Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts

January 3, 2015


Preserved, salted lemons, or  L'Hamb Marakad ( or 'Sleeping Lemons') so popular now in many upscale restaurants and on cooking shows is easy - and if you keep a lemon tree on your window sill, you might be thinking about what you could do with all of those lemons which are now ripening around the New Year. Here is a recipe for Preserved Moroccan Lemons that is easy, and uses up many of those extra lemons. Of course, you can just buy a bag at the market right now while they are in season as well, as make it with those.

I made these with our friend Kelly Marsh, a rather talented pastry chef and a fellow Irish Terrier breeder (she helped breed our current grand champion 'Weasley' who is headed off to Westminster Kennel Club next month), Kelly spent New Year's Eve with us, and in an effort to distract us from any pesky hangover's and flower parades, we decided to make pickled lemons.  Our Meyer Lemon trees in the greenhouse are so heavy with fruit, that they are falling over in their pots. 

Preserved or pickled lemons are a preserved fruit, commonly used in many ethnic cuisines. They popular in Cambodia, and in the Middle East, most commonly associated with Morocco. There are many recipes, some with spices others, using just salt. This is a simple and basic recipe. They can be used after one month of fermenting in all sorts of dished ranging from cous cous to tagines. I could buy a jar at our local Turkish market, or I could just make some - it's very simple ( just lemons, and salt). Here is how we did it:


L'Hamb Marakad, الحامض مرقد  or Preserved Salted Lemons

Here is what you will need:

- a 1 quart glass jar with a tight fitting lid
- 12 Meyer Lemons, or a sweet lemon variety like 'Ciron beldi'. (12 or more when tightly packed)
- 1/2 cup of sea salt or Kosher salt

1. Add a tablespoon of salt to the bottom of the jar before packing lemons.

2. Cut lemons into quarters, but only deep enough so that the quarters remain connected at the stem end.

2. Rub salt into the quartered lemons, and rub salt all over them ( don't worry, you will wash off the salt before you cook or eat them).

3. Add lemons to the jar one by one, squeezing in as many as you can, tightly.

4. Layer with salt, as you go, and try to get as many lemons as you can into the jar. I even add some lemon halves to fill in the spaces.

5. Top off the jar with another tablespoon of sea salt, seal and cover with a tight lid.

The preserved lemons will be ready in 1 months time,  as the juices mingle with the salt, and they begin to ferment. If you can find them, the smaller 'petit doqq' lemons found in Morocco are most favored, but any sweet lemon will do with 'Meyer' being the easiest to find. I tried to pick the smallest lemons from our trees so that I could fit as many into the jar - a bit of a luxury on a snowy day in New England in January, but one which requires very little effort at all, as the lemons bloom and set fruit during the summer by themselves, and then are just brought into the greenhouse in the autumn, where they ripen and are ready to pick in January. Remember, they can also be grown in the winter on a cool, sunny windowsill if you have one.

September 13, 2014

Preserving Summer - Home Canning, Whole Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce

Tomatoes seem to know when they should ripen - and it's never at a convenient time. I've been traveling for the past three weeks ( a couple trips to both New Mexico and California for work and pleasure) but I've been home every weekend for a day or two to do laundry, re-pack and to 'put-up tomatoes, which this year, have decided to not only ripen when I am at my most busy, they have also decided to become a bit of a bumper crop (which I have no idea why, as we have had a very cold and wet summer). Really though, I am not complaining - as come this winter, we will have lots of heirloom tomatoes canned whole, crushed, sauce, salsa and stewed. Since again this weekend I am just catching up on posts, emails and yes…..tomato canning, here are some pictures from last weekend's bounty.
Click for more:

July 29, 2013

Grow your own Herbes de Provençe

Herb wreath, herbes de provence
Making your own Herbes de Provençe is easy, but like anything, it does require some up-front knowledge about
selecting the best herbs, as well as knowing the right time to dry them, but the truth is, there is no one, single
recipe which is 'classic' or even 'traditional'.
I took this week off as vacation, which means that I do some annual cleaning in the greenhouse, repotting South African bulbs and cyclamen, and cleaning out my kitchen cabinets - not very romantic. It also means that I usually order new spices and herbs, getting ready for autumn baking, pickle and canning season and the holidays when I usually realize too late that I am out of whole Nutmeg.As my order from Penzey's Spices arrived, it came along with a free bottle of  'Herbes de Provençe' - a mixture of herbs common in the south of France where is is reportedly used for everything from roasted poultry to custards. But curious me wanted to know more about this herb mixture, and what I found out might surprise you ( it surely surprised me). 

Herbes de Provence, drying herbs from the garden
Basic Herbes de Provence consists of just a few herbs - tarragon, thyme, rosemary and oregano, in a 25% ratio.
We should all be familiar with 'Herbes de Provençe', the herbal mix that many American know and have, but few know how to use ( try grilled meats, egg dishes and chicken breast). We know the mixture of dried herbes as it often comes in fancy containers, sometimes with a cork lid, or an olive wood scoop, and generally found at posh gourmet stores in fancy crocks with hand-written lables. In many ways, Herbes de Provençe is over-rated, with many chefs snubbing their noses at the mixture which really, can be created with a bit of every herb found in ones pantry already, but I've found that with just a little research, the story behind Herbes de Provençe is more like that of curry spice mixes - the 'idea' existed for a long time before a commercial mix ever became available, and also like many curry mixes today, the exact recipe can be a different brand by brand, or grandmother by grandmother, as the original Herb mixture was simple gathered from ones garden or countryside, and varied from valley to mountaintop. These herb mixtures can be a thumbprint of each creator, each home chef, or each grandmother. 

I think it's time to deep dive into the "Frenchiest" mixture I can create myself, from my garden, and maybe you can create one too. Click below my journey into Provençe for more:

January 27, 2013

Winter Marmalade

This weekend I was inspired by my neighbor and fellow blogger Kim who posted last week on her bird watching blog The Curious Birder, how she made some Meyer Lemon marmalade and other goodies.
On this freezing cold, snowy weekend, I think that this sound like just the thing to raise my spirits. 
A selection of home-grown citrus from my greenhouse. Starting from the bottom ( the big one), Citron 'Etrog'. as is the slice to the left. above that Meyer Lemons, Australian Finger Limes, Limequats and the tiny Indian Kumquat, Fortunella hindsii, the smallest pea-sized citrus that I grow.

Inspired by a few posts from blogger friends who seem to always make marmalade in during the winter (traditional marmalade is indeed a winter craft in Mediterranean climates, as citrus ripen during the winter months). As I keep a about ten varieties of citrus in my greenhouse here in central Massachusetts, I figured that I might as well try making some, otherwise, the citrus only gets used in tea, and a few drinks, and that's about it. Maybe it's time to use some of my organically grown citrus for something more useful.

Look - if Martha Stewart Living magazine can run two different covers, I thought I would too.
A quick graphic treatment for my post, but I still need to design my labels. Later this week.
Here is my Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Mandarins & Lavender
(recipe from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders).

This weekend I made three types of home made marmalade. I began on Friday on a mission to make plain-old Meyer Lemon marmalade, but then I discovered all of these other citrus species and varieties growing as I picked the Meyers. It seems to obvious to not explore other recipes beyond mere lemon. I pulled out my BLUE JAM COOK BOOK and also searched on-line for the most interesting marmalade recipes that I could find. I selected three recipes. The first, maximized the unusual large Citron 'Etrog' that I had. Commonly used in many Jewish cultural recipes, I combined two recipes that featured 'Etrog', and I added a few Meyer Lemons to balance out the flavor. 

Meyer Lemons formed the base for all three Marmalade's. Mild, sweet and fruity, when prepared as marmalade, it can be rather one-note and not as lemony or bitter as true lemons, so I combined my Meyer Lemons with other citrus.
The second marmalade come from an old French Recipe that I found in my mothers notes - Bouquet des Fleurs, traditionally made in the south of France with a wide selection of rare varieties of citrus, as well as a touch of lavender. This seemed perfect, as I had about 7 varieties of citrus handy, surely, this could be called a bouquet. 

Most of the work in making any marmalade comes in the beginning, and I should note that most recipes suggest three-day long procedures ( I cheated and did this all in two days), but by far, the most difficult task is carefully cutting the fruit into thin slices. A sharp paring knife is handy, so  you won't crush the peel and fruit while slicing.

The third type of marmalade comes from the BLUE CHAIR COOK BOOK - Meyer Lemon and Kumquat. I had three types of Kumquats, which are so delicious when picked fresh from the tree - nothing at all like store bought fruit, as the oil-rich peels taste like orange blossoms to me, something store-bought fruit lose. Even store bought Meyer Lemons will not have the strong lemony citrusy oil scent and flavor in their peels that home-grown fruit have. I really don't know why I haven't done this before - it's time for this costly greenhouse help supply this kitchen with some produce.

Having the proper tools helps immensly, and that starts with a proper confiture pot - a Bassine à confiture makes all the difference in the world. Costly, it's something to look out for on EBay ( a friend of mine found a vintage one there) or from an on-line retailer. Look - you'll have it for life, and the wide surface area and copper make jam and jelly making effortless. You will never need to buy pectin as the proper evaporation will occur.
Once the citrus are sliced into elegant long strips or slices, depending on the recipe, the long process begins. All recipes will have you soak the sliced fruit for 24 hours ( important, to remove the bitterness and to soften the rind), then they all deviate. Some require you to first boil the fruit and then drain it in a colander for another 24 hours, as I did with the Blue Jam Cookbook recipe which asked for me to create a mandarin orange extraction that took two days, but most will have you start the actual process of boiling the soaked fruit with sugar, and if you are using a confiture, this part is easy. You will have marmalade in about 30 minutes.

Cut branches of Cornus mas still bloom in the kitchen window as two batches of marmalade come together.
The windows got so steamy, that I could not watch the bird feeders. Yeah - that mess on top of my stove are trays of seedlings that require soil temperatures over 75º F, like the artichoke seedlings. This is my secret spot!

Once you start on the final part of a marmalade recipe, the cooking in the confiture, the entire process happens quite quickly. Be careful, stirring too much will case more air bubbles as the water evaporates, yet you must stir ever minute or so, to avoid caramalization ( which happened to me on my second batch, as I had to go send an email logo to someone). I assume many of you are jam makers, as the garden and jam making go hand in hand, but I encourage you to use your home grown citrus - even if you use your house plant citrus, just be certain that they are organic, and for this reason, never use store bought plants with fruit on them, for most likely, they have been treated with an systemic insecticide, which can take a year or more to work its way out of a plants tissues.

Sweet, sour and Tangy, homemade mixed citrus marmalade will warm any ones hearts on a cold, winter day. Steamy windows, frosty panes of glass, and the scent of fresh lemons, oranges and limes. I am so glad that I took the time to do this today, I needed something to take my mind off of what is happening at work right now.

Jars await a hot water bath processing. I process mine for 25 minutes as it helps reduce the amount of air bubbles.

Naturally, have everything ready to work with when you make marmalade, for unlike jam and jelly, it is difficult to reheat and soften the marmalade once it begins to set, as too much caramalization will occur. Have all of your jars and glassware sterilized either in the dishwasher, or in the oven, and have your jar rubbers boiling along with the lids on the stove. Keep plenty of fresh linens at the ready, as well as a couple of pots of boiling water, as one you will need for wash cloths to clean the rims, as marmalade making is a sticky process, and the other pot will come in handy when you process the finished jars, as the hot water bath will often need topping off, and in the winter, one does not want to add ice cold water to hot, glass jars.

A jar of Etrog Citron and Kumquat Marmalade that I shot in the greenhouse, with a sprig of some of the smaller Kumquats ( Forunella hindsii) that I also added. This is the batch that I almost burnt when I had to go send the logo to someone, but it still tastes fine, and I think I even like the more caramel taste. 

I also made a loaf of French bread that I started yesterday using my standby no-kneading recipe from Jim Lahey's book MY BREAD. His no knead method has become a stand-by in my kitchen for crispy, French loaves.

Well, after all, they are from the British Isles.