Friday, January 28, 2011

PRESERVED LEMONS

There are plenty of lemons available in the market this time of year. I have been wanting to preserve some, not only because they look pretty in jars, but there are a number of recipes I have been wanting to try that call for them.




My good friend Serge Madikians, owner of Serevan Restaurant in Amenia, New York, makes an amazing Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives that is on the top of my to cook list. 

Check him out on Live From Daryl’s House.com, Episode 21, where he creates this dish for the Plain White T's.   

Of course, the first step is to get some of my own preserved lemons put aside. There are many variations of this recipe as presed lemons are popular in North Africa, the Middle East, and Ind
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PRESERVED LEMONS


INGREDIENTS
5 – 6 Lemons, washed and well-dried
plus juice of 2-3 other lemons

½ Cup Kosher Salt, more or less
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Sterilized Canning Jar
(I used a 1/2L French Canning Jar)
 

DIRECTIONS

Place 2 Tablespoons Salt into the bottom of the sterilized jar.

Once lemons are washed and well dried, prepare them one at a time as follows: Cut off the tip and bottom of each lemon, just down to the fruit.

Cut the lemons as if you were going halve them lengthwise, but do not complete the cut. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut the same way, so the lemon is quartered, but attached at the base.

Hold lemon over canning jar, gently open the lemon and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides, use at least one tablespoon. Do not worry if extra salt falls into jar.


Pack the lemons in the jar, pushing them down so that juice runs. Fill the jar with lemons in this manner. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice as needed to cover lemons.
Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for two days, turning the jar upside down occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to jar, place in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.

Preserved lemons can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a year, but you will probably use them up long before that.

To use the preserved lemons, remove rind from jar, remove pulp from rind, wash the rind and chop into small pieces, or as directed by individual recipe. Some people use the pulp for flavorings in soups and sauces.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

HONEY

[huhn-ee] 

a sweet fluid produced by bees from the nectar collected from flowers and stored in nests or hives as food. This substance is used in cooking or as a spread or sweetener.

Keep in mind, adjustments need to be made to a recipe when substituting honey for sugar.

1.  Use equal amounts of honey for sugar up to one cup. Over one cup, replace each cup of sugar with 2/3 to 3/4 cup over honey depending on your sweet tooth.

2.  In recipes using more than one cup honey for sugar, you may want to reduce other liquids by 1/4 cup per cup of honey.

3. Lower the baking temperature 25 degrees, baked goods will brown faster.

4.  In baked goods, if baking soda is not already included in the recipe add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey.

Cooking Tip: Moisten a measuring spoon or cup first with water, oil, or an egg before measuring the honey to prevent it from sticking to the measuring utensil. 


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Saturday, January 22, 2011

HONEY

We all probably have a jar of honey stored in our pantry, but have you ever stopped to consider what it actually took to get it there?   A bottle of pure honey is produced naturally. Known by the Greeks and Romans as the Birds of the Muses, honeybees produce honey by gathering nectar, which they place in the honeycomb cells of their hive. Bees must tap approximately two million flowers to make one pound of honey.  That sticky-sweet amber liquid enjoyed by humans for centuries is an all natural sweetener purported to contain restorative properties; if you can’t bottle it yourself you want to make friends with someone who does.

Homespun honey from Bagg's Apiary,
New Milford, Connecticut
Like gardens on city rooftops or chickens in a deserted tenement, bees can be kept almost anywhere.  Bee “farmers”, mostly on the West Coast and in the Midwest here in the United States, move thousands of hives a year, assisting in the pollination of crops, helping to feed the world. We have all heard stories of hives in walls, or swarms in the unlikeliest of places; whether they live in glass-designed hives for your viewing pleasure, like the one at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut, or nest in an unwanted invasion of a home or outbuilding, bees are adaptable.

Here in New England you may pass multicolored stacks of bee “houses” in overgrown fields, or rows of pristine white boxes in the aisles of orchards.  No matter their aesthetics, these towers are home to bees busily buzzing, feeding their colony, creating delicious honey.

The beautiful thing about bees is that they are perfect little machines operating in harmony with the earth’s ecosystem, and have been doing so for hundreds of thousands of years. They are tried and true producers of a healthy sweet, accomplishing this feat while not only NOT polluting their environment (and ours), but also assisting in the successful reproductive process of fruit and nut trees, vegetables, and the beautiful flowers we all love so much.  I am sure there were bees in the Garden of Eden, or at least in the Land of Milk and Honey.

I love gardening and I love to share the fruits of that labor with family and friends.  Being able to share the additional benefit of homespun honey would simply sweeten the pot for us all. Bottling our own honey hasn’t happened yet for two reasons:  one – we just gained access to a hive last summer and it takes a year to establish a colony and be able to harvest; and two – we haven’t collected all the equipment or expertise required to get that savory liquid gold into the pretty little bottles we are collecting, but we will. In the meantime, our friend and bee keeper, Mark Bagg of New Milford, Connecticut, is tutoring us in the ways of the honeybee. This is what we have learned so far.

Mark Bagg, Bee Keeper
Bee hives are made so that their frames are easily removed, which is good news for those doing the harvesting. Modern beehives are made up of a series of square or rectangular boxes without tops or bottoms placed one on top of another. Inside the boxes, parallel frames are hung in which bees build up the wax honeycomb where they store honey. A comb is ready to be harvested when it’s about 80% sealed over. Ripe honey, when removed properly from the hive by the beekeeper, has a long shelf life and will not ferment. Mark tells me archaeologists recovered honey from the Tombs of the Pharaohs, and while it had crystallized it was still edible.

Basic tools and procedures for extracting honey:


Uncapping knife - A heated knife for slicing off the cappings from combs of honey.


Uncapping tank - A container for receiving the cappings. Wet cappings fall onto a screen, and honey drips through to the bottom of the tank and out a spigot.


Extractor - A drum containing a rotating wire basket. Uncapped combs are placed in the basket and the basket is turned by hand or by motor. Centrifugal force removes the honey from the combs onto the sides of the tank, eventually draining through a spigot in the bottom. Emptied combs can be returned to the hive for the bees to clean and use again. With care, combs can be recycled for years.


Strainer - A mesh of coarse screen or cloth directly under the extractor spigot. This filters out large debris such as wax.


Storage tank - A large tank with a spigot, or "honey gate," at the bottom. As honey settles in the tank, air bubbles and small debris rise to the top and can be skimmed off, allowing honey that is bottled from the honey gate to be clear and attractive. 


So there you have it.  The very basics of beekeeping, but like I said if its something you can't do yourself you can still enjoy local bottled honey anytime of year. Use it in your tea, on toast with butter, use it when baking instead of sugar. Honey, an all-natural sweetener, and that's hard to beat!


photo credits: Mark Bagg and Rick Rosabella

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Friday, January 14, 2011

SIMPLE SYRUP

[sim-puh sir-uh p]


A thick, sweet liquid, usually prepared from sugar and water. 


Simple syrups have various uses including soaking cakes, glazing baked goods, poaching or preserving fruit, or adding to frostings.



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Friday, January 7, 2011

CLEMENTINES IN HONEY- SPICE SYRUP


Clementines are small, easy to peel, sweeter than tart, with few if any seeds; they provide needed vitamin C throughout the winter, when they are in season and readily available.

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Some say that the clementine was developed early in the 20th century by Father Clement Rodier, a French missionary, in the garden of his orphanage in Misserghin, Algeria. Cardamom plays an important role in Algerian sweets; paired with star anise in gingery honey syrup this recipe produces a romantic aroma. Leftover syrup is a wonderful base for fruit salads, a sweetener for smoothies, or as a saucy reduction for pork or chicken.

Usually available from December through February, canning these and other deletable citrus delicacies makes them available throughout the year.




CLEMENTINES IN HONEY- SPICE SYRUP



Variations: Substitute 1-1/2 lb. seedless thin-skinned oranges, such as Valencia or Tangerines. Blood Oranges or grapefruit with their tart flavor also blend well with this spiced syrup.

 

INGREDIENTS

½ Cup Honey

2 Cups Water

¼ cup thinly sliced peeled Ginger

4 Green Cardamom pods

2 whole Star Anise

5 whole Cloves

1 Cinnamon Stick

1 and 1/2 lbs. firm Clementines (5 to 7) or other citrus, peeled and segmented



DIRECTIONS

Tie Cloves, Cardamom Pods, Star Anise and Cinnamon Stick into a cheesecloth or muslin bag (I call this Spice Garni).

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring the water, Honey, Ginger, and Spice Garni to a boil over high heat, boil 3 minutes to concentrate the flavors. Let rest for several minutes. Remove Spice Garni from saucepan.

In the meantime, gently pack the slices into canning jars.

Ladle hot syrup (evenly distributing the ginger bits) into the jars over the slices leaving ½ inch head space; discard any excess syrup.

Process in a Hot Water bath for 10 minutes. Rest on shelf for at least one month before serving. Refrigerate after opening. 

If you would like to skip the Hot Water Bath and make a batch to keep in the refrigerator for several months bring the water, Honey, Ginger, and Spice Garni to a boil over high heat.

Remove from stovetop, gently slip in Clementine segments, return to boil. Boil gently for 2 minutes.

Remove pan from stovetop, using slotted spoon pack segments into jars.

Return syrup to stovetop; boil 3 minutes to concentrate the flavors.
Remember that this is a small batch process so you should end up with three half-pint jars to enjoy.

Remove Spice Garni from saucepan. Ladle liquid into jars. Cap, cool, refridgerate, enjoy!

If you would like to store on the pantry shelf for up to a year, following the guidelines for safe Hot Water Bath Canning and process for 10 minutes.  Store on cool, dark shelf.

There are many ways to use these preserved Clementines.  One of my favorites is baking a Honey Spice Pound Cake.  Dense and sweet you can customize by adding other dried fruits.



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

CREAM

[kreem]




To blend butter and sugar, or similar ingredients, to a smooth, creamy mass.


To combine ingredients until the mixture is soft and smooth. When creaming two or more ingredients together, the result should be smooth and consistent with no evidence of any particles or lumps.


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