Just found a sealed package of Mahagastotte Estate Ceylon Pekoe, the good stuff.
Just found a sealed package of Mahagastotte Estate Ceylon Pekoe, the good stuff.
Why is it that New England’s birds in spring and summer are so much more melodic than San Francisco’s birds? It’s certainly not that SF is short on avian life, nor even noisy birds. And yet, the small birds of San Francisco seem to run to “cheep, cheep” rather than “we-Weoooooo Week! Yirrrrrrk Yirrrrrk we-Weooooo Week!”
Why is this? Is it a forest vs grass/wetland thing? A response to the more differentiated seasons? Prevailing winds luring songbirds from Mexico to prefer passing through New England on their way to resorts in Ontario and Newfoundland?
Recent MA bird sightings – a cardinal and a goldfinch sharing a tree. Recent SF sightings – a hawk, three pelicans, the usual gulls and small shore birds and a batch of ravens, sharing a beach.
We’ve been whipping through the marmalade, so we’re already in our second round. This time, we have another batch of blood orange (this time at 117 degrees and 1/2C sugar to 1C fruit), Key limes and Meyer lemons. The banks of jars are very pretty.
This second batch was much more efficient. Turns out that the ancient Mexican lime squeezer that’s too small for Persian limes works perfectly with Key limes. In no time we’d squeezed out 175ml of juice and had a stack of flying-saucer-like compressed lime pucks to play with. I begin to see the point of the squeezers over the reamers.
Further, not a single curse was uttered in the canning of this marmalade. You already know this, but mise en place makes all the difference.
So for our own edification, the check list is:
Set the half sheet lined with the silpat (to cushion the jars, catch the drips, and act as an insulator) to the left of the stove.
on (just out of the dishwasher or weak bleach rinsed) half sheet pan.
Have assistant stand to the left and behind the marmaladier.
Agree on names for the implements ahead of time.
117 is a little too soupy, so we’ll be looking for a solid 118 in future.
Meyer lemon and Key lime are next in the queue. Very pretty.
Postings by new folks will need to be approved before appearing the first time, because frankly, the comment spam is getting up my nose.
It’s a long time yet until the greens show up here, but we have consoled ourselves with the fruits of the deli counter. Anchovies, proper Molinari salame, cornichons, a good comte, three kinds of olives, and a couple of baguettes. No jug of wine, but Victory Pils (bought on recommendation of the wise staff at Fromagio and just what suited our mood).
Despite the sticker shock coming home from the store, we also note that fancy dan food is surprisingly economical. You see – a single anchovy, scrape of cheese, or thin slice of highly flavored sausage nicely decorates a slab of good bread. Lesser toppings tend to need more bulk to hold their own against the bread flavor, leading to much less healthy (and more expensive) sandwich construction.
Of course there is also the entertainment value of a deli meal. There is something about nice anchovies (the big fresh kind with the delicate, fruit-like flavor to the meat) that makes L. grin widely and bounce as she utters little cries of “Feeeessshhhh! Feeeeeessssshhh! Niiice Feeeeeshhhh!” Ritual fork battles over the last of the pickles are also traditional.
Do you fancy blood oranges? They’re ripe now, filled with staining juice and earthy undertones. Ripe enough to show that blood oranges aren’t … oranges but their own complicated selves. Further, we were out of marmalade, and our jam supplies are running low. We still have some damson, a little of the quince, a jar or two of boughten raspberry jam… but no marmalade.
So, consulting John and Matt Lewis Thorne (Simple Cooking, no. 76), V. delicately sliced the three nicest fruits into pretty pieces. Cut to purple hands and red stains everywhere after squeezing a dozen more moros to cover the fruit in juice.
We put the jar in the frigo to macerate for twenty-four hours. While we were sleeping (very well, thank you, and you?) and wandering in the wilderness (all of which appears to be named Groton, despite what the map says), the peels were sucking up juice until the whole chilled mass looked cohesive and jelly-ish.
We disembottled the scarlet mess into our non-reactive pan, and, differing from the Thornes, added a pinch of salt. The idea is to cook the stuff for a quarter of an hour or so to soften the peel and get the whole proto-marmalade to integrate and pull together. Efficient people would have already have prepped their canning implements by now. Sensible people would have at least started to boil jars, simmer lids, and generally get things moving while giving the marmalade pot an occasional stir. Not us. Nope.
Fortunately, it doesn’t hurt the marmalade to let it sit for a bit off the fire while we take care of these little details after the cooking down! Sugar (3/4 the volume of the remaining mass) was duly mixed in and brought to a boil. By now, “occasional” had given way to “near constant” stirring. The tedium of standing over a hot stove imitating a stir bar was relieved by debate as to when to stop.
The first instructions I ever encountered were “Keep and eye and the spatula and watch for sheeting as the goop runs off.” Useful, but not quite sufficient for an inexperienced marmaladier. The Thornes advocates the goop on a chilled saucer method. Pouring a little bit of marmalade on a cold saucer to see if it sets up right is not difficult to understand. It lets you suit your own notions of proper runniness or springiness for marmalade. It’s traditional. It’s pretty. It’s low tech, if you think a freezer is low tech. It also allows the circus clown effect as you run back and forth to the frigo hoping you don’t miss the magic moment while you trip over the slops pail.
We prefer a thermometer. Of course, we had failed to write down the optimal temperature last time. L recalled the magic number as somewhere around 218 degrees Fahrenheit. V thought it was in the 220s. We tried 219 and got a firm but by no means rubbery set. However, since we like our marmalade rather soupy, we’ll try 218 next time.
Again, efficient people would already be standing by, with the marmaladier’s assistant holding a shining tray full of useful implements and another tray of jars cool, dry, and ready to be filled.
“Lid dipper and chop sticks”
Glip. Clink. Glip. Shhhhkkk.
Instead, everything was still in the water, the pan with the lids was on the bookshelf, the assistant is on the wrong side, the trays on top of the mixer, and the marmaladier left to curse. With all in disarray, we were left to ladle hotter than boiling marmalade into hot jars (leaving enough but not too much head room), set the canning funnel down someplace suitably germless, fish a warm lid out of hot water and set it precisely onto the jar (without dinging or touching the lid with germy fingers), fish a hot band out of the hot water, screw it on lightly (but tightly enough to keep the lid on during boiling) and get everything out of the way and set up for the next jar.
No one was killed in the making of this marmalade.
Actually, the only really bad part is getting the lids out of their pan and onto the jars while using long metal tongs. Next time, we will glue a magnet for fishing lids out of the water to a stick. This will give us the fun of getting a lid off the magnet.
We eat sweets slowly, so we went ahead and canned the marmalade properly with a good boil. I like being around the kitchen when the jars “pop” (as the cooling air pocket shrinks down and sucks in the jar lid). It’s neat to see basic physics in action. Meanwhile, we got lick the ladle and plan what to eat with the marmalade when it was “ripe.” It’s really true that Marmalade improves if you let it sit a few days after making it.
Three (and a dozen) oranges. Two and a half jars of nearly black yumminess. Maybe we won’t share. Our friends can make do with lime.
One good sized kumquat produces about a teaspoon of sour, tasty juice. A number of uses come to mind, but one does feel a trifle ludicrous.
Other culinary constatations today – We still don’t hold with New Hampshire maple syrup, though we admit that the product reserved for natives is not topped up with diesel.
Mendon Creamery butter is so cultured it quotes Plato and has a passion for Cubist art. It is also very tasty.
The Invisible Hand has a sense of humor. It is easier for us to buy butter from accross the Atlantic than from a creamery an hour or so away.
Hi all—just to let you know that I’m dealing with an influx of comment spam; while dealing with this, I’ve set the system to only accept comments from logged-in users. If I can figure out a better way of dealing with the spam, I’ll change the system back, but for now I hope this will stop the annoying flood of advertisements.
I know the name of the Michelin man. I didn’t know I knew that.