Category: orange

Grandma Dotty’s mini honey cakes.

Each year I do a lot of Easter recipes for you guys. Tons of cute little cupcakes & muffins & stuff. But this year, I wasn’t really feeling it. I know for Sunday’s dinner I’ll probably make little bunny cupcakes or flowery cupcakes or something… but in the weeks leading up to it this year, I didn’t have it in me.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe.

It’s probably because of the passing of Grandma Dotty. Its had us pretty down lately. And we’ve been spending a lot of time looking through her photos, going through her things, and reading those hand-written recipes.

So I figured why not make one of her recipes?

The one that immediately jumped out at me with Passover being here was the honey cake. Honey cake is a very popular & beloved item in Jewish cooking. Usually it’s made for Rosh Hashanah, sometimes Purim. Here’s a little more about the honey cake tradition:

Luckily, honey cake is dripping with tradition. Variations of honey-sweetened desserts have existed for thousands of centuries and in far-flung locales, from Ancient Egypt and Rome to China. Recent archaeological discoveries of beehives in Tel Rehov, Israel, also suggest that biblical Israel was indeed a land of milk and honey. According to Stephen Buchmann’s book, “Letters From the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” (Bantam, 2005), German-Christian pilgrims developed a taste for honey cake on their trips to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. They enjoyed the dish enough to take it home, where it developed over time into its contemporary form.

Not surprisingly, the first Jewish honey cakes (or lekach, which comes from the German word lecke, meaning “lick”) originated in Germany around this time. During this period, the dessert was primarily eaten on Purim and Shavuot and sometimes served as a treat for young yeshiva students. As Gil Marks notes in “The World of Jewish Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, 1996):

“Honey was smeared on a slate containing the letters of the alphabet and the child licked them off so that the ‘words of the Torah may be sweet as honey.’ Afterward, the aspiring scholar was presented with honey cakes, apples and hard-boiled eggs.”

From Germany, the dish traveled to Eastern Europe, where Jews celebrated with honey cakes at simkhot (happy occasions) and holidays alike. According to Marks, the overall use of honey as an ingredient declined in Eastern European cooking during the 17th century but remained popular in Jewish cuisine.

-Source

Now, the fact that it’s leavened & includes wheat flour & confectioner’s sugar (among other “chametz“) would generally rule this cake out for Passover enjoyment. But since I’m not Jewish by birth nor am I (or Jay) religious in any capacity, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m doing this as a tribute to Dotty, not a religious symbol.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe turned into mini cakes.

If you’re Jewish & you’re obeying the laws of Judaism, you know whether or not it’s okay to eat. Maybe wait until after Passover to try it? Or flex your culinary muscles by altering the recipe to use almond flour or matzoh meal? Alternately, they also make delicious little Easter cupcakes. Honestly they’re really great for any occasion. Even just an average Friday.

I used Langnese, an imported German honey in them, but Golden Blossom would taste great too ’cause of the orange. Just be sure to use a REAL honey. A lot of the honey you find in stores today is just high fructose corn syrup mixed with a little honey.

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Whiskey cake, whiskey cake, I love a whiskey cake.

Whiskey is big in my house.

First of all, I’m part Irish. Jameson has been on my liquor shelf, in the liquor cabinet or on the bar in my grandparent’s basement ever since I can remember. Second of all, my fiancé is quite the bourbon connoisseur. If they make it, he either has it currently or has had it in the past. So pretty much every available surface in my dining room is covered in bottles of various whiskeys & bourbons & ryes.

It’s not a bad problem to have.

Whiskey bundt cake!

‘Cause then when I want to make something like this, I have a lot to choose from. Of course some are off-limits for baking. But the rest are fair game.

For this cake I used a bourbon, actually; Russell’s Reserve 10-year. It specifically says it has vanilla & caramel notes, which I thought was perfect for a cake. Okay I’m lying. Jay said it was perfect for a cake. Whatever.

Whiskey bundt cake.

You should use whatever whiskey or bourbon you like. Be it Jameson, Jack Daniel’s, Colonel Taylor, Russell’s Reserve or Buffalo Trace.

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I didn’t know what to call these, so how about ‘peppery orange ginger muffins’?

After a while, coming up with names for things gets old. And tiresome. And when I’m doing 600 million other things (like for example: painting 5 rooms, 1 ceiling & a hallway, refinishing hardwoods, installing new light fixtures, getting new appliances, redoing my bathroom- there’s literally NO walls just studs & insulation, and of course on top of all that figuring out what’s going on for Thanksgiving) I can’t really focus well enough to come up with a name thats either a) clever or b) makes sense.

See, there’s been a lot of work going on at the house. There are a lot of people working very hard- myself included. I need to have snacks & goodies on hand to feed the troops… or else they might revolt. And the revolt might include not finishing my house! So I try to throw together things that are unique and not just your average snack repeated over & over. Being that it’s been so chilly & windy, I thought a warm, spicy, gingery muffin would work. Then I’d post the recipe if they came out good. Which they definitely did.

Peppery orange ginger muffins. Or spiced orange ginger muffins with black pepper. Whatever they are, they're amazing!

So I just gave up.

Peppery orange ginger muffins it is!

They’re like gingerbread cake, but with orange to sweeten it up a little more. There are so many flavors going on in these, you’d think they’d be “messy” tasting, but they’re not. They’re right on target.

Side note: they came out so delicate & perfectly rounded. Not big or obnoxious or overflowing out of the pans. I don’t know why that is, but they’re good. And I guess it really doesn’t matter. So I eat two instead of one. Big deal.

Ginger muffins with orange zest, candied ginger & black pepper.

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Flu fighting sorbet, anyone?

Now that Valentine’s Day is over & there’s one whole month until you’ll be ingesting green beer, feel free to get sick. No seriously. After reading this post, you just might not mind it so much. Okay… that’s a lie. You will. But at least this will ease your suffering just a bit.

A couple of years ago, on a hot summer night, me & my other half were being lazy, drinking some beers & watching a show on either the Food Network or the Travel Channel & it just so happened that on said show they featured Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. We were immediately attracted to the variety of hand-crafted ice creams & sorbets; specifically the ones like the cherry lambic sorbet & the whiskey pecan. Unfortunately we don’t live in Ohio, and it was the peak of summertime so there was no way we’d chance having ice cream shipped to NY, dry ice or no dry ice. And even if we had, it wouldn’t have arrived that night! So we were two sad pandas.

Cut to about two or three weeks ago… I discovered the newest thing in sorbets: the influenza sorbet. Genius! We’ve all been sick here on and off all winter, with either a mild flu-ish thing or a stomach thing or some other weird thing that gave us insane headaches, and I wish I had had some of this on hand. The idea of a FLU FIGHTING SORBET!? Holy balls. I love it. Now, apparently, the company has changed the name to the Hot Toddy sorbet because seemingly there were some idiots who thought either the sorbet contained the flu or actually cured the flu. But either way the concept & ingredients stayed the same! Orange & lemon juice, honey, ginger, cayenne pepper and of course, Maker’s Mark. Perfect for when your throat starts to hurt, and you can’t keep anything heavy down. An icy cold citrus-y delight, with a hit of bourbon & ginger, and cayenne pepper so subtle you probably won’t even know it’s there. But at $12 a pint, and it being all the way in Ohio… I knew I wasn’t getting my hands on any.

I decided I was going to come up with my own recipe and make my own version of Jeni’s infamous flu sorbetto.

But see, I don’t have Maker’s Mark. I have other bourbons. So I used Basil Hayden’s bourbon instead, because it’s a milder one, and I’m not such a crazy bourbon fan. I’ve gotta say though.. the idea of it this sorbet made me really happy. Really, really happy. And Jay has quite the selection to choose from… but I chose Basil. Of course, this is NOT Jeni’s recipe, this is my own creation. And it can be tweaked to accentuate whatever ingredient you want to be the main player. Just don’t add too much bourbon- it won’t freeze properly. And because I didn’t use an ice cream maker, it’s more of a granita. So that’s what we’ll officially call it:

Influenza Granita.

Granita (in Italian also granita siciliana) is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings. Originally from Sicily, although available all over Italy (but granita in Sicily is somewhat different from the rest of Italy), it is related to sorbet and italian ice. However, in most of Sicily, it has a coarser, more crystalline texture. Food writer Jeffrey Steingarten says that “the desired texture seems to vary from city to city” on the island; on the west coast and in Palermo, it is at its chunkiest, and in the east it is nearly as smooth as sorbet.[1] This is largely the result of different freezing techniques: the smoother types are produced in a gelato machine, while the coarser varieties are frozen with only occasional agitation, then scraped or shaved to produce separated crystals. Although its texture varies from coarse to smooth, it is always different from the one of an ice cream which is creamier, and from the one of a sorbet, which is more compact; this makes granita distinct and unique.

Influenza, commonly known as the ‘flu’ , is an infectious disease of birds and mammals caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae, the influenza viruses. The most common symptoms are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, headache (often severe), coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort.[1]Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, influenza is a more severe disease caused by a different type of virus.[2] Influenza may produce nausea and vomiting, particularly in children,[1] but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes inaccurately referred to as “stomach flu” or “24-hour flu”.[3]

INFLUENZA GRANITA, A.K.A. THE FLU FIGHTING SORBET

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but a low sugar or all-natural bottled variety will work)
  • 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice, but it must be fresh squeezed!)
  • 1/4 cup regular lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus two tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon GOOD bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • anywhere from a pinch to 1/4 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper, depending on taste or intensity of illness

Directions:

  1. Put the orange & lemon juices & sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat to dissolve sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, raise heat to medium & add honey, 2 tablespoons of bourbon, ginger & cayenne. Stir well. Bring to a boil.
  2. Once everything is boiled, add the last teaspoon bourbon. Stir. Strain into a container and let cool to almost room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from freezer and whisk to crush ice crystals. Re-wrap and re-freeze. Continue doing this once every hour for 4-5 hours with either a whisk or a fork.
  3. Before you serve, if the mixture is still too chunky or icy, simply beat (in a cold bowl) with an electric mixer on low until fluffy. DO NOT LET IT MELT. Place it back into container and re-freeze until it sets. Serve & enjoy!

If you’ve got an ice cream maker or attachment (like I do, but I forgot to freeze the bowl before hand so I had to do this the manual way), then you can just freeze it according to the manufacturer’s directions. You’ll end up, most likely, with a smoother, softer less chunky version. More like sorbet, less like Italian ice. It doesn’t really matter what the texture is, though, as long as it isn’t just a crunchy block of ice. And even then, you could really just shave off pieces to eat. So it doesn’t matter much what you end up with. Oh- and Meyer lemons are way sweeter than regular lemons. So if you use all regular lemons, you might want to up the sugar amount. Remember: the cold lessens & dulls the sweetness of the sugar, but also remember that too much sugar will result in the same problem as too much bourbon in that it just won’t freeze properly.

Now, in no way am I telling you this will cure your flu (or your cold, or pneumonia or whatever you’re suffering with). What I will say is that there’s a lot of Vitamin C in here, and in addition honey, lemon & ginger are known for their flu-fighting properties. Cayenne pepper thins mucus, allowing you to breathe again. Plus, not only is bourbon an old-timey “helper” for all illnesses, it helps numb a sore throat a bit, as does the bracing cold iciness of the granita. No dairy to increase mucus production, either!

And if you want something hot to soothe what ails you, then you should definitely make a few jars of spiced honey. I guarantee you between this granita & some hot tea with spiced honey in it, you’ll be feeling better in no time. And if you aren’t… there’s always that NyQuil too.

My bloody valentine.

Listen, I know I’ve been overloading you with cutesy, Valentine-y stuff lately. I know that. I don’t really care if you like it or not, though, sorry to say. Because I love it. I actually get more pissed at the people who bitch constantly about how much they hate Valentine’s Day than I do about seeing the hearts & candies in the stores starting on New Years Eve. If it really bothers you so much, pretend it doesn’t exist. Go celebrate something else like Chinese New Year or Mardi Gras & stop complaining. Just ignore it. Football bothers me- but I understand there’s some kind of sick obsession with it in this country so I just ignore it. Which is hard, because it’s everywhere, but I manage. If you like it, then good for you. I just don’t, so I spend my winter Sunday’s baking, cooking, blasting punk rock music or watching things like Inglorious Basterds instead of watching grown men in tight pants tackle one another in hopes of not becoming the next paraplegic on the news. I spent Super Bowl Sunday shopping, then eating homemade nachos supreme & watching Downton Abbey. Now, I don’t tell everyone else not to watch it. I don’t constantly spout off about how awful & boring I find it all day, every day. I just get on with my life. Just like the Valentine’s Day haters should do.

However… I do understand that if there was a blog that I read fairly regularly that posted non-stop football crap for a month I’d be tired of it & maybe a little bit turned off.

So today I’m here to make amends. I’m posting something that’s still appropriate, but yet not quite as overtly dyed-pink & cheerful & cheeky as heart cupcakes or rose tarts: blood orange curd. There’s a special place in my heart for blood oranges.

And I’ll tell you why: Blood oranges are like the citrus family’s dark secret; like the black sheep cousin of the Navel orange, you know the one… who hangs out in a dark room, smokes cloves & listens to death metal.

And that’s sorta something I relate to. Not that I’m a black sheep per se, not within my family so much. Yeah, I’m different… but I was always accepted & appreciated. However when you’re the Agnostic punk rock short-haired bleached blonde Catholic school girl who tells your Theology teacher (a nun) that you’re pro-euthanasia & don’t quite understand why women can’t be priests, there is some level of that, somewhere. In my uniform I (sorta) looked like anyone else in school… until after school, or until you looked closely and saw the Sharpie-written lyrics on my blazer, my spike collars and dog collars, safety pins in my ears, my too-many-earrings-according-to-the-student-handbook and numerous band patches & pins on my backpack. And so I relate to that metaphor, and the blood orange. It’s sinister bloody-colored inside is almost concealed by the bright orange skin, it almost tricks you into thinking it’s just like any other orange. Maybe one that’s a bit overripe? And then you slice it- BAM! Deep, dark red flesh and a juice to match. There’s a reason they use a blood orange (not a regular orange) in the opening sequence of Dexter.

They’re right up my alley, truthfully.

And they’re also perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Conveniently, they’re in season right now. And if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a few, well then you better make good use of them. They make beautiful marmalades, gorgeous cupcakes, they’re beautiful when candied. And of course, when made into a curd, it’s a lovely pink color… which is perfect for a Valentine’s Day breakfast. It elevates your average toast to something spectacular. (heart shaped toast or English muffins not required!)

Or use it for dessert. When used as a topping for vanilla or chocolate ice cream- or even yogurt, it’s amazing. Another idea? Make it into a tart. Or using an ice cream maker, swirl it into plain homemade frozen yogurt for blood orange yogurt. It makes an amazing cake or cupcake filling too.

When you’re picking the oranges, be sure to pick ones that aren’t bright orange. The outside color is usually indicative of the color of the flesh & juice, so pick one that has a darker flesh, or even a mottled orangey-red flesh. That way you’re assured a deep burgundy flesh, and juice, and therefore a bright pinky red curd. My oranges were Moro, so they actually have a darker flesh & stronger flavor anyway, but I picked middle of the range ones that weren’t too dark, but weren’t too light. Actually the outer skin of all of mine were bright orange on one side, and a deep red on the other. I could’ve gotten ones that were so dark maroon on the outside they looked almost alien. In retrospect, I should have!

The thing that’s great about this recipe is that it doesn’t use so many egg yolks that you end up with an orange-colored curd. Orange colored curd is great, if it’s plain orange curd. But blood orange curd calls for a reddish color, doesn’t it? At the very least, a pretty rosy pink, like mine. But if you choose darker oranges you can really achieve a really bright pinkish red curd.

Also… listen up. Curd is a terrible word. Let’s be honest. Everyone hates it, from chefs to home cooks to pastry chefs to bloggers. It’s horrible to say, it rhymes with turd and it turns people off completely from trying it. Although, in Southern America they call lemon curd “lemon cheese”… and as far as I’m concerned that’s not much better than curd. But I hope that doesn’t put you off from trying it. It really is something else. But here’s the deal: curd isn’t disgusting. I swear. It’s basically similar to a lemon meringue pie filling, or in this case substitute blood orange for lemon. It’s like a creamy, citrus custard. Like a citrus pudding, kind of.

BLOOD ORANGE CURD (adapted from Local Kitchen who adapted it from Rose Levy Beranbaum)

Makes slightly over 1 cup (8 oz.), it can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium to large blood oranges, scrubbed clean and dried
  • 1 large egg and one large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • a pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Zest enough of the oranges so you end up with roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely grated zest. Set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Juice the blood oranges, making sure to get every last bit out of them! Strain the juice to get out any pulpy bits or miscellaneous sneaky seeds. In a medium saucepan, over low heat, reduce the juice to 1/2 cup and set aside to cool in a measuring cup. Be sure to stir often while it’s reducing to avoid scorching.
  3. Rinse out the saucepan and place the sugar, eggs and salt in it. Whisk them together. Add the butter and slowly whisk in the reduced orange juice.
  4. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes together and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (roughly 15-20 minutes for me).
  5. Once thickened, strain the curd into the bowl with the zest in it. Then stir the zest into the curd to incorporate. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the curd into a clean jar. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Here’s a secret: if ALL you’ve got is a 1/2 cup of blood orange juice, you can just use that without the reduction. It’ll still work. It won’t be as concentrated, and the color probably won’t be as amazing… but the basic product will be successful. And best of all? EDIBLE! And some people don’t like zest in their curd. I know this, but the point of the zest is to impart even more flavor & the scent of the fruit to the curd. However if you’re one of those people, I’d add the zest into the mixture while it’s cooking then strain it out. That’s a matter of personal preference, of course.

Some people have trouble with curd. I never have- it’s always come together relatively quickly & easily for me, regardless of  whatever the recipe, or whatever source it’s from. If you have trouble, and it fails, rest assured you are not the first & will not be the last. But also don’t give up! If it scorches or it doesn’t thicken, etc, these are all just steps on a ladder. Learning the way. I know it sucks to waste materials, especially if blood oranges are really hard to find near you. But you’ll get it, I promise. Maybe try it out first with a plain lemon curd; those are cheaper and easier to find.

The recipe above made one cup, or 8 ounces, of curd. You might want to double it if you’re thinking of using it for a cake filling or a large tart filling. But I find one jar is perfect for a slow, sweet, laid-back breakfast.

Enjoy your Valentine’s morning with a little burst of pink sunshine, for you & your bloody valentine. (hey! that rhymed!)

Historical berries.

American Cranberry, Thomas Meehan, 1870′s

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The cranberry has been an American institution since the 1500′s, when it was first written that the Native Americans used them for dying clothes, making pemmican, and wound care. So we know they’ve been around a long time. But in case you think it’s a modern concept, “cranberry juice” was actually first mentioned in Englishwoman Hannah Woolley’s “The Compleat Cook’s Guide” in 1683. I assume the cranberry became popular in England after the 1660′s when settlers sent King Charles II barrels full of them.

Beyond that, if I can bore you with a little history to further prove the cranberry’s decidedly American roots: A Pilgrim cookbook dated 1663 has a recipe for cranberry sauce! Cranberries were also served at the 1703 Harvard Commencement dinner, and were famous among the likes of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson around 80 years later. A Scottish botanist named William Aiton included an entry for the cranberry in volume II of his 1789 work, Hortus Kewensis. He noted that the Vaccinium macrocarpon (American cranberry) was cultivated by James Gordon in 1760. In 1796, cranberries were served at the first celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims, and Amelia Simmons wrote in her book entitled “American Cookery” (which I have a copy of!) a recipe for cranberry tarts. In 1816, Henry Hall first commercially grew cranberries in East Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod and in 1843, Eli Howes planted his own crop of cranberries on Cape Cod, using the “Howes” variety. In 1847, Cyrus Cahoon planted a crop of “Early Black” variety near Pleasant Lake, Harwich, Massachusetts. In 1860, Edward Watson, a friend of Henry David Thoreau wrote a poem called “The Cranberry Tart.” Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, which is the leading producer of cranberries, with over half of U.S. production. Massachusetts is the second largest U.S. producer. Naturally, it makes sense that cranberries are so closely aligned with America & American history. However, surprisingly, 95% of the cranberries harvested are used in juice, drinks, sauces and dried. Only the remaining 5% are sold fresh. That really makes you think, doesn’t it? Next time you buy fresh cranberries, I guarantee you’ll think of that statistic.

(Honestly- I do! Every freakin’ time I see fresh cranberries I think, “5% of ALL the cranberries harvested…”)

Anyway, like I said when I made the cranberry orange loaf, this time of year is cranberry season. While October is pumpkin time (for me anyway), November to December is cranberry time. Between now & Christmas, cranberries are all over the place. Every Thanksgiving & Christmas day meal include cranberry sauce of some kind. And since cranberries are one of the main things that just scream “America” & “Thanksgiving,” what would Thanksgiving be without cranberry sauce? Nothing, that’s what.

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It’s no surprise then, that the November issue of Better Homes & Gardens features a recipe for a very interesting cranberry orange compote by the creators of Stonewall Kitchen. The compote specifically intrigued me because it had orange rind, candied ginger, maple syrup & “your choice of nuts”; i.e. pecans, walnuts, etc. It sounded unique, so as soon as I got my power back & restocked my fridge & freezer, I thought I’d give it a go and see if it was worth making for turkey day.

Consensus: it is.

Labels & tags are from Sur la Table

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NEW ENGLAND CRANBERRY ORANGE COMPOTE (by Jonathan King & Jim Stott of Stonewall Kitchen, from Nov. 2012 issue of BHG)

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup orange rind, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped candied ginger
  • 1 cup walnuts, pecans, or your favorite nut, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Place sugar and 1 1/4 cups water in large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook about 15 minutes, or until it thickens and turns amber-colored.
  2. Add the maple syrup and cranberries to the sugar mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop. Add orange juice, rind and zest (keeping a few thin strips of rind to the side). Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
  3. Remove from heat. Add ginger and nuts, stirring well. Cool completely. Add to a clean glass jar and cover; refrigerate up to a week, or freeze 6 months.

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Cranberry sauce is one of those brainless things that anyone can make, even if you aren’t a good cook. It takes 5 minutes and basically makes itself. You can make this and bring it to wherever you go for Thanksgiving very easily. I made one large jar, and one 8-ounce jar to give to someone I knew would enjoy it. This recipe is NOT canning-safe. I only put some of it in a canning jar for transport; yes, it sealed (because the compote was hot when I put the lid on), but the recipe itself is not acidic enough for long-term shelf-stable canning. Of course transporting it in one of these hinged jars would’ve been fine too, but they’re much larger than the amount I had left to give, so it would have looked a little skimpy. Plus I didn’t want the possibility of any cranberry leakage in anyone’s vehicle.

But seriously. This is a crazy easy recipe. Definitely a new favorite around here, and maybe a new favorite at your house too?

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Also, please remember, this Thanksgiving in addition to the many poor and/or homeless families already in the area, the hurricane in October left thousands more homeless & without food & clothes. If you can find it in your heart to donate something, there are many places accepting donations. I can give you the address of a church on Staten Island that is accepting donations of everything from non-perishable food to blankets & coats to pet food. You can send it by mail or drop it off if you’re in the area. Alternately, you can just donate to the Red Cross, either text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10.00 via your phone bill, or donate online at redcross.org. You can also send a monetary donation to the New York Police Disaster Relief Fund: 233 Broadway, Suite 1801, NY, 10279. There are also other places you can donate money, supplies and/or clothing/food: Island Harvest, City Harvest, Occupy Sandy, The Bowery Mission, & Faith Community Church. It’s very cold here in New York/New Jersey, & people are hungry. Show your thanks for everything you have by giving to those who don’t have.

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Chai concentrating.

Pinterest has taken over everyone’s life lately. It seems as if everyone is either making something they found on Pinterest or talking about something they found on Pinterest. And I’m no different. My Pinterest page is filled with amazing things; some of which I’ve made, some of which I’ll never make, and most of which I just gush about. I even wrote about it at textdrivebys.com twice…

This chai concentrate from Tasty Yummies is one of the ones I’ve actually both pinned and made.

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November is doing it’s best to get fully settled in. It’s been very, very cold, and as a matter of fact in addition to hurricane Sandy hammering us last week, tomorrow we’re getting a Nor’easter! Gusty winds, heavy rains and even snow in some places. So it’s time for warm drinks & spicy flavors. Hot cider, hot chocolate, hot tea. One chilly Sunday I was browsing Pinterest, looking at things I had been pinning for something interesting to create, and I noticed this chai concentrate that I had pinned way back in August. As soon as I saw the stunning photo of it in a Mason jar (how could I turn away!?) I pinned it. I’m not a massive chai person, but I do enjoy it every now & then. And it’s worth it to me to try a homemade version because I really never buy it when I’m out. I usually prefer a coffee. So when I do have chai, it’s at home. And I love some pre-made brands, and some tea companies versions of it. But sometimes it’s just not the same.

The history of chai is quite a rich one, despite most people only knowing it from it’s existence in lattes at Starbucks.

Masala chai (literally “mixed-spice tea”) is a beverage from India made by brewing tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs.

Plain chai

By itself, chai or cha is merely the generic word for “tea” in many European and Asian languages. The widespread form chai comes from Persian چای chay. Street vendors called “chai wallahs” (sometimes spelled “chaiwalas”) are a common sight, although coffee is a more popular beverage in some southern parts of India. Chai is also a popular item in restaurants known as Irani cafés or the genre of South Asian restaurants known as Chai Khanas or Ghahve Khane.

Spiced tea

For many English speakers, the term “chai” is synonymous with masala chai, as further described below. The redundant chai tea is sometimes used to indicate spiced milk tea as distinct from other types of tea. Numerous coffee houses use the term chai latte for their version to indicate that the steamed milk of a normal latte is being flavored with a spiced tea concentrate instead of with espresso, without necessarily implying the addition of coffee. Some coffeehouses and brand names refer to their product as chai tea latte.

The beverage is locally known as Chai karak in the Middle East.

And might I add… DELICIOUS. And this homemade concentrate is also easy. Cheap, too. But at the same time it’s quick- it takes no time at all, and it makes your house smell absolutely amazing. The smell alone is worth it! Just like the homemade pumpkin spice latte mix I posted about last month, if you’re a chai lover who buys a lot of chai lattes, this could totally save you some money.

HOMEMADE CHAI CONCENTRATE (adapted minimally from Tasty Yummies)

Yields: 1 batch of concentrate, approximately 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 8 bags black tea – I used PG tips
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

  1. Add the water and sugar to a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and put in the tea bags, cheesecloth pouch and cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat strain the concentrate through a sieve, separating the large pieces (tea begs/cinnamon sticks/cardamom pods/anise/cloves/etc) from the mix. At this point, add your vanilla extract & honey. Stir to combine.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool before pouring it into an airtight jar or container. This amount fits perfectly into a 1-quart mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

To use it, mix one part concentrate with one part milk or milk-like product of your choice. Heat the concentrate for a hot version, pour over ice for a cold version.

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I used ground cardamom & ground ginger, I had fresh ginger but it was frozen & I didn’t feel like defrosting it so I could cut it (it’s a pretty large hunk, and yes I freeze my extra ginger). I didn’t have any cardamom pods but I had a large jar of it ground, so I opted to substitute that. Also, the original recipe called for a whole vanilla bean, coconut sugar & raw honey- I only had regular sugar, brown sugar, a small amount of German rock sugar (for my tea) & sugar cubes myself, so I made an executive decision. If you want to use another kind of sugar, go right ahead, but you might want to read what she says her results were first. My honey wasn’t raw either, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference taste-wise. All of my vanilla beans were being made into homemade vanilla extract at the time, so I had to use some vanilla extract instead. If you like a spicier chai, add more peppercorns. If you like a sweeter chai, add more sugar. Likewise… if you prefer a less sweet chai then just use less sugar/honey. What you use in it is totally up to you. And as a matter of fact, this mix makes a nice hostess gift, too. Tie some raffia around the top with some cinnamon sticks & handwritten instructions, and you’re good to go. And if you know someone who was in the path of Hurricane Sandy who has no power but still has a gas stove to heat it up with, maybe bring them some, along with some food.

As for me? I’ll be drinking some later tonight watching the 2012 Presidential election returns. Make sure you registered U.S. voters get out there today & do your duty! It’s a privilege to be able to push that little lever or fill in that circle on paper, so get your lazy, apathetic asses out there. And to everyone who already voted; good for you. It’s not even 8 a.m. & you’ve already made more of a difference than most people will all day. And if you’re one of those people affected by Sandy, you can still vote. Download a mail-in ballot or call your local elected officials to find out where to go to vote in New Jersey, or if you’re in NY you can click here & find out where to go (and in turn pass it on!). I know you’re all dealing with so many other things, but voting is going to continue; no matter what election day will not be suspended. And it’s so important to get your vote in. So please, try and get as many folks as you can to the polls today.

And if you remain unaffected, if you’re safe, warm & dry today, and you know where you’ll be voting & that you’ll be coming home afterwards… then especially be thankful for that.

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The perfect November pound cake.

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Ah, November. You crept up on me this year. I wasn’t expecting you so soon! It seems like literally yesterday I was posting on the first day of October. And I’m still in Halloween-mode, to be honest. Mainly because I feel like there was no Halloween. Hurricane Sandy came & that was that. I just got power back last night- I had been without power since Monday night! But the calendar doesn’t care what I’m thinking, does it? No it doesn’t. Nor does Mother Nature. If you can spare a few bucks, or some pocket change, please donate to the Red Cross & help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. I’m lucky to have power, food & a house. Not everyone is. Please help feed, clothe and shelter your fellow human being in need.

I’ve mentioned before that when you’ve got a food blog, or you just bake often, you get a lot of requests. My dad always wants lasagna or blueberry cake/pie/cupcakes, Jay always wants beer bread, maple cookies or applesauce cake (even in the middle of summer), my aunt wants strawberry jam, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on. And my mother…. well, my mother usually has an entire list of things. I’m forever getting e-mails from her that contain recipes, or recipe ideas. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s just outright- “Hey, make this for me?” And that means that a good percentage of the time, I’m making things I don’t really like or I wouldn’t eat. Which is fine by me. Not only does it give me more blogging material, it spices things up a bit. Who wants to make the same vanilla cupcakes over & over?

So when I’m presented with an opportunity to use cranberries & orange in something, I jump at it. It’s November, guys. It’s cranberry time.

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This is all Entenmann’s fault. When I was a kid growing up, Entenmann’s baked goods were the bomb dot com. Everyone- I mean everyone- had an Entenmann’s cake or box of donuts in their kitchen. The glazed Pop’Ems, the marshmallow iced devil’s food cake, the Holiday butter cookies, the French all butter crumb cake…

Entenmann’s is a company that is over 100 years old and originated in New York. In the 1800s, William Entenmann immigrated to New York in the United States of America. William learned the trade of baking from his father in Stuttgart, Germany, and used his acquired skills to work in a bakery in the United States, eventually opening his own bakery in 1898 on Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn.[1] Later, William moved his bakery to Bay Shore, Long Island. Home-delivery was a substantial part of the bakery that William owned, eventually turning into 30 home delivery routes by the time his son, William Jr., took over the bakery.[1] While William Jr. headed the bakery, it flourished; Frank Sinatra was a weekly customer.[1]

William Jr. died in 1951 leaving the bakery to his wife Martha and their sons, Robert, Charles and William. The family decided to phase out bread, focus on pastries and cakes, and start supplying grocery stores as opposed to home delivering. In 1959 the Entenmann family invented the “see-through” cake box that is used by many today.[2] In 1961, the business grew, with new bakeries and factories in Bay Shore, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Plans to expand nationally stalled in 1970. Entenmann’s Bakery, with the assistance of new product consultants at Calle & Company reformulated heavier New England style baked goods into lighter offerings more suitable for hotter, more humid test markets such as Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. Entenmann’s successful national expansion quickly followed suit. In 1972, Entenmann’s started to sell chocolate chip cookies and has since sold more than 620 million cookies.[2] Since its first opening in 1898, Entenmann’s has been selling “all butter loaf cake” and sold more than 700 million to date.

The pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert purchased Entenmann’s in 1978 and sold it to General Foods in 1982. General Foods merged with Kraft in 1990. Kraft sold its bakery business to CPC International (later Bestfoods). Bestfoods was purchased by Unilever in 2000, which sold its baking division to George Weston, a Canadian baked goods and supermarket business, the next year. Weston sold its United States interests including Entemann’s in 2008 to Mexican conglomerate Grupo Bimbo. Other Bimbo Bakeries USA holdings include companies such as Thomas’, Brownberry, Boboli, Arnold, Oroweat, Freihofer’s, and Stroehmann.[3]

-Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, I was food shopping with my mother. She had hurt her ankle, & was limping along with my assistance. She spotted the Entenmann’s display and made a beeline for it. My mom is a big fan of anything sweet; baked goods, cookies, candy, candy bars, etc. So she saw the display, and immediately zoned in on the seasonal Cranberry Orange loaf. She picked it up and I said, “No, ma, really. Come on. I can make that for you.” She initially resisted a bit, there were a few longing looks (and I think she might have said, “Are you sure?”… what is THAT about!?), but then she gave in. There is no bigger insult to someone like me than a family member buying a supermarket cake or box of cookies. At least buy stuff from a bakery. Just please don’t buy the styrofoam cupcakes that Costco sells. I’d permit Entenmann’s… in certain dire circumstances… but seriously… I bake ALL THE TIME. How are you gonna be in the supermarket with me & pick up BOXED CAKE. No. No, no, no.

I know she really wanted that cake. But mom, why buy it when I can make it for you!? And… uh… make it better.

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‘Cause see, the Entenmann’s cake might be scrumptious. But it doesn’t come with an orange butter rum sauce on top, which mine does.

And just so you know- that brown Kraft paper makes things a hell of a lot easier to clean up. Especially when you’re using a messy sauce or glaze & want to take photos (or maybe if you have kids… *cough*). I highly recommend it. Plus it’s great not only as a “tablecloth”, but as wrapping paper. A gift wrapped with Kraft paper, twine & some dehydrated citrus slices is rustically beautiful. Even to give this loaf as a gift, it’s a great wrapping idea. Okay, sorry- back to the cake!

CRANBERRY ORANGE LOAF CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2-3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries*

Directions:

  1. Butter and flour a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan, set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla, orange juice and orange peel. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in cranberries.
  3. Pour into the greased pan. Bake at 350° for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Spoon orange butter rum sauce (if desired) over the top. Wait 3-5 minutes for it to set, then serve.
*You could use fresh cranberries too (& you can also toss in some walnuts, or even unsalted shelled pistachios, if you like)

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ORANGE BUTTER RUM SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Add the orange juice, flour, sugar and heavy cream to a medium saucepan. Cook (constantly stirring) on medium heat until combined, then add the butter.
  2. Stir until the butter is melted, combined, and the mixture is thickened. Add the rum. Continue cooking until thick & smooth. Stir it constantly while it cooks, or it’ll scorch & burn.
  3. Remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes.
  4. Spoon over pound cake.

The butter rum sauce isn’t terribly attractive on it’s own, but it tastes spectacular. Especially on the cake.

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The cake is moist & delicious, not too much cake-y, not too much bread-y. Just perfectly in the middle of a pound cake & loaf cake. Just as good in the morning as it is at night.

And here’s a little tip. If you’re making this for a large crowd, you can double the recipe and make it in one 10″ tube pan, or just double it and make two 9″ loaf pans. The same goes for most pound or loaf cakes, or even regular cakes, actually. Here’s a conversion table for pan sizes. And most cupcake recipes that make 2 dozen will also make two 9″ cake layers. Same goes for the reverse: if you find a recipe that calls for a bundt pan or tube pan and you only want to make a small cake, then you can usually halve it (or in some cases maybe quarter it), and most layer cake recipes will convert into 2 dozen cupcakes (sometimes a little more). This particular recipe would definitely be amazing doubled and made in a 10″ pan, a great Thanksgiving dessert. But this way, it’d make a great Thanksgiving breakfast. Keep the sauce on the side if you want, that way people who aren’t into rum sauce for breakfast can avoid it. But seriously? It’s a holiday. You can so have rum sauce with breakfast!

And before I go, just a reminder. Make sure that all you U.S. citizens who are registered to vote get your asses to the polls on Tuesday! It’s important, and it’s something we’re privileged to be able to do. I really don’t care who you vote for… just vote. And if you aren’t registered: for shame. But consider this a kick in the booty to register for next time. And I know it’s going to be hard for those displaced by Sandy, but there are still places for you to vote. Pass this info & this info on if you know someone affected by this tragedy, please. The election will NOT be postponed because of the hurricane, so we need to get out there & get people voting.

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Bloody Sunday.

In no way do I mean to make light of the actual Bloody Sunday (or the many others) by using it as a title. And in no way is this blog post about violence. It’s just that this is blood orange marmalade, I opened a jar of it on a Sunday, I’m posting it on a Sunday… and it made me think of the U2 song.

Well, I guess it’s kinda about violence- against blood oranges.

But there are many references one can use when making something out of blood oranges. The TV show True Blood, for one. You see, the Tru Beverage drink that HBO sells is a blood orange-flavored soda (of course it is!) so every time I use blood oranges I do think of these cupcakes I made. And Dexter, too. Blood oranges & Dexter definitely go together; think of the opening credits. Have I mentioned my crush on Dexter Morgan yet? Anyway… moving on. All those things are reminiscent of blood oranges, yes, but when you crack open a jar of blood orange marmalade & use it on a Sunday, it makes you think of the chorus from Sunday, Bloody Sunday, despite the serious subject matter it’s really about.

So yeah. Blood oranges. Blood oranges are delicious, and beautiful. Way prettier than regular oranges (sorry, dudes). If you’ve never seen one cut open, Google some pictures of blood oranges… you’ll see what I mean.

Gorgeous, right? And who wouldn’t wanna see a jar of this in their cupboard. It’s fantastical & intriguing, makes you want to taste it. I made a small batch, obviously, because I can’t possibly store or eat 16 more jars of marmalade, plus the fact that blood oranges here are pretty rare & fleeting. So if you can get your hands on 3 or 4 large, nice ones… consider yourself lucky. I had three pretty massive ones and that gave me almost 20 ounces of marmalade total (two 8-oz. jars and it didn’t quite entirely fill one 4-oz. jar). I used the same formula that I always use to make marmalade, and it worked pretty well for me (with the subtraction of using any rind in it and the addition of a bit of Certo pectin). If you’re anti-using commercial pectin in your blood orange marmalade, then you can use one lemon in it and keep the rinds in a small muslin bag during the soaking & boiling processes. That’ll add extra natural pectin without clouding the pretty color of the marmalade with the rind. I usually keep the rind in my marmalade but for this I thought it was too pretty to leave any in. If you’re like me, and would prefer to leave the rind out of the finished product, you can always use the rind to make candied blood orange rind, which is an awesome homemade candy idea. Waste not, want not.

This is amazing marmalade. The flavor of the blood orange is so present- not clouded by bitterness, stringy pith or too much sugar. Just pure blood orange. Just perfect.

Perfect. Something I am not. Something I am far from being. I know, I know, nobody’s perfect. Well, if you read food blogs (or fashion blogs, or any blogs I guess), you’ll be convinced of just the opposite. Perfect plates of perfectly prepared & perfectly plated food, perfectly photographed with perfect high-tech DSLR cameras in perfect lighting, photographed on perfect, neat counters or tables with just the right “ambience”; an expensive knife positioned just so, a cloth napkin folded just so, etc. And that may make you think, “Why doesn’t my jam/cupcake/roast chicken/homemade bread look like that?” I know that because I’ve thought it myself.

It’s bullshit, really. Because real life isn’t an issue of Bon Appétit or Saveur. I have no desire to impress you with my great photography skills or my awesome kitchen lighting. I live in a real house, with real lights and real counters and most of all- I do not have a $4,000 dollar camera with a light box & a huge set up just to get that perfect (there’s that word again) picture of a crumb cake. Truthfully? I use my iPhone ever since my camera broke. Yup. Just my iPhone in it’s little leopard J. Crew case. I e-mail the photos to myself, edit the pictures a bit in Photoshop a bit, and then I upload ‘em. But other than that, nope. Nothing fancy. What you see is what I see. No trickery, no optimizing, no fancy lights, no nothing. I have pets trying to jump on the table while I take photos, sometimes hungry people telling me to hurry up, and phones ringing. Sometimes I’m distracted by what’s on TV or by the music I’m playing. If it’s sunny out, you’ll see it reflected in the photo. If it’s dark, then you’ll be able to tell. My photos might have a golden cast from my artificial non-photographer approved kitchen light. Would I like a good camera? Sure. Maybe I’ll get one (not just for food photography, mind you) at some point. But honesty is why I’m here, and realness. And I’m always real with you- about my failures, my successes, my victories and my “wow, this sucks” moments. I’m here to show that ANYONE can do this. So to me, the idea of having a camera most people can’t afford so my cupcake photos look amazing, a light box set up at all times just so it’s all ready to catch just the right amount of steam coming off my soup or worse: a kitchen with lighting designed solely for the purpose of food photography… is obscene.

Everyone who has a food blog knows that chocolate NEVER photographs that well! It has a tendency to look… poo-ish?

Look, I am not Ree Drummond. I am not Rachael Ray. I am not on the Food Network. I do not have a chef’s kitchen with a Viking range. I’m a real person, with a real life, and a real-person’s kitchen. And I started this blog when people asked me to, to explain how I made homemade cupcakes so “easily”, on the premise that I’d be showing other real people how they can create these things, and that it isn’t as hard as they think it is. I didn’t start it with the idea that I would make people feel inadequate, or less than perfect, or that I would make so much money off of it that I could retire at 30. That isn’t why I’m here. So even if I get that camera, or even if I re-do my kitchen… I promise I’ll still have a stack of bills behind my jars of jam, you’ll recognize my plates from Ikea or that you’ll see my Christmas candles behind my cupcakes. I’ll never be perfect & my recipes will never be unattainably, crazily unreachable.

So just remember the next time you see a photo of something on a blog (even if it is mine!) & it makes you feel less awesome: real life isn’t staged. You’re no less awesome than you were before, & I guarantee you a DSLR & good lighting does not an awesome person make.

But in my opinion reading my blog does an awesome person make. And all of you awesome people make my plain lil ol’ boring blog worth it.

Good day, sunshine.

Like I said the other day, it’s definitely winter. The really cold weather held off until January here in New York for the most part, we were lucky. It was around 45°-50° F throughout most of November & December, with quite a few days in the high 60′s sprinkled in. But seeing how we had snow before Halloween, I think Mother Nature was just playing some little tricks. ‘Cause now there’s no doubt- winter is in full swing. Winter, with it’s 18° nights & -5° wind chills, has definitely made it’s entrance this week. I mean, seriously, look at this shit:

Ugh. That sucked. Needless to say, weather like that makes it hard to even get out of bed. Thankfully temps rose back up to the high 40′s again, but I know that won’t last forever. And so sometimes in the winter, you need a burst of sunshine. That can come from many sources, but in this particular instance… I’m talkin’ citrus. In particular, I’m talkin’ citrus marmalade. Lemon-orange, to be exact.

Nifty jar decorations, right? More about that later…

However… another little burst of sunshine whose sure to warm you up on a cold day is Remi. Remi is a sweet little miracle dog that my friend Ariana (& her man Elliott) saved off the street. Poor Remi is less than a year old, has terrible mange & is pretty underweight. He was found a few days before Christmas & taken to get some medical care that Ari used her Christmas bonus to pay for. Ari & Elliott made the decision that they’d stop at nothing to help this dog, even if they weren’t going to keep him. Remi has his own blog now, where they’ll be posting updates. If you’d like to help out with medical expenses, etc. then by all means feel free to contact her. I’m sure it’d feel great for you to start the new year off by helping someone else. What better on a freezing cold winter day than the story of a dog who was thrown away, who had a sad life on the streets, being given a bright future?

And not only that, but how about some bright, zesty, citrusy shots of marmalade to make you think of sunshine? Yep, they’re both pretty great ways to remind you that all is not cold & dreary this time of year. I’ve certainly made marmalade before, but those had extras added in. This is a true citrus marmalade: just lemons, an orange, sugar & water.

The principle behind marmalade is stupid easy. It boils down to a math equation, really, which I suck at… but luckily there are all sorts of iPhone/iPad apps & Internet web pages that can steer you in the right direction. Not to mention the good ol’ calculator. Thanks to this webpage, I now have a perfect marmalade-equation ready to be scaled down or up at a moment’s notice depending on who it’s for or how many/what size jars I have. I happened to make 3-4oz. jars of this lemon-orange marmalade using their method & this base recipe (except I used one large orange as well as a few lemons). You can add limes, grapefruit, clementines, etc. I got a shipment of Meyer lemons from the awesome Molly last week & I am totally psyched to marmalade the shit out of them. But that’s another post…

Drippy marmalade.

‘Cause see, truth be told I made this back before Christmas, and I just now opened it. The color & texture of this marmalade is just gorgeous. And the smell! Fuhgeddaboudit. It seems now that the little 4oz. jars I used were barely enough. I sorta wish I’d made more. Oh well.

Anywho, the concept is so easy it’s practically silly to cry over not making enough when I can make it in a snap any time. Here’s the basic idea just as it is, directly from Evil Mad Scientist:

The peels need to be cut into little slivers for the appropriate texture in the marmalade. If you stack up the pieces, you can cut a bunch at once.
Many recipes recommend removing the white pith because it is bitter. Other recipes recommend removing the pith and reserving it, cooking it along with the fruit in a cheesecloth bundle and removing it at the end, presumably to allow extraction of the pectin. Many jam and jelly recipes call for pectin to be added, but it isn’t needed for marmalade because of the amount of pectin already present in the skin and pith of the citrus fruit.
Some recipes call for a blanching or soaking stage. The primary purpose of blanching is to remove the bitterness from the pith and peel. We like bitter marmalade, so we left in most of the pith and didn’t soak or blanch the peels or fruit. That also keeps the recipe simple– just slice up the fruit and throw it in the pot with the peel pieces.
The fruit and peel are cooked in water until they’re good and soft. It takes a while (about an hour), but once you’ve got a nice simmer going, you can ignore it pretty well.
The sugar goes in. Lots of sugar. The original recipe calls for 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar (with ten lemons). The 4 cups of water barely covered the raw fruit (in a saucepan with roughly equal depth and diameter). For scaling the recipe up or down, you can use that as a rough guide: pour in water a cup at a time until the fruit is almost covered, then once everything’s soft add as much sugar as you did water. Stir in the sugar, and bring it up to a boil, stirring regularly.

You can add things too, of course. Star anise, cloves, a cinnamon stick, a tablespoon or two of whiskey or Grand Marnier, maybe even a little brandy, etc. You can 100% personalize the basic marmalade recipe to do amazing things. Anyway at this point, after it boils, using a candy thermometer you make sure it reaches 220° degrees (if you’re planning on making jellies & marmalades a lot, or if you’d like to venture into candy making at all, a thermometer is a must have item). Then let it boil it at 220° for a full minute. When the minute is up, test the set (there are numerous ways of doing this). If it hasn’t set, keep boiling. Eventually it will achieve the set & you can proceed with canning it.* I’d recommend processing for 10 minutes in a water bath canner, although many old fashioned marmalade recipes just require sterilizing, filling then sealing the jars. Better safe than sorry I guess, even with the high sugar content.

*Here I will state that I have read that sometimes marmalade can take up to 2 weeks to set. I never had such a problem, my marmalade has always set immediately.

If you’re wondering what exactly you can do with marmalade, besides using it on toast: you can use it to glaze a roast chicken or ham, melt it and use it to marinade shrimp, use it to make cupcakes or cake, use it as a glaze over warm pound cake, making muffins with it, whisk it into a vinaigrette to use as a salad dressing, etc. Once you use your imagination you can come up with tons of ways to use it! I ended up with a lot of jars of this since the summer, and of course I had to dress them up; using raffia & dried orange & lemon slices. I only show two jars because, well duh, I had to open one to eat it!

Winter outdoor shots are always fun. Especially when it’s freezing cold. But when you’re looking for a rustic look, you’ve gotta go the extra mile… or whatever. At least it wasn’t snowing! Although come to think of it, snow would’ve made a prettier backdrop. Anyway, the dried citrus fruit slices are incredibly easy to make, & make perfect decorations for anything: for decorating jars of marmalade, for tying on to a Christmas tree with ribbons, for decorating a gift (wrapped in brown Kraft paper with twine) or for hanging in a kitchen. Also they can be eaten, as any dried fruit can be, pulverized & the powder sprinkled on foods, or put into a jug of water for instant rehydration and flavoring. It takes a lot of time (unless you have a food dehydrator) but it’s worth it!

All you have to do is slice the fruit as thin as you can, preferably ¼” thick. Pat them dry with paper towels & gently press out as much juice as possible from each slice without ruining the shape. Either use a food dehydrator or put a cooling rack over a cookie sheet & bake them in the oven; 275° degrees F for the first two hours and then 250° degrees F for the next 2-4 hours. If they’re still not dry (test by “squishing” the pulpy part, if it’s moist or juice squirts out, they aren’t fully dried yet), then leave them on the rack in the oven & put the oven on the ‘warm’ setting (about 200-220°) for another 2+ hours. The least moisture left in there the better, especially if you’re using them for decorating. If you’re using them for food purposes, they can be less dry. Unless of course, you plan on storing them long term; then the less moisture the better. There are many different ways of doing it, mainly differences in time/oven temperature (Martha’s way differs from mine slightly, as do these directions) yet they all work equally well.

The best ones in my experience are limes & grapefruits. They both slice perfectly & never end up with holes or gaps when they’re finished drying. However, if you’re careful cutting them, they all look gorgeous once they’re finished. If you’re really nice, & after you used yours to decorate jars or gifts, & you’ve got a few left that aren’t looking that great or aren’t as perfect… try hanging them outside for the birds! I also heard that cats don’t like citrus fruit, so if you have a problem with strays marking your yard it might be worth a shot anyway (obviously on low-lying branches). My cat doesn’t seem to mind it at all, but she’s an anomaly. Tinfoil doesn’t frighten her either.

My next mission is to make some lime marmalade & tie a bunch of slices of dried limes to each jar, with green ribbon & instructions for using the slices long after the goods are gone. Sounds good, right? I haven’t made lime marmalade yet.

And in case you’re wondering- my pantry has exploded in the past 6 months. Actually, I’ve given away a lot… especially just recently at Christmas, but currently what’s there is plenty (yes, there was more than this): lemon-orange whiskey marmalade, c-lemon-tine marmalade (all clementine & just a bit of lemon), one lone jar of habanero pickles (the only pickles that seem to not be grabbed at too quickly, hence the fact they’re still here!), champagne jelly, gingerbread spice jelly, candy apple jelly, vanilla-brandy chestnut jam, basil jelly, habanero rosemary jelly, pickled red & green tomatoes, peppers in oil (& some in vinegar), Earl Grey’s nectarine preserves, Van Gogh’s strawberry jam with chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka cherry preserves, fresh tomato salsa, amaretto cranberry sauce, mint jelly, caramel apple syrup, canned peaches in syrup, one jar of Lady Grey’s lemon & tea marmalade and last but certainly not least- a few jars of Meyer lemon curd (recipe to come!). Whew. Sorry I don’t have recipes for all of them posted. But I think you’re smart… you can figure ‘em out. Google is an amazing thing. Plus with amazing resources like Punk Domestics, Food in Jars & Hungry Tigress right at your fingertips, you’re golden.

If you’re thinking about getting into canning, I suggest you start off with a case of pint jars, the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, some vinegar & some cucumbers & start off making pickles, then graduate to giardiniera or other pickled veggies, then to easy fruit-based stuff like canned peaches or blueberry or raspberry jams. Save the more complex jellies made with homemade or commercial pectin, more difficult jams & marmalades for later. Work up to them. And, if you’re looking to buy jars but aren’t sure of what size(s) you want/need, Food in Jars made a handy guide to the available Ball & Kerr jars; but keep in mind there’s Weck too, if you like a fancier look (for a much more expensive price). I’ve also heard of Better Homes & Gardens brand jars but never seen them (they’re made in China, FYI). I’d prefer to stick with Ball® or Kerr® myself. They’re made in the U.S.A., readily available, have a long history of doing it right & they’re affordable (which is important regardless of how much canning you’re planning on doing).