Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sour Orange Cocktail Mix

The other day, my lovely mother sent me a citrus-y surprise from Florida. She's probably more obsessed than even I am for sniffing out backyard fruit that may be going unappreciated. It's where I get it from. Well, a generous neighbor of hers allowed her to take some oranges that were probably good one day, but had reverted back to it's root stock, and were now, according to her, seedy and sour. My guess is that root stock is the Florida sour orange, which is none other than the Seville, or bitter orange, the classic marmalade orange. Also, the classic Triple Sec orange. 

I really didn't want to make marmalade (some peels were mottled brown) or Triple Sec (I still have some from last year). I was stalling, the huge bowl of oranges sitting in the fridge, patiently waiting. Today it hit me: the sour taste of these oranges seemed a natural mixer for cocktails, so, very simply, I juiced them, then added a small bit of sugar, and canned the juice for drinks this summer. Although, I won't be waiting to use this. I'll wager I'll be having a whiskey sour very shortly.

I love my old school juicer.
To be honest, I didn't know exactly what to call this. Sour mix, as you may know, is a cocktail mixer that is made with lemons, limes, and simple syrup. For the masses, this means horribly sweet fake stuff, and for mixologists of fancy cocktails this means hand-squeezed juices mixed with sugar and water. I will always opt for fresh squeezed, but when you have a load of gorgeous seville oranges on your hands, this is what you can do to drink them through out the year. I think these would make a fine margarita, as well!

Sour Mix:

Four cups of Florida Sour or Seville orange juice*
1 cup of sugar

Add the two in a large non-reactive pot. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Sterilize two pint jars, and one half-pint for the extra bit to stash in the fridge. Bring mixture to a boil. Ladle into hot jars. Process for ten minutes.

*I realize that not many folks have access to these fruits. You can probably approximate by using a mix of lemons and limes, with an orange or two thrown in. I used a 1:4 ratio of sugar to fruit, which I think was perfect for my tastes, but you may want to add more sugar. Taste it as you go, and you should be fine.

But wait--there's more! Please don't throw out those peels! I scraped the cups and saved the pulp to make citrus pectin stock. And the peels will be turned into candied bits. If you are lacking at all for inspiration, please look to Local Kitchen's amazing compendium of citrus uses. You will never throw out another peel.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Double Batch Navel Orange Marmalade

Well, I did it. I finally made some marmalade. You see, last year I went a little overboard with the citrus, and I still have it hanging around even though I try determinedly to use it up. So, this year I disallowed myself shipments of expensive fruit, and instead enjoyed some calamondins sent to me from my mother. She also sent me some Florida sour oranges, which I haven't gotten around to using yet. But the other day I saw a pretty bag of organic navel oranges at the store and my compulsions got the better of me. That four pounds of fruit yielded almost a case of marmalade, and that's plenty for my household, including gift giving. 

This recipe is pretty easy, even though it takes three days. I'm not going to say I'm a marmalade expert; go visit Hitchhiking to Heaven for that. This is a homey kind of marmalade. I always used to be scared of doing two batches at once, but it's really very easy. What's nicest about it is that you can have two different flavors. I had been eyeing this King's Ginger liqueur for a while for a marmalade, and who isn't a sucker for a creamsicle?

Double Batch Navel Orange Marmalade
(yields about 10-12 eight-ounce jars)

Day One:

4 pounds of organic navel oranges, gently scrubbed and rinsed

The oranges should be in the fridge, maybe overnight, so that when you work with them they are chilled. I use my food processor for slicing the oranges.  Although many may scorn my callous handling of the mighty orange, it's a technique not to be overlooked. I do believe hand cutting is superior, but the food processor takes no time at all, and is uniformly thin. In the case of navels, or clementines, which generally don't have seeds, it's quite helpful. With seedy fruit, you can halve them, remove the seeds, and then slice. I like to cut off the ends, quarter the fruit vertically, and neatly process them "standing up" so that the orange slices are (for the most part) perfect pie shapes.

Put the slices in a large ceramic bowl, and cover with water. I used 7 cups of water. You want to fruit to be comfortable to swim around. I used a bit less than normal, because I like a firmer marmalade. Let the mixture sit over night, not refrigerated, with a piece of wax paper over it.

Day Two:

The next day, put the oranges and water in your jam pot, bring to a simmer until the peel is soft. Mine took no time at all. Put it back in the bowl (or leave it in the pot if you prefer) and cover, leaving again until the next day.

Day Three:

Divide the mixture into two different batches. Don't make it one batch, you'll be bummed because it'll take forever. Really, it's not recommended. Mine yielded two batches of orange slices and water that were six cups each.

Add 4 cups of sugar to each batch. For my two batches this is what I added:

The King's Ginger Marm: 

2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of peeled, grated ginger
1/4 cup of The King's Ginger Liqueur (not to be added until the very end)

Creamsicle Marmalade:

2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (though I'm sure a vanilla bean would be exemplary--I didn't have any on hand)

Bring each mixture to a boil and let it cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, which depends on everything from the weather, your preferred brand of sugar or to the pot you used. I like a firm marmalade, so I let it go to the sheeting stage, but you may want to pull it earlier. I like to add my booze just as the gel stage is reached. I pour it in, turn off the heat, and gently stir while it simmers down.

Ladle into eight ounce jars, and process for ten minutes in a boiling water bath.

An antique Fire King sugar bowl is my refrigerator jam pot.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beer and Horseradish Mustard

While all my preserving compatriots are busy making gorgeous citrusy elixirs, I am here making very homely mustard. But it is not without its merit! Lately I've been using up my marmalading time (which is at night when baby is asleep, chez moi) to become fully besotted with Downton Abbey, like many folks are. (No spoilers in the comments, please! I'm a few episodes behind.) I keep on telling myself that it's okay, because come rhubarb season, I won't have a spare moment for the following eight months.

I realized I had to make some mustard because the other day I went shopping and thought: Oh, we need mustard. And then I realized I couldn't bear to buy horrible store mustard when my own would be so much better. I knew I had yellow and brown seeds, and powder all ready to go. But then, I got sucked into Season Two, Episode 5. The next day we had ham steaks for dinner, and my patient husband said, "You know, this would be good with some mustard. But, it seems we don't have any." He knew exactly why that was, and so, the next free moment I had, I whipped this up. Why do I procrastinate so??

On a completely unrelated note, does anybody remember the British miniseries Poldark? It makes me laugh to think of it, but I recall my parents watching it on PBS with some regularity. Makes me think that my son one day will wonder what the fuss was about Downton Abbey. Maybe I'll have to revisit it. Although, my mother called the other day with heraldic news: she found a neighborhood orange tree and a box full of them is winging its way to me as I type. Maybe a gorgeous citrusy elixir will soon be mine to make! But that does mean a sacrafice: no Poldark revival.

So, back to the mustard. Mustard recipes are all over the internets, and it is indeed easy to make. My first mustard came out lovely, but then I made--or thought I made--a horrible one. Ends up I tasted it too soon, which is a misstep. You must give mustard a little time. Make sure you visit Hank Shaw's mustard primer, it's filled with concise information. Local Kitchen has quite a few lovely recipes, and look at all these great ones at Punk Domestics! There's some mustard appreciation going on out there.

I loved the 6 DIY Mustard Recipes from The Kitchn and Sunset Magazine, but I must admit I was a bit put off by the addition of eggs and the use of the double boiler. I know that's lazy of me, but I prefer the easier soak/blend method. However, I understand the thickness quandary, and it made me think I might try a mustard experiment with chia seeds. Aha! We'll see how long that takes. Probably until my poor husband looks up all sad from his ham with an obvious mustard withdrawal.

Beer and Horseradish Mustard - a nice thick consistency, this mustard will do fine on a sandwich, a sausage, or pretzel. Strong, but not too sharp, it's a hearty condiment.

Makes about a cup. Store in the fridge, will keep probably forever but hopefully you'll finish it before then.

3 tablespoons of brown mustard seeds
3 tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's)
1/3 cup of beer (Slightly cringeworthy disclosure: I used Genny Cream Ale. Hey, it's local!)
1 heaping tablespoon of prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon of salt

Mix all in a pint jar. Let sit overnight in the fridge. The next day, put it in the food processor or blender and pulse until it's to your liking. Should be good to eat right then, but a few days is always good for smoothing out the bite.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Parsnip, Potato and Winter Squash Soup

I'm not the best sewer, but for some reason I love sewing paraphernalia. A while back, I inherited quite a bit of it from my grandmother-in-law, and in combing through it, I was touched by her depression-era compulsion to save every last bit, because everything either mattered, or one day might matter. What most struck me was short lengths of thread wrapped around pieces of card stock, or my favorite, an old rolled up Winston cigarette pack. Buckles, buttons and hooks complete the picture of a life spent making do.

Making do is a beautiful and necessary thing. Making do, to me at least, doesn't mean that everything is patched together, falling apart or made of inferior things. Making do is finding the use in everything. It's entirely noble, in my mind, and especially in times like these, most important.

I especially love this theory applied to meals. That is, when something that might be called a left over is magically turned into something special and worthwhile on it's own. Not only am I not the only one who does this, but people have been doing this since they've been cooking. It's how many amazing dishes came to be. And it's how most restaurants are run. What do we need to cook? is what I often ask myself.

Along with sewing stuff, I like to collect cookbooks. The other day my son pulled this one out of the bookshelf, and I thought I'd page through it to see if there was anything good pertaining to cooking with soup. Well, there wasn't. But it's still got that kitchy je ne sais quoi, doesn't it? 

Here's an example of how a soup I made one night turned into several other meals. Leave me a comment---I'd love to hear how you do this.

Parsnip, Potato and Winter Squash Soup

This made enough for dinner one night, and two quarts for the fridge. One quart provided Turkey Cottage Pie the next night, and the other quart stayed refrigerated until I made the pancakes and muffins a full five days later. 

2 cups roasted pureed winter squash*
3 large boiled potatoes, in chunks
2 large boiled parsnips, in chunks

1 medium onion, diced

Saute onion in olive oil until soft and golden. Add parnsnips and potatoes. Mix in squash until just heated. Add 6-8 cups of water, 2 at a time. Wait until the soup is simmering to add the next two cups of water. Let cook at high simmer for fifteen minutes. Puree with immersion blender. Add salt to taste, but keep in mind you are using the soup for other things. Add more salt at the table if necessary.

Serve with a drizzle of rosemary olive oil, and good bread.

* I used a winter squash I grew but forgot the name of. Butternut is fine. Peel, remove seeds, chop to chunks, and roast on a lightly oiled baking tray at 400 degrees until tender when pierced with a fork. Purée when cool.

Turkey Cottage Pie

I'm using the term Cottage Pie loosely. Not the fanciest dish, but a good hearty meal for a mid-week dinner.

Saute one diced onion, add ground turkey (about a pound), add frozen mixed vegetables, cook through.  Put into a buttered 13 x 9 glass baking dish, cover with two cups of soup, which after a night in the fridge, thickened considerably. Dot with butter, sprinkle with grated cheese and/or bread crumbs, bake at 400 degrees for about thirty minutes.

Root Vegetable Pancakes

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (yogurt is also fine)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
1/2 cup of Parsnip, Potato and Winter Squash soup (or a similar smooth soup)

Mix dry ingredients, then add the mixed wet ingredients. Let sit for about fifteen minutes. Cook pancakes as you usually do. I find that pancakes that have added ingredients always take a little longer to fully cook. I keep my griddle a little less hot, and make sure to let the pancakes cook a bit longer. An undercooked pancake is very unappetizing. I add no sugar to my pancake batter, but instead top them with butter and maple syrup.

Cheddar and Rosemary Muffins

These muffins are dense and filling, and make a great side dish to a meal, or a quick lunch. 

2 cups of AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

1 cup buttermilk (yogurt is also fine)
1 cup Parsnip, Potato and Winter Squash soup (or a similar smooth soup)
1/4 of a pound of grated cheese, cheddar or gouda are good choices
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 egg
1/3 cup of olive oil

Mix your flours and powders thoroughly. And the same with rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet to the dry in a few brisk strokes. Pour into a 12-muffin tin greased well with olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, they will look glorious and puffy. But, like a soufflé, they will deflate a bit. However, they still look charming and taste great.