Monthly Archives: January 2017

Sunshine in a Jar

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In 2016, I became mildly obsessed with fermentation, mostly cucumbers and cabbage, but also sourdough bread.  Kitchen experiments are my idea of a good time.  When I saw that Marisa McClellan at Food in Jars was hosting a Mastery Challenge of food preservation in 2017, I signed on.  Each month will focus on a new preservation technique.  I’m excited to practice and learn how to extend the seasons with some new tricks.

First up for January is Marmalade.  I’ve made my own jams and jellies from summer fruits, but marmalade is something I always purchased.  I was excited to experiment.

Marisa’s post on how to make small-batch marmalade starts with a ratio.  I love ratios.  It allows you to create your own recipes confidently.  I liked the idea of whole fruit marmalade, where the entire fruit is used (rind, juice, pulp, membranes, everything except for the seeds).  The ratio for whole fruit marmalade is 1:1:1 (fruit, sugar, water).

I was hoping to make marmalade with Meyer lemons, but I couldn’t find them, so I started with organic lemons instead.  The first step is to cook the fruit until it is tender, then let it cool in the cooking water.  Once cooled, the fruit is halved and the pulp is scooped from each half into a bowl, discarding any seeds.  A grapefruit spoon does a thorough job at this step.  The empty halves are quartered (through the ends) and each wedge of rind is thinly sliced and added to the bowl.

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Time to cook it all into marmalade.  Based on the 1:1:1 ratio, equal weights of prepared fruit, sugar, and cooking water are combined.  I also added some elderflower cordial that I made this summer because I like the way its floral notes complement the tart lemon flavor.  The mixture is brought to a boil, then simmered until the marmalade reaches a temperature of 220F and passes the cold plate test.  In a wide sauté pan, it took about 25 minutes to perfection.  And while the marmalade cooked, I sterilized my jars.  When the marmalade was ready, I ladled it into the hot jars and processed for 10 minutes.

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The cheerful yellow color of the marmalade is the perfect antidote for raw and gloomy cloudy winter day.  The contrast of the sweet and tart flavors help too.  I made a batch of lemon-ginger scones to enjoy with the first jar.  My batch made 4 half-pint jars so I’ll share one or two.

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Whole fruit marmalade is only one style.  In addition to keeping my eye out for interesting winter citrus to further my experiments, I also want to try the less bitter cut rind style.

Lemon-Elderflower Marmalade

  • 1 lb lemons, preferably organic, scrubbed well
  • Water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup elderflower cordial

Place the lemons in a medium saucepan, and cover them with water (4-6 cups).  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the lemons are fork-tender, about 35-45 minutes.  Remove from heat and let everything cool.

Once cool, remove the fruit from the pot.  Reserve 2 cups of the citrus cooking liquid.  (DO NOT DRAIN THE POT WITHOUT SAVING THE LIQUID YOU NEED.)

Cut the lemons in half through their equators.  Use a grapefruit spoon to remove the pulp, and add it to a large bowl.  Discard any seeds.

Cut each lemon half into quarters (through their poles).  Thinly slice each wedge and add to the bowl.

Start sterilizing your jars in a water bath.  I like to add an extra jar plus a 4-oz jar just in case the yield is higher than expected.  Place a couple of small plates in the freezer.

Transfer the bowl of pulp and rind to a wide, deep skillet.  Add sugar, elderflower cordial, and reserved cooking water and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat a bit, but make sure the mixture is still boiling steadily.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 220F, about 20-25 minutes.  As a backup, remove from the heat and do the cold plate test to verify doneness.

Remove the jars from the water batch.  Drain the water back into the pot.  Fill them with marmalade, leaving ½-inch headspace.  Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel, and put on lids and rims.  Return the jars to the water bath, bring the water back to a boil, and process for 10 minutes.  Start timing when the water returns to a boil.

Remove the jars to a cooling rack.  You should hear the lids pop to seal.  As the jars cool, be sure to check the seals.  Refrigerate any unsealed jars.

Yield: 4 half-pint jars

Salt Cod Double Take

 

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Salt cod has been around for a long time.  Back in the days before refrigeration, salting was one way to preserve foods for longer storage.  I first became acquainted with it when I moved to New England and noticed that a barrel of dried fish would appear in the grocery store around the holidays.  Ever curious, I bought some and looked up what to do with in “The Joy of Cooking” (this was pre-Internet).  Brandade, a salt cod and potato puree, was the “gateway” recipe for preparing this flavorful (from the salt) mild fish.  Over the years, I’ve prepared salt cod a few times, when I saw it for sale, but it had been a while since I’ve seen it around.

When Brandade came up as December’s bonus recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, I smiled, remembering this hearty dish fondly.  It took me a while to track down the dried fish, so I missed the earlier recipe, but it came up again this week with Salt Cod Fritters.

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When using salt cod, you must plan ahead.  A day or two of soaking with regular water changes is required to leach the salt from the fish so that it’s edible (i.e. not unbearably salty).  Once the fish has been de-salted, it’s time to make brandade, which is surprisingly simple, not much more work than making mashed potatoes.

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David Lebovitz’s version starts by infusing olive oil with garlic and thyme.  Then, the fish is simmered with chunks of peeled potatoes until everything is tender.  After draining, the fish and potatoes are pureed in a stand mixer along with cream, the garlic-infused oil, salt and pepper, which makes the richest, most delicious mashed potatoes you’ve ever had.  To turn this into dinner, there’s one more step.  The brandade is transferred to a baking dish, sprinkled with bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese, and baked until lightly browned and bubbly.  The dish of brandade can be served with a salad for dinner (that’s what we did) along with some toasted bread.  It could also be served as a spread for a party appetizer.

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We ate half of the brandade for dinner.  A day or two later, I made salt cod fritters with the other half.  You might know that I’m terrified of deep-frying.  I also can’t get my head around the volume of oil required to do this.  It grosses me out.  I was happy to hear from some of the other cooks in this group that shallow-frying worked too.

I liked that the salt cod balls, made from brandade mixed with bread crumbs, could be rolled earlier in the day.  That left only the step of mixing the batter and cooking for dinnertime.  The well-seasoned beer batter sits for half an hour, which leaves ample time to mix up the tartare sauce.

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To cook the fritters, the salt cod balls are dunked in the batter and the excess drained off (as best as you can, not so easy), then fried in hot oil.  The batter was thick and when I placed the balls in the oil, more of the batter dripped off, creating a little pancake base.  This happened each time I turned the fritters, resulting in pyramid shapes instead of balls.

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Towards the end, I tried flattening the balls into patties before dipping and frying.  I found this to be less frustrating.  I’ve successfully converted from pan-frying to baking my crab cakes, so I also wonder whether the batter-coated patties can be baked instead of pan-fried.

I think the fritters are intended as an appetizer, but I served them with salad for dinner.

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I would definitely make brandade again and might make the fritters.  Both would make fabulous additions to the Feast of Seven Fishes that we attend on Christmas Eve.  Lauren, if you’re reading this, what do you think?  I’ll try to remember to ask you again in December.

Check out what the other bloggers from Cook the Book Fridays thought about salt cod fritters or brandade.  You can find the recipes in David Lebovitz’s delicious book My Paris Kitchen on page 73 (fritters) and page 144 (brandade).