torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I feel like I've really taken the training wheels off when it comes to cooking. Given some basic ingredients and a well-stocked kitchen, I can generally make something pretty tasty, and I seem to do it at least once a week now. I figured this week's lunch would be chicken of some sort, probably a chicken salad. My eye roamed a little at the grocery store, and I settled on potatoes. Fine, chicken and diced red potatoes. With.... yogurt works as a good binder. I wanted warm spices, because it's kind of chilly out there, so that means cinnamon, cloves, cumin, mild chile powder; this was starting to sound like a curry chicken salad. That's what it turned out to be, with lots of black pepper, cumin, turmeric, ancho powder, cinnamon, and a breath of cloves; I didn't feel like fenugreek, which is what I would have gotten with standard yellow curry powder. The yogurt I use (Trader Joe's) is quite tart, which rounded it out nicely. Recipe? Where we're going, we don't need recipes. :)
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
Roux is like magic. Even Michael Ruhlman sings its praises; it's incredibly versatile, and very easy. That makes it even more gratifying to watch. To begin with, it's a butter/flour slurry; it starts to brown, not exciting. Add liquid, boosh, it's mostly broth and the slurry is gone. Yawn. Suddenly, as it starts to bubble... gravy! Stir it a couple times and it's as thick as you like. Magic.

It doesn't even take real measurements, just a dab of butter, a huge pinch of flour, and a splosh of broth. The butter and flour should be roughly 1:2, ish, volume-wise, but you can adjust the volume of the broth to create the thickness and fat balance that suits you. Brown the flour just a tiny bit, it thickens really well; brown it much more, and it adds a hearty flavor. Use a bit of both for a thick dark flavor. Use bacon grease, goose grease, duck fat, butter, olive oil, sesame oil, ghee, whatever. Use wheat, rice, oat, barley, corn, or potato flour. Play around, it's just a little smidge of fat and flour. And how many dishes can benefit from a creamy gravy? :)

Oh, and need I mention that it's the basis for a good cheese sauce too?

Sometimes cooking really is that neat.
torquill: Doctor Wilson, thoughtful (wilson)
After having gotten a balanced meal (perhaps a little more "balanced" in favor of protein than the other items), I decided that today's difficulties merited some compensation.

So I broke out the caramel syrup that I made with great effort a few weeks ago (a story in itself), whole milk, cream, and I softened a new stick of butter. A few minutes of microwave time later I had a pint of my favorite comforting drink, sort of like a shorthand version of the Spanish one made by heating milk until it caramelizes. Think of the richest hot chocolate you've ever had, and transmute it into vanilla and caramel flavors instead. It's hot, gently caramel half'n'half, I suppose, with a little dab of melted butter for good measure. It has real presence in the mouth, like I'm drinking premier ice cream. And it's wonderful.

I tell people that I'm not nuts about chocolate, and hot chocolate, even the rich stuff, always left me sort of "enh". One day I wondered what would happen if I made the same thing using caramel and vanilla, which is what I prefer... I decided later that I was a genius. :)

I save it for special occasions when I want to relax -- even with my general disregard for fat content, it's a bit rich -- but it's always worth that little extra effort. I'm feeling much more mellow about the day now.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (challenge)
I am declaring victory.

I have completely jellied the juice from the first massive batch of feijoas. It is now many jars of jelly of a gorgeous dark-red hue, curing down in the cellar. It tastes like the best candy evar.

The second thirty pounds of fruit was divided in half. Half of it has been reduced to four-plus quart jars of juice in the back of the main fridge, to be made into jelly soon. Half of it has been chopped, tossed into two gallon Ziplocs, and placed in the outside fridge at below-freezing temperature. It can be cooked, strained, and jellied at my leisure.

I win.

I've gotten very good at making this stuff, so I figured I would write down my recipe in case any other poor fool home canner comes across some feijoas. Hopefully a smaller amount than 60 pounds.

Feijoa jelly recipe )
torquill: The devourer of worlds is not impressed. (devourer)
1) 60 pounds of feijoas qualifies as a metric assload of fruit.

2) Do not try to make juice for jelly in batches of 30 pounds, even if one does fit in the 15-qt stockpot. Barely.

3) The cellar is a great place to hang jelly bags overnight, especially large ones.

4) Do not pour the stewed fruit into the jelly bags while it is still hot, no matter what the recipe says. Moreover, don't pour it over a pinky finger, even if the mixture "doesn't feel that hot". The topside of a pinky gets first-degree burns more easily than the palms of the hands.

5) A second pair of hands is very useful when pouring the stewed fruit.

6) A double line of crochet thread, while strong, is not strong enough to take the weight of more than three and a half quarts of stewed fruit.

7) When the thread creaks, STEP BACK.


The two bags are secured and dripping in the cellar now. Neither one will give me crystal-clear juice, but right now I honestly don't care. I won't be taking it to the county fair, and no one eating it will mind a bit of cloudiness. I'll do separate bowls tomorrow when I want to squeeze the fruit dry.

The other thirty pounds will be done in batches of ten pounds, probably. Assuming I can find the time to chop them. Given that thirty pounds took me six hours, ten should take me two. If I can refrigerate them, finals week is just around the corner.

Despite all the furor, I'm still grateful to [ profile] kitabare for bringing me the metric assload of feijoas.

Edit: 26 cups of juice. Twenty-six. At three cups per batch.... this is going to take a while. And that's just half the fruit.

The first two batches came out well, though. Too bad it's taking about a half-hour per batch to boil down, when I'm lucky. I guess I'll do one every evening possible this week...
torquill: The dough has gone to war... (baking)
I started cooking shortly after I got up today. I took breaks to shower, eat (twice), and go to the grocery store. Other than that, I've been handling food for 13 hours.

I baked sandwich rolls for my usual school lunch; the internal structure/texture looked professional, and I discovered that leaving them to cool for two hours made all the difference with slicing. I still need to shape them so that they don't bulge out in the middle (they're oval rather than rectangular) but otherwise they look fabulous this time. They smell incredible, as always.

I took the peeled and cooked feijoas from yesterday and made jelly. I only got 3.5 four-ounce jars, as it cooked down, but I'm reasonably sure that it will set fine (I hate the uncertainty of jelly). Only after I started today did I discover that most recipes don't peel the fruit first, so I lost a few hours doing that yesterday and had to add pectin today... but I'll know better for next time. It tastes amazing. Thanks go to [ profile] kitabare for the fruit.

I diced eight quarts of peeled Fuyu persimmons and cooked them in a quart of orange juice... they managed to stick and burn at one point, but I didn't panic and I rescued it (tip: immediately pour off what you want to keep, before you try to scrape stuff off the bottom; this keeps the burned bits from getting mixed in.) I added two quarts of cranberries and some sugar and lemon juice, cooked it until most of the cranberries were in pieces, and canned that up as well. I tried for smaller jars, as a pint is a lot, but I had fewer jam jars than I thought... I did thirteen half-pints, seven jam (12oz) jars, and finished what was left with four pints.

That was a lot of jars, more than the pressure canner could take, so I had to start a boiling-water bath to take the extras. I swear it took a half-hour to take the pot from 140° to 212° -- the pressure canner was run, cooled, and unloaded by the time the water boiled. More reason to keep using the pressure canner instead... 10 minutes at 5 pounds is more than enough for jam, and it processes in 45 minutes or so start to finish, with the side benefit of not having all that hot water to handle.

I believe they all sealed, so I'll clean and label them tomorrow, then use some of them for Christmas gifts. The persimmon-cranberry thing is apparently very good with pork. I wouldn't know -- I use it on toast.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
Chopped dried apricots look startlingly like chopped dried papaya. I'm hoping they make as decent a sub for figs as I think they will.

Candied citrus peel was impossible to find even during the holidays, when it should have been around. I wonder whether it's dying out?

If you take the peel off an orange, making sure that there is no white on it, throw it in a bowl with an equal amount of sugar, and put it in the fridge for a week, it will candy itself quite nicely. Not bitter at all.

Cranberries were also hard to get this season. Fortunately, dried ones can be rehydrated, at least in theory...

I keep worrying about whether I have enough of this or that... then I remember, I'm making mince. It's whatever dried fruits you have on hand, thrown in with chopped apples and a bunch of spices. It's like worrying about being one carrot short in a vast pot of soup.

The Granny Smiths I had finally turned from "pie apples" into "sauce apples". Pity I need some structural integrity. Time for a run to the store...

Edit: I had to make a second grocery run for lids, and (now that I no longer need them) found candied fruit and peels at FoodMaxx. Who knew?

The mince is done cooking and is waiting until after dinner, when I'll have enough run of the kitchen to process the jars. It's not even pleasantly bitter this time, just sweet and tart in about equal measure, like really good applesauce. And very, very flavorful. Yum.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
I have peaches.

They're going for $1.50 a pound this year; I should have expected that, given the rain we had this spring, but it makes canning them more expensive. Oh, well -- it's still as cheap as buying canned peaches, and a damn sight more tasty.

There's a box of about 25 pounds out on the porch, and they should be ready by Sunday. Canning binge!

Next week: nectarines.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
I canned up eight pints of ratatouille, three more pints of tomatoes, and five pints of tomato juice. Everything's cleared away except the stuff to go to the cellar; the jars/bands need to be washed and labeled. We've also finished off the last of the 2003/2004 jars of tomatoes.

The heatwave stopped production out there, so the tomatoes are all busy blooming now, with very little to be harvested. So, next project: peaches! Or nectarines, if I've already missed the good peaches. I'll head out to Brentwood for that on Thursday, probably.

Tonight, I'm going to go have some good Indian food, grab a couch, and watch Goonies on the big screen.
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (happymaking things)
I finally bought a dunk pot today -- the kind with holes that fits in another pot, so that you can immerse and retrieve stuff you want to dunk in boiling water. Much better than fishing things out with a spider.

Anyway, $20 to Cash&Carry (and a lot of windowshopping) later, I brought it home and started dunking tomatoes in hot water.

Much is said in various publications about blanching tomatoes to make them easy to peel. Half the time I don't bother -- I just sit down with a paring knife and a movie and do it the usual way. I had a lot of small ones this time, though, so I figured hot water was the way to go.

As I say, lots of people have talked about how to do it. Here are my own notes: )

I spent all afternoon and a good portion of the evening peeling and coring tomatoes. After all that, the tomatoes look fabulous. Whatever else might be said about Neves Azorean Red (I think the taste when fresh isn't much, but its other attributes are great) it has a blazing red color. I've also got eight pints of yellow and orange tomatoes, about the color of carrot juice, plus two pints of that juice to do weird things with.

I wasn't able to reach my mom tonight -- she'll be back in town tomorrow, but I had hoped to get our family recipe for ratatouille so that I could do a batch alongside the tomatoes -- but I threw the remaining tomatoes and the uncut veggies back into the fridge, to be dealt with in the next couple of days. It won't kill me to assemble the canning supplies again.

The bomb is depressurizing in the kitchen, and when I open it up, I'll have fourteen pints of chopped tomatoes, some in day-glo orange. Things are looking pretty good.

Oh, and Cash&Carry has a "Cheese/Jam dish" for $10 that would make a great salt cellar. I'll see whether I can get it as a household thing. It would sure beat having the sugar and salt containers look almost exactly the same...


Dec. 21st, 2004 23:09
torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)
It's the season for sweets. I'm not normally a chocolate person, but I'll take a bit here and there.

Tonight was my fudge night; I wanted to make some fudge for Kathy, who always complains that no one makes the old-fashioned variety anymore. The sort that crumbles rather than bending, the kind where you really can't eat more than a fingertip-sized piece at a time without feeling vaguely sick. Not my kind of thing, but I know how to make it.

I also wanted to make my favorite fudge, which is the polar opposite of what Kathy likes: I warned a friend once that it is the kind of candy where you can eat half a panful without noticing (i.e. the dangerous kind). It is so soft it needs to be refrigerated or it tries to go exploring, and sticky enough that pieces laid on top of one another meld after a while. It was the result of Nick's mother's urge to make fudge when she had no recipe... she threw in things she knew went into fudge, and got something, well, fudge-ish. She considered it a mistake, I thought it was genius. And so are family recipes born.

Another family recipe is possibly in the offing... I forgot to boil Kathy's fudge, so it came out granular and refused to set. I started wondering -- what if I bake it? (So far it's still granular, but I cranked the oven up a little more, to 300, and I'll let it sit for a while.) I just need it to get hot enough to melt the sugar, right? I'm thinking that next time I may make it with powdered sugar to avoid this problem...

At least my fudge came out as expected, and I happily licked the spoon. Yum.


torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)

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