalade.  Really.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Grapefruit in Minty Syrup

My friends at Pearson Ranch California Oranges helped me out again.  Right now they have a combo citrus pack with 10 pounds Oros Blancos and 8 pounds Pomelos.

The other "grapefruit" are Pomelos

Oros Blancos are the smaller grapefruit.  They are a very light yellow and their fruit is a golden color.  They are much sweeter and not as tart nor as sour as Ruby Red or Pink Grapefruit.  They are a lovely mild grapefruit that is sweet at the front on your tongue but mildly tart once it hits the back.  These would be a great grapefruit for those of you that do not enjoy the brash tartness of the Ruby Reds.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kitchen Tactics: Segmenting Citrus

Segmenting citrus is not my idea of a good time, however, for the sake of quality it is very important to segment citrus for canning (and for some recipes in general).  Keeping the membrane on any citrus will turn your canned product into an overly bitter item that is uneatable and, trust me on this, when you spend time canning a product it sucks to throw it out because it's unpalatable.  Also, there are  some citrus that have very thick membranes (like grapefruit and pomelo) that just ruins the flavor of the fruit because it's just too chewy to enjoy.  I love grapefruit but I hate cutting it in half and eating it with a spoon (I know, I'm high maintenance) so when I buy grapefruit, I will segment 2 or 3 of them at a time and then eat them within a few days.

For the sake of example (and because I have 8 pounds in my fridge),  I will show you how to segment citrus using a pomelo.  Pomelos are a very big grapefruit.  In fact, they are  considered the grand-daddy of grapefruit.  Their rind is thick and their pith is extra thick and super spongy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lemony Seafood Pasta

I love seafood like it's nobody's business.  I would eat seafood every day if I could.  Moving to Maryland was one of the greatest things I did for my gastronomy because the seafood is so cheap and plentiful out here!  It's amazing!  I think I ate seafood straight for a month or two when I first moved here (partly because I didn't realize that it's here all the time!)  One of my favorite products to buy is the frozen mixed seafood bags.  They are fairly cheap and you get a lot of meat for the price so they are a great deal.

No! No! No! Don't turn your nose up!
I promise, we have something great planned!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bar Top: Brown Sugar Whiskey Sour

I was never an imbiber of whiskey sours before.  Every time I tried one, they were just...very disappointing.  Maybe it was the premixed sweet and sours that bars use in their drinks.  YUCK!  Once I started really getting into setting up a home bar, however, a whole new range of drinks that I didn't like before, were suddenly delicious!  Using quality ingredients in your drinks will turn any drink from blah to won't even need the highest top of the line liquor either!  I've made this whiskey sour with rye whiskey and bourbon.  Both of them are excellent.

This whiskey sour takes whiskey sour to a whole 'nother level.  I present to you:  The Brown Sugar Whiskey Sour:

Brown Sugar Whiskey Sour

Adapted from The Vintage Mixer

Yield:  1 cocktail

Juice from half a lemon
1/4 oz Brown Sugar Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
1.5 oz Straight Rye Whiskey
  1. Pour 1/4 oz Brown Sugar Simple Syrup in a rocks glass, add juice from half a lemon, add Whiskey, stir, add ice.  Enjoy.
  2. Add more brown sugar simple syrup or whiskey to suit your taste.
Brown Sugar Simple Syrup

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup water

1.  Mix sugar and water in a small pot and simmer until brown sugar dissolves.  Turn off heat, pour into a jar and cool.  Store in the fridge.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Candied Lemons

Remember when I told you to keep the lemon peel from the lemons we juiced for the canned lemonade concentrate?  Well, wait until you try these homemade candies!  Making homemade candies makes my heart sing with joy and candied lemons are fantastic.  There is just so much you can do with them and I plan on posting recipes in the future. 

Take the peel from 10 juiced lemons, remove the pulp of the lemon, and pick out any rough pith.  If the skins are really thick, you may have to cut off some of the pith.


Friday, March 15, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Pearson Ranch California Oranges

I adore lemons probably more than any other food, especially of the citrus group.  I grew up in Arizona and always took lemons, well citrus in general, for granted.  They were everywhere and always for free.  Someone somewhere, either at work or in your neighborhood, had a lemon tree that just grew too many lemons.

No more scurvy for me!  Yar!

Then I moved to Maryland and the the lemon party was over.  WHAT?!  How do these people live without lemons?!  I didn't even know it was possible.  Lemons are worth their weight in gold here.  The sad thing is, citrus in Maryland are generally in a sad state.  By the time they are picked by the corporate Florida farms, then boxed, shipped to a distribution corporation, trucked to Maryland, distributed to the grocery store, wait in the grocery store cold room, make it to the shelves, to *finally* get picked by a customer, the citrus are dried and shriveled.  It's really quite sad.  That should not be the life of a citrus fruit.  The citrus you can find from the Farmer's Markets are not much better, considering that they still have to get trucked to the farmers - and some of the farmers that sell year round do deal with distribution companies.  After my upteenth dried out orange/lime/lemon, I have, for the most part, stayed away from citrus since I've been here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Canned Lemonade Concentrate

Folks, I pulled out the big gun:

The dehydrator holds all the citrus peel!

The love of my life, my Kitchen Aide Stand Mixer and her attachment, the citrus juicer.  I love lemonade and last year I made a limited number of canned lemonade concentrate.  I did not make enough and I ran out halfway through the year.  Booooooo.  This year, I was determined to make enough lemonade concentrate to last the whole year.

So, we had the 15 zested lemons from the limoncello and the 15 zested lemons from the dried peel, cut those lemons in half and juice them.  Then cut in half and juice more lemons to equal 9 cups of lemon juice (DO NOT THROW AWAY THE PEEL!  WE ARE GOING TO MAKE SOMETHING WITH THEM!).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kitchen Tactics: Boiling Water Bath Canning

Yesterday in the "Let's Talk About" series, "Let's Talk About:  Boiling Water Bath Canning", we discussed the reasons why BWB canning works.  In order to not make either post huge, I decided to break it down into two parts.  Today we are going to discuss *how* to BWB can.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Let's Talk About: Boiling Water Bath Canning

This is a long, boring post but it is extremely important.  Please read it before you start any BWB canning!

There are several ways that you can preserve your food:  freezing, drying, pickling, pressure canning, Boiling water bath (BWB) canning, preserving in oil, curing, and smoking.  Most of my preservation techniques center on freezing, pickling, and BWB canning.  This year my goal is to expand into drying and pressure canning.  I'm not much of a preserving in oil fan as the foods that you preserve in oil become mushy as time goes on and they really don't last that long.  Somethings preserved in oils will only be good for a month or two and if I'm going to put so much time into something, what's the point?  I don't do curing or smoking, either.  It's just way too easy to buy cured and smoked meats to put the time and effort into curing and smoking.  Today, we are going to talk about Boiling Water Bath canning.



Monday, March 11, 2013

Dried Citrus Zest Strips

I was in the grocery store today as there was meat on sale and because I can never go to the grocery store for only one thing, I ran into this in the spice aisle:

SIX DOLLARS AND 50 CENTS?!  SIX DOLLARS AND 50 CENTS for 1.5oz of "California Lemon Peel"?!  Are you kidding me?!  Is this stuff powdered gold?!  And, knowing how corporations like to cut corners, you know that this is not made from Meyer Lemons. 

But wait, it gets better!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Real Deal Limoncello, First Phase

Do yourselves a favor and start this Limoncello with me.  This method for Limoncello will create the best damn Limoncello you’ve ever had.  It’s amazing and it takes about 9 months to completely mature, so start it now.   It will be ready to bottle by Christmas.  You can bottle it and keep it for yourself or give it as gifts to people who really deserve it. 

First, you will need a 750ml bottle of vodka, not necessarily high end but one that’s good enough that you would serve to other people (I like using Skyy), and a 750ml bottle of Everclear.   Next, you’ll need 15 lemons who’s skins are just about perfect.  You don’t want many bruises because we need the zest.  Finally, you need a good vegetable peeler and a 2 gallon glass jar.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Preserved Lemons

If you’ve never made preserved lemons before, you are completely missing out.  I got interested in the idea of preserved lemons after getting tired of forgotten fresh lemons drying out and going bad.  It’s always frustrating to throw out wasted produce.  Especially lemons.  When I received my first ever preserving book, Canning for a New Generation, one of the first recipes I tried was “Preserved Lemons”.  Let me tell you:  Preserved Lemons have changed my life.  I can now order lemons in bulk when they are seasonally at their best and enjoy the taste of lemons all year long!  As much cooking – and*ahemdrinkingahem* – as I do, one quart of preserved lemons lasts me about a year.  Preserved Lemons are pickled lemons that have been pickled in their juices and salt.  You can use the pulp of the preserved lemons in recipes, however, keep in mind that it is salty and briny.  The magic of the preserved lemon is in the rind.  The rind becomes a beautiful, soft, chewy pickle that is palatable and goes a long way in recipes.  I know it seems counterintuitive to eat citrus rind but trust me on this.  In the middle of summer when lemons are not at their best - or when you just don't want to go to the grocery store - I have substituted finely chopped preserved lemon rind in any recipe that calls for lemon zest.  I have whirred up a few slices in the blender and used the paste in recipes that call for lemon juice.  There's a great lemon vinaigrette and a great Preserved Lemon Roasted Chicken recipes that I use with these lemons (those recipes to follow in the future).  Pretty soon, you will find that your refrigerator feels empty without a jar within reach.

Friday, March 8, 2013

When Life Hands You Lemons...

Folks, I have a confession to make:  I love it when life hands me lemons.  I mean, look at these beauties!  I received them the other day from Pearson Ranch California Oranges.  They have engulfed my kitchen with a beautiful sweet scent that is just gorgeous and makes me smile.  They are a burst of much needed sunshine in my dreary Maryland kitchen. And, I have plans for these babies.  Oh yes, I’m turning this 20 lbs box into several gorgeous homemade yummies.  Just you wait and see.  These next few days I will post what I did to break down this wonderful box of lemons!  For now, though, I will enjoy a slice of lemon in my water!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eliminating Processed Food: My Journey

I know what you're thinking, "This girls blog is a *hot mess*"  I know, I know.  I am working on the layout of my blog but I am bursting with ideas and I just have to share them with you!  So, I decided to start writing even as the image of my blog takes a life of it's own.

A little about myself:  I am not a chef.  I am not a master canner.  I am not even a nutritionist.  What I am is a person that is concerned with the state of "food" in the USA.  I believe that food in the USA is becoming "food".  "Food" in quotation marks.  "Food" is not food; "food" is fake.  So, I decided to do something about it.  I am on a mission to take out as much preservatives from my diet as possible.  I plan to discuss the issues of "food" in America along with canning and recipes that I have come across that are delicious.  I eat as seasonally (and locally) as possible and when in bounty I preserve.  I also do not let anything go to waste.  Most of my recipes are pretty nutritious, not all of them are uber-healthy (especially during the winter), but all of them are real.  I wanted to start around late winter, early spring so that you can see the process of my planning, canning, and cooking through out the seasonal year.  Too many people believe that cooking fresh and seasonally takes up too much work, but I hope to show you that with a little bit of time, a little bit of planning, and a little bit of knowledge about your produce, you can create a kitchen that is virtually preservative free.

This is my journey in eliminating processed foods and I hope you join me.