Preserved Tangerines Three Ways

From left to right: Peppery tangerines, chai spiced, and herbed.

Here in Florida, you stumble across tasty winter citrus every time you go shopping. The last time I went to get produce at Tomatoland (kind of like a permanent farm stand/small grocery store), there were big stacks of tangerines calling my name. I bought dozens of them, thinking I would make some marmalade, but I’m still eating up my last batch of marmalade and wanted to do something a bit different. I always have preserved lemons in my fridge: when I’m almost out I just toss some more together and wait a few weeks. Usually I just add salt and sliced lemons to a jar, but I’ve been wanting to add spices. These tangerines provided the perfect opportunity to experiment! I had grand plans for waiting to post this until the tangerines are done preserving (it does take several weeks), but I felt eager to share the fruits of my labor while there’s still plenty of time to use in-season citrus. Given how easy it is to make these things, they’re pretty much guaranteed to turn out well, so that makes it a little easier to share now too. A couple notes here: you don’t have to be a slave to the measuring spoon with these. I usually just add a layer of citrus and sprinkle on salt (and herbs and spices, if I’m using them) between each layer. As I add a new layer of citrus, I press them down before sprinkling with salt. Basically the process looks like this:
Slice citrus into wedges, salt bottom of jar. Add a layer of wedges, press, sprinkle with salt. Add another layer, press, salt, and repeat until your jar is full. Honestly, I have never measured the salt and they turn out fine. Just make sure you are  salting and packing them tightly so that your citrus releases its juices. Then, leave the jars somewhere cool and dark for a month, shaking them when you think about it. Keep an eye on them the first few days, though: if they haven’t released enough juice to cover the fruit, add some more freshly squeezed juice to the jars and re-cover. After 3-4 weeks, you’ll have soft, yummy citrus you can add to just about anything, plus delicious brine that makes great dressings and sauces!

Chai Spiced Tangerines
I always have this spice mixture around, too. If you go to the link, you’ll find the proprotions of the spices to use (make sure to toast them first!), and you can use them in chai syrup or blend the dry spices with tea. I use them to flavor sauces and desserts too. These tangerines would be good in sweet and savory applications: I could see them going well in a rice dish with lots of raisins and toasted nuts, or sliced and put on top of a chocolate cake.
For this recipe, makes sure your spices cool completely after toasting. You can leave the toasted spices whole or you can grind them in a spice grinder. I made mine a couple days ago and ground them, so I went with the ground spices. I used about 2 1/2 tbsp of the ground spices for a pint of preserved tangerines. I also used sea salt in this and the other recipes because I like it’s clear, briny flavor best. You can also use kosher salt if you feel so inclined, but you may have to adjust the amount.

1/4 c sea salt
2 1/2 tbsp ground chai spices
2-3 tangerines, cut into wedges

-Sprinkle some salt and spices in the bottom of a pint jar.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Top with another layer of salt and spices.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt and spices.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

Peppery Tangerines
These tangerines use spices that I see in a lot of recipes for preserved lemons, which means I’ll be substituting them in recipes where spiced, preserved lemons are used (Moroccan cooking, for example). There are plenty of examples over at Punk Domestics to provide inspiration!

1/4 c sea salt
2 small bay leaves
1 dried cayenne pepper, halved (you could substitute other peppers here: guajillo peppers, for example, would make for a nice smoky addition)
1 tsp peppercorns (I had tricolored peppercorns, but you can use black peppercorns or whatever ones you have around)

-Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a pint jar and add the cayenne pepper.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Add bay leaves.
-Top with another layer of salt.
-Add peppercorns.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

Herbed Tangerines
The flavors I used here remind me of the flavors found in foods from Provence. I’m planning on using these tangerines to spice up French dishes and to flavor roasted chicken.

1/4 c sea salt
1/2 whole nutmeg nut (I had one that I had partially used for grating, if you only have a whole nut you can just use that and rough up the surface so it releases its flavor).
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp lavender flowers

-Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a pint jar and add the nutmeg.
-Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press.
-Add rosemary sprig.
-Top with another layer of salt.
-Add lavender.
-Add another layer of tangerine wedges, press, and top with salt.
-Continue this process until your jar is full.
-Screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar.
-Store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, shaking every few days.

This recipe is on Punk Domestics!

Preserved Tangerines Three Ways on Punk Domestics

Chocolate and Herb Pots de Creme

I’ve recently purchased a bunch of really delicious eggs from a local farmer, and am trying to figure out creative ways to use them up. Custards always spring to mind, but when I went to the fridge I found that the things that would make a normal pot de creme were not all present. Instead, I improvised for the dairy using some of my homemade yogurt and it turned out really well! Slightly less sweet and slightly more tangy than your average chocolate custard. And of course, because I’m obsessed with putting herbs in everything, I had to put some in my dessert too. I decided to try a little experiment with this recipe after they were in the oven, and thought I would turn them into creme brulee. I’ve made creme brulee before plenty of times before, but I wondered how it would work with some more flavoring crushed in with the sugar. The verdict? As long as the pieces of herbs/zest/whatever you’re using are small, it should work (I have only tried this once, bear in mind, so while it worked super well with this recipe, I can’t attest to every variation!) I used some lavender buds and some rosemary and ground them up with a mortar and pestle. I added some vanilla sugar (obviously regular ol’ sugar works here), ground a bit more, sprinkled it on my pots de creme, torched it*, and voila!
*I have a propane torch specifically for these kinds of tasks. You can get them at the hardware store and they are much sturdier than the flimsy ‘culinary torches.’ If you don’t have one, I hear that putting the cremes under the broiler works well too.

Chocolate and herb pots de creme
3 eggs
1/2 c plain yogurt
pinch salt
4-5 oz semi-sweet chocolate (either chips or a bar that’s been broken up)
1 tsp lavender flowers
1 small sprig fresh rosemary

-Heat oven to 350.
-Beat eggs and add to a pot with the other ingredients.
-Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it simmers and thickens considerably.
-Strain out the rosemary sprig and lavender, and pour the mixture in to small ramekins (it filled 4 of my ramekins, but I have some extra tiny ramekins for some reason so it might just fill 2 of yours).
-Place ramekins in a cake pan or roasting pan with high sides.
-Make a bain marie by pouring hot water into the pan (NOT the ramekins!) until it is about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. For this, I usually just fill my kettle before I cook and turn it on a minute or two before the custard is done so it has time to heat up.
-Place in the oven, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick you’d like your custard to be.
-Cool slightly or all the way, and serve.

Herbed sugar (optional)
If you want to turn this into an herbed creme brulee, here is what you do!

1 pinch lavender flowers
1 pinch rosemary leaves
3-4 tbsp vanilla (or regular) sugar
tiny pinch salt

-Place the herbs in a mortar and gently grind with a pestle. Add sugar and salt and continue grinding to mingle everything together.
-Sprinkle on top of your pots de creme when they have cooled slightly.
-Caramelize the sugar using either a torch or broiler (do this immediately before serving).

Tired of Store-Bought Perfume? Make your Own!

A little while ago it came out that the Komen Foundation’s perfume contains carcinogens. While I have other reasons for being skeptical of Komen, the perfume controversy got me to thinking about other ways perfumes could be made. I purchased perfumes that simply consist of plant extracts that have been infused in alcohol, and I have also used  essential oils as perfume. I like the former especially because the fragrance is lighter and can be used in a mister.
Long story short, I’ve started making my own perfume. There are still a couple (that are, as far as I know, carcinogen-free) that I will buy, but when I just want a simple scent, making my own is easy and fun! So far, I have just done lavender, but you can use anything you like (herbs, flowers, citrus zest, etc.)
For the perfume I made here, I used a bunch of lavender from Bluebird Hill Farm in NC. The best part is that their bunches of 50 stems fit perfectly in a pint jar for easy infusing! Just turn the stems with the flowers facing down, set in a jar, snip the stems, cover with vodka or everclear, and wait (I have vodka, so that’s what I’m using). I am waiting a month because it want it to be stronger than my infused vodkas, which usually infuse for a week or two, but you might wait more or less depending on what plants you decide to use.
I’m planning on blending some fragrances next, and I’m definitely planning on giving this perfume as a gift!

Lavender Perfume
1 bunch lavender
vodka
Pint jar, with lid

-Turn the lavender so the stems are facing down, and put into a pint jar.
-Snip off the excess length from the stems (I cut them just a tiny bit shorter than the jar).
-Add enough vodka or everclear to cover.
-Top with the lid and close tightly. Let sit (away from sunlight is probably best) for one month.
-Use! You have a couple options for this (and probably more than I haven’t thought of):

  1. Keep in the jar with the flowers. To use, dip your finger in and dab the scent on.
  2. Strain the flowers out, and funnel into a perfume bottle to use as a spritz for yourself or to scent linens and such.

 

 

Valentine’s Day+Sick Day=Cake

Chris and I normally aren’t huge Valentine’s Day folks–we might get each other a little gift, and use the occasion as an excuse to cook a nice dinner or go out to eat, but I at least would rather do things to show Chris I care about him the rest of the year. That being said, today I have been craving cake. I’ve had a cold since yesterday night, and maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been wandering around in a feverish fog this morning, but I got it into my head that a great gift for Chris would be the gift of a cake, which would also help address my chocolate craving.
I was indeed right, further proof of my theory that food is the best gift.
I am too sick to spend much time fussing over building a new cake recipe, so I just pulled one from a cookbook (hence why there isn’t a cake recipe typed below). To make it extra special, I replaced the water in the batter with strong coffee and topped it with chocolate chips before baking. I also baked it in a greased casserole so it’s tall-ish. But that’s all I did differently! Just find a chocolate cake recipe you like, adapt it with the coffee and chips (if you want to), and put it in the oven.
The toppings were the place where I did anything remotely innovative, and represent my attempt to eat some antioxidants while eating my cake (ha!). All I did was make a simple orange glaze like my mom used to make for cakes, and top it with pomegranate seeds. It’s a great way to make a cake look impressive when you’re short on time (or not feeling all that great!)

Chocolate cake with pomegranate and orange
Your favorite chocolate cake recipe
zest of 1 orange
1 c powdered sugar
pinch salt
1-2 tsp milk
seeds from 1 pomegranate

-Prepare cake according to directions (replace liquid with coffee and add chocolate chips, if desired)
-While it bakes, combine sugar, salt, and zest in a bowl. Whisk in milk until it reaches desired consistency.
-After the cake cools, turn in over onto a serving platter. Drizzle with glaze and pile the seeds in the center.
-Serve!

Easy Tofu-Tomato Sauce

Still trying to use up all those tomatoes you dried over the summer? This creamy sauce is a tasty way to plow through quite a few of them while getting some healthy protein, and it goes great on just about anything, from pasta to salads. The best part is that it only takes about 2 minutes to make!

Tofu-Tomato Sauce
1 package silken tofu
8 oz dried tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp sea salt
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (if you’re using oil-packed tomatoes, you can substitute that oil here).

-Combine all ingredients in a blender.
-Blend until smooth.

 

Added to the Pantry, December and January

Added to the Pantry, January 2012

1 pint maple kumquat marmalade
2 pints chocolate syrup
2 pints fennel sauerkraut
2 pints caraway sauerkraut
1 gallon chicken stock
1 dozen chai spice cookies
1 quart hashbrowns

Added to the Pantry, December 2011

1 c butter
1 pint buttermilk
3 quarts yogurt
1 pint chai syrup
1 quart sauerkraut
1 pint elderberry syrup
1 quart fire cider
3 c almond milk
3 c almond flour
1 quart vegan raw ‘alfredo’ sauce
2 pints solstice jam

Independence Days Challenge

Thanks to my friend Anisa, I just learned about the Independence Days Challenge–the goal of which is to record the steps we take to reduce our dependence on supermarket food. I’ll let you read the categories on your own, but each highlights a different way we might approach independence. I think most people who are participating will be blogging about it weekly, but I plan on taking the approach Anisa is and adding text in the sidebar of my blog that is easier to read and track (and quick to update). I hope you’ll consider participating too so we can all keep track of the awesome local foodways we are building!