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Monday, December 5, 2011

Orange marmalade OR How Irma Rombauer reached down from kitchen heaven and bitch-slapped me.

Irma's first step, soaking the quartered citrus
Hey, I don't know everything.
I keep learning. Lets me know I'm alive.
 This is my story of how I dropped the ball. Don't worry, I picked it up and carried it to score.
 Sometime last year I ended up with sack upon sack of oranges. Folks in Phoenix grow LOADS in their yards and once they find out you want some they will start leaving it on your doorstep. SO. Being me I wanted to find a way to utilize it all. I did some research (My copy of "Joy of Cooking" again) and taught myself how to make orange marmalade. I used ol' lady Irma's formula which is more than a little time-consuming and labor-intensive. What the hey, I'm single I have lots of time.

Wait for it.

 Like most cookbooks written back then her chapter on preserving begins with lots of practical information on procedure, technique and wisdom. I skipped all that. DUHHHH.

I've used that formula many times. It's old-fashioned but it always worked for me. This year I wanted to make marmalade to give as Christmas presents. Her formula calls for 4 oranges, one lemon. I needed to make much much more so I did the math and started with 10#'s of oranges and lemons. I even took pictures. Here's some.
Here's me showing how to hand shred the fruit 
oo what a waste of time, 10 pounds of oranges

the cooking of the fruit, 5 hours

inedible sludge

 Failure. Even though I stood over it and kept stirring during the whole reduction process. The sugar-water ratio didn't turn in time for the peels to be cooked all the way through so I kept it on heat until all the white part disappeared. Unfortunately by then the sugar had started to caramelize. I was left with singed, orange flavored, soft-candy stage CRAP. 

 I did it. It was me. I didn't thoroughly research the process. Irma says it right there. These recipes have been tested for these amounts and should not be expanded unless by a very practiced and experienced cook. Well crap, Irma. The REASON she used the whole peel was because commercial pectin wasn't readily available in 1931 and so she had to use what was available in the pith of the peel. 
 Back to the drawing board, or in this case the cutting board. 

 Another 10 pounds of oranges. Back to research mode. Here we go. 


10 pounds of clean fresh oranges
3 lemons
7 cups of sugar (abouts)
4 cups water and any juice, no more. Separate in half. The best way to do this is to dump any juice off your cutting-board into a large measuring cup and then add water to total 4 cups. 
reserve 1/4 cup of the sugar in a separate container
2 packages of pectin. I did NOT use the low-sugar pectin. You'll use all of one packet and a little of the second. 
pinch salt

sharp knife
about 16-18 8oz BALL jars
a big pot of boiling water
another big pot for cooking the fruit
a small pot for cooking the peels

Grab your peeler. Take off JUST the orange part. Leave behind the white spongy evil part of the peel. 

Now with your hands remove as much of the white part from the fruit as you can. Discard. 
Slice fruit across to make wheels. Catch as much of the juice as you can. Remove any of the seeds and spongy white stuff from the center. Chop up the fruit and dump into a large pot for now. 

Now, slice up all those peels. In 2 cups of your 4 cups of water and juice bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside. 

Take the separated 1/4 cup of sugar and combine it with the contents of 1 packet of pectin plus just a bit from the second packet. Stir it into your fruit. 
Add the peels still in the water they cooked in, plus liquid. Add the rest of your remaining 2 cups of liquid. 
Add your pinch of salt and the rest of the sugar (6 3/4 cups)

Bring to boil and simmer covered for 20-30 minutes. DO NOT LEAVE THE KITCHEN. 

Keep it all on heat. Simmering, give it a good, deep stir every couple minutes. 

Let's get those jars ready. 
In a large pot cover the jars with water and bring to boil. Also boil any tongs and ladles you'll use. 

 Add the lids and rings after 10 minutes. Take back down to low-heat. With a pair of tongs reach down and remove jars. 

Fill and carefully put on lids and rings. Tighten, and put back in hot water (off heat for 5 minutes. This will ensure a tight seal.)

Place bitchin' labels on lids. Mine are purple. GO WHS RAMS GO !!

It can take up to 2 weeks for the marmalade to set firmly. Relax. If it seems loose, give it more time. 
I'm still cooking poor, eating rich. 
Go get your grub on. Ciao

Here's what's available this season. $4.99 an 8oz jar. 

If you live outside PHX then there'll be a shipping cost added. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

To warm the heart.

My friends. It's cold. Even here in my desert paradise. It finally feels like Christmas is on it's way.
  Let's pause, dive into the kitchen and create something to warm the bones.
  This is a classic French dish that I dig out every year. Smoked sausage, mustard and potatoes. A grip of bitter herbs and some dry white wine.
 I'm sending out love to you all. A bowl of this will cure any cold. Warm every Scrooge-heart. Gives you the strength to brave the mall.
 Watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" over a steaming bowl and I promise that Santa will visit you.
 Yes I believe in Santa.

So here it goes

Chef Nick's Ragout of shallots, smoked sausage and mustard.


about a dozen shallots, peeled (bwaahahahha)
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic peeled
2 TB mustard seeds
some dry white wine (most of a bottle)
some beef stock (maybe 2 cups)
a grip of red-skinned potatoes, quartered
a jar of French mustard (do you have any grey-poupon?)
a bunch of bitter herbs, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chopped fine
one or two dried Bay-leaf
a pound of smoked sausage, sliced thick
Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper
a big heavy pot

Peeling shallots is a bitch. The dry skins are sticky and thin. Man up. Slice off both ends and with the tip of a sharp knife make a thin slice along the length. Peel the jacket off.
like this

With the peeled garlic and shallots you should have a big plate of this

Heat up your big pot, add some oil. Drop your mustard seeds in. They pop like corn so wear a shirt.

Once they start to pop add the shallots. Toss around with some salt and pepper.

Let those go around on heat for about 15 minutes and then add the carrots, toss around. 
Add half of your herbs. Toss around again. Add Bay leaves. 

Let it all go on medium heat for 30 minutes. Add the white wine and beef stock. Let it go boil for 10 minutes. Add the 'taters. 

Bring it all to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes. Test the potatoes with a fork. If they slide off they're done. 

Great job. Now here's the magic. Mustard is a natural thickener. Scoop out about half of the jar and blend into the pot. Bring it back to hot. Add the sausage. Warm thru and take off heat. Garnish with any remaining herbs. Serve up. This will kill any cold germs. It laughs at the flu. Warms you from the inside-out. Eat up. 

We are cooking poor, eating rich. Get your grub on. Ciao