Posts Tagged food

More red magic

 

My “where’s the jam” crisis is now officially over, thanks to a smallish batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam with the first of the glorious Ontario strawberries. It’s the first time I’ve made strawberry anything jam in what was still a Canadian May, and it quells the fear that I might run out of home made jam before this year’s canning season.

I can relax now.

Having said that, it was a slightly strange venture, with a jam that foamed madly at the start and settled down quickly to something that passed my set test after just five minutes of a rolling boil, separating nicely on a chilled plate and feeling very jam-like in the pan. Except that it didn’t, and it wasn’t. This turns out to be a runny jam that will work in yogurt or ice cream rather than on bread, probably because both strawberries and rhubarb are pretty low in pectin and I didn’t add any of the bought or home-made stuff. I don’t see that as a problem, because most of my jam ends up in yogurt anyway, and it’s definitely thicker than the gingery melon syrup I made a few years back. And it’s also a very, very tasty jam, sweet yet tart at the same time. But it is a little curious.

What I did:

Rhubarb-strawberry jam (makes 5 jars, almost)

350g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and chopped
600g strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 lemons, juiced
750g sugar

Mix all the ingredients and let the fruit/sugar mix sit for a couple of hours until the juices start to flow.

Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then at a full, rolling boil until it sets. It foamed like crazy at first, rising half way up the very large pan. But it settled down eventually, and there was only a little foam left to skim off at the end.


Test for a set by spooning a blob onto a chilled plate. If the blob stays apart when you run your finger through it, you have a set. It did, and I didn’t, even though I kept the boil going for another couple of minutes after the supposedly successful test. No clue why.

Skim off any remaining foam (which is amazingly good on bread), and bottle the jam in sterilized jars. Waterbath for 10 minutes, or just keep the jars of crimson magic in the fridge. The hot jars sealed quite nicely, even without waterbathing, and there’s a decent amount of sugar and lemon juice in this anyway.

(USDA recommends water baths, so I suppose I do too, theoretically at least.)

Enjoy.

 

 

Leave a Comment

Changing my life 

If I’m honest, it was the one-pot-does-everything idea that attracted me to my new toy, the Instant Pot, because I liked the idea of getting rid of a bunch of single-task stuff and still being able to simmer oatmeal, slow-cook beets and fast-cook chickpeas for hummus.
But after just two weeks as a member of the IP cult, I realize that the yogurt it makes has the potential to change my life. This a smooth, creamy yogurt, which I make with full-fat, organic milk and strain just long enough for a medium firm consistency. (It works both for me and for the “I don’t like Greek yogurt” spouse.) I add it to my morning oatmeal, for a spoonful of tang, and then eat it by the bowlful with a generous dollop of jam. He mixes his with hemp seeds and maple syrup and takes it into work. The only problem is making it fast enough and often enough that we don’t run out.


The recipe, if you can call it such, is beyond simple. Heat milk in the pot until it gets to 180F (or a bit more), cool it back down to 115F (or a bit less) – experts suggest placing the inner pot in a sink of cold water and whisking the hot milk to cool it down. Add starter (basically a tablespoon of the previous batch), and then leave the pot of milk on the yogurt setting overnight to let the bacteria do their stuff. Come morning I strain the yogurt for an hour or so for a set that’s half way between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt. You need almost nothing: strainer, cheesecloth, thermometer and a container to store the yogurt when it’s done.


No muss, no fuss, true perfection.

The bonus: the leftover whey is perfect for bread and for that amazing Ottolenghi chocolate babka. I even added some to a pasta casserole instead of milk.

My life will never be the same again.

Leave a Comment

The cult of Instant Pot

It’s a cult, I tell you, these Instant Pots. One pot to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them in the Land of Mordor, where the shadows lie. Sorry. Wrong genre. I got a little carried away.*

But how else do you explain the appeal of the latest foodie gizmo, a single gadget that functions as a slow cooker, rice cooker, pressure cooker, vegetable steamer, sauté pan and yogurt maker? It boils eggs, makes cheesecake and would probably tie my shoelaces if I asked it nicely. I mused for a few days whether I wanted one, and the spouse upped and bought it, even though I assured him he had already bought me a very generous birthday present. Today it arrived. And the adventure began.

I admit the warnings, both on the pot, and in the Facebook Instant Pot Community (414,174 members as of today), are pretty daunting, and I read horror stories of people storing their gadget on the stove, and then switching a burner on (cue melted pot), or pouring liquid into the pot’s housing rather than into the pot itself (the electronics don’t seem to like that much). It has more buttons than a microwave, and a lot of very irritating beeps, marking the on-off moments, the up-to-pressure moments and the what-if-I-change-my-mind moments. So in a day of get-to-know you experiments, I boiled water, hard-boiled (hard-steamed?) four eggs, almost followed the Instant Pot recipe book for a distressingly tasteless dal and cooked a cup of brown rice. I’m not hooked yet, but I’m definitely curious. This adventure could be fun.

I’ll skim over the pressure-cooked water, which is the recommended way to test that the pot is working as advertised, and the eggs, which admittedly did peel very nicely after pressure steaming according to the internet’s consensus 5:5:5 rule. Put eggs on trivet, slosh half a cup of water into the pot, then cook for five minutes at pressure, wait five minutes on keep-warm mode to let the pressure come down a bit and then cool for five minutes in cold water. The lentil dish (lentils, onions, garlic, red pepper, spices, apple cider, water and home-canned tomatoes) was very quick and very easy, but it definitely needed a lot more oomph, as well as a very generous dose of salt. This was a recipe with no salt and no fat, both of which add taste, and I consider the recipe a fail. I should have trusted my instincts and used the saute function to fry my onions/garlic/pepper mix before adding the other ingredients. And I should have added more (and different) spices.

Then I followed the instruction manual’s recipe for “perfect brown rice” which called for a ratio of 2.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Hmm. My rice tasted good, but it had not absorbed all its cooking water after the recommended 22 minutes at pressure and then 14 on keep-hot mode. Was my rice to old, or was the recipe (which was also lacking salt) wonky? I’ll never know, but I will try again, and I certainly liked the cooking speed.

Conclusions: Ignore the confusing buttons and do everything manually, and add salt to everything to taste. The eggs are very, very easy, and yes, the peel well. I have not figured out a final answer to the tasteless dal – the sealed lid of the pressure cooker means you can’t just taste your dish as it cooks. But I’ll get there. It definitely wasn’t bad.

Any favourite things out there that I should be doing when I play with the new toy?

*Apologies to Tolkien fans.

Comments (2)

Oranges, meet salt

The challenge over at Food in Jars is all about salt preserving this month, and the discussion centres on whether there’s enough stuff to keep the 1000-plus canners going all month. Marisa has a number of suggestions, including salted egg yolks (???) and an intriguing sounding vegetable stock base. But the thing that everyone keeps coming back to is preserved lemons, which I’ve made several times and always enjoy.

But for me this challenge is all about learning and experimenting, so I’m going for salt preserved oranges, because … why not? It was quick, although it will take a few weeks before I open the jar and decide about the taste.

I started by cutting two organic navel oranges into segments, dipping them in kosher salt and cramming them into a 1-pint Mason jar. Add orange juice to cover, seal and store in the fridge for a month or more to let the flavours develop. If I remember, I’ll turn the jar over a few times to mix the salt and fruit, but I’ll probably forget. I seem to have lost my little plastic lid for Mason jars, so I put a layer of plastic film between jar and lid, in the hope that will stop things rusting too fast — a salt/acid combination can pretty much destroy a ring/lid combination.

Worst case scenario.

Preserved oranges turn out to be sort of indifferent, and I don’t make them again.

Best case scenario.

They are new and wonderful, and I make them week after week after week after week, putting them in soups, stews, hummus and anything else that can do with a citrus tang.

Bonus scenario.

I zested the orange I was juicing to cover the fruit, and mixed that with the remaining kosher salt in a no-waste effort to make some citrus salt. No clue what I’ll use that for either, but again, it’s an experiment. If it doesn’t work I’m out a couple of ounces of salt.

Now comes the waiting.

 

Leave a Comment

Marmalade musings: Using it up

My latest marmalade adventures, plus a spirited debate over on the Food in Jars community Facebook page, has got me thinking about what I use marmalade for, and whether the 16 jars I have so far will be enough for the year.

So far, I favour the following.

  • Toast and marmalade. Well doh. That’s what marmalade is all about. It’s especially good if the toast is made from home-made bread. Lashings of butter, preferably salted, is a welcome addition.
  • Marmalade and peanut butter sandwiches (also on home-made bread). That’s become my go-to snack for summer biking and winter cross-country skiing because it offers carbs, protein and sugar in an easy-to-transport, not-too-sweet package. It was the main reason I almost ran out of marmalade last year.
  • Marmalade and cottage cheese. Try it. Even better than marmalade and yogurt. It works as a post-ride protein boost as well.
  • Marmalade and oatmeal. In winter, I slow-cook a large batch of steel-cut oatmeal every few days, usually adding dates or cranberries for taste, and then microwave a portion for breakfast each morning. Adding a dollop of marmalade offers sweetness with a slightly bitter kick,. I’ve also started throwing in a handful of different grains when I make the oatmeal. Flax/wheat/rye based Red River cereal was a good addition, but I recently switched to amaranth seeds, which give a slightly nutty taste, and might move on next to quinoa or teff.
  • Nigella Lawson’s chocolate marmalade cake (recipe below). I can’t remember where I first found this recipe, but it’s like a cross between a brownie and a cake, with the marmalade’s bitter taste and peel adding something very special. I’m willing to bet you can’t just eat one slice.
  • The inside of a thumbprint cookie, preferably a cookie with lots of almonds and one that uses maple syrup instead of sugar. I like this Wholefoods recipe.
  • A glaze for any other sort of cake, within reason.
  • A glaze for meat (chicken, pork. beef) or fish (salmon, especially). OK, I’ve not tried this one for ages, but how can it possibly go wrong?

I am still looking for the perfect recipe for marmalade cake. Any offers?

And any other marmalade-using ideas?

In fact writing this blog got me so excited about the chocolate cake that I raced down to the library (in the rain) to get their copy of Nigella’s “How to be a domestic goddess,” which is the book with the recipe. She calls it store-cupboard chocolate-orange cake, because she assumes most people have all the ingredients in their store cupboards.

I beg to differ. You think I keep dark chocolate at home?

Chocolate marmalade cake
(or store-cupboard chocolate-orange cake, if you prefer)

125g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate (I used Lindt with 70 percent cocoa)
300g home-made marmalade (that’s one full 250 ml jar, plus a little bit)
130g sugar (Nigella says 150g, but I figured a little less wouldn’t hurt)
a pinch of salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
150g self-rising flour (or 150 g all-purpose flour and 1.5 tsp baking powder)

Melt the butter and chocolate together, as if you were making brownies. Nigella suggests a saucepan over low heat; I microwaved, cautiously, on half power. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the marmalade, sugar and salt and then the beaten eggs. Mix in the flour and then pour into a greased 20-22cm cake tin. I used my trusted, nogrease silicon pan, which makes life easier.

Bake for 40-50 minutes in a preheated 375F oven, until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.


I had forgotten quite how yummy this is.

 

Leave a Comment

Doing a little different

A long while ago, canning buddy and I made a slightly caramelized marmalade with some brown sugar for colour, and whisky thrown in at the last second, supposedly for taste. But we never tried it again, for reasons I can no longer remember.

Cue this week’s experiment, an after-work celebration of the fact that the Seville oranges have finally, finally, finally made it to Toronto. Two batches, one with mostly brown sugar, one only with white, and both are pretty damn awesome. I know this because a jar of each marmalade failed to seal properly after their moment in the water bath, forcing me to open and taste both jars before storing the leftovers in the fridge. These are almost the first no-seal jars. Did I take them out of the water bath too early? Fill them too full? Not finger tighten the rings hard enough before the water bath? Who knows. It just means more marmalade to eat right now.

I’m not going to go through the recipe in detail here, because it’s basically the same as the five (!) batches of marmalade I’ve already made this month (Meyer lemon, Cara-Meyer, a mini grown-in-Ontario batch of what was probably calamondin, a mixed orange-lemon marmalade in Florida and a delicate Meyer-blood orange mix that I didn’t blog about).

The method uses equal weights of fruit, sugar and water, with a pre-boil, a slicing of the peels and then a rolling boil until it sets. It’s a method from Marisa at Food in Jars and it usually works. One of the latest batch was regular Seville orange marmalade — with a kilo of white sugar and the same weight in Seville oranges (and one lemon). For the second I used the same amount of fruit, but 650g of brown sugar and 350 of white. It very, very dark — almost a chocolate rather than an orange with a taste that’s almost burnt.

And this time, the set was just about perfect, as opposed to the slightly too runny Cara-Meyer marmalade and the rather well set Meyer lemon mix that started this year’s marmalade season.

I like.

Next up: a Daily Telegraph recipe for marmalade with the addition of black treacle (Britain’s bittersweet and gooey answer to North American molasses), and a blog on using up marmalade. There’s a lot to use.

Leave a Comment

From tree to table, via pan and jar

Another on the road adventure, during a short trip to Florida to escape the Canadian winter. Friend here has citrus trees in her lush green yard, but in 30 (or is it 40?) years of living here, she’s never made marmalade. Cue batch no. 4 of 2017 marmalade, which I consider to be one of the best yet. A real classic marmalade, with tangy peel suspended in glorious bittersweet orange jelly. This one might win prizes at the county fair.

We went small on this one. Just two large home grown oranges and one extremely large home grown Meyer lemon, a trio that weighed in at two pounds exactly. That made the 1:1:1 fruit/sugar/water ratio an easy one to follow. Two pounds of fruit, two pounds of sugar, two pounds (or two US pints) of the glorious citrus-infused cooking water.

Orange and lemon marmalade

An equal quantity of fruit and sugar, by weight

Wash and quarter the fruit and cover with water. Bring the water to the boil, and then simmer, slowly, until the peel is really soft. It took the best part of an hour.

Allow the quarters to cool enough to handle, and then scoop out the flesh of the fruits, saving the seeds and the membrane in a cheesecloth bag, which you tie up tight with string or ribbon. It’s the pits and the white stuff that gives the marmalade it’s set, do don’t skimp that one. Measure the water, and add as much as you need to make up the same weight as the fruit – one pound of fruit means one pound (16 fl oz) of water;  a kilo of fruit means a kilo of water and so on.

Chop the peel as finely as you like it and return the peel and the flesh to the pan, along with the sugar, the liquid and the flesh of the citrus.

Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then boil madly until it sets, stirring as you go so you don’t end up with something that burns or caramelizes. It took almost 15 minutes of a rolling boil, but it could be more or less, depending on far too many variables to count. I test for set using a drizzle of marmalade on a cold plate from the freezer. If you can run your finger through the blob and the liquid stays apart, it’s just about done. It’s a test that usually works.

Bottle in sterilized jars.

And that was it. Six jars of golden awesomeness, which was especially good on fresh from the oven home made bread. It’s my fourth contender of the month for the Food in Jars marmalade mastery challenge. Still waiting for the Seville oranges to make it to Toronto for contender no. 5.

 

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »