Candied Citrus Peel

April 22nd, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

This recipe is super easy.  The peels taste just like sweet lemon drops. You’ll be certain to have your kitchen stocked with a jar or two of these from now on—ready to grab for that upcoming day hike or camping trip.  You may love them plain, with only a dusting of sugar, but in the end you may opt to dip your peels in chocolate for extra yumminess.  Look out!  These peels disappear fast!

 

You will need:

5 organic, un-waxed thick-skinned lemons (or 5 limes, 2 oranges, or 1 large grapefruit)

2 cups sugar

¾ tsp cream of tartar

Semisweet chocolate (optional)

 

What to do:

  1. Wash the lemons and slice off both ends with a knife.
  2. Make 4 equally spaced lengthwise slices just through the peel of each lemon.
  3. With your fingers, pry each section of peel off each lemon, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible.
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a simmer.
  5. Add the peels to the simmering water.  Simmer for 2 minutes and strain with a colander.
  6. Rinse the peels with fresh water and wash out the pan with soap and water.
  7. Repeat 2 more times, each time using fresh water to rinse peels and saucepan, and fresh cold water to refill saucepan.
  8. The pith of the fruit has a bitter taste.  If the peels are very thick, use a spoon or butter knife to scrape off most of the pith from the peel. This should rid the peels of bitterness.  But don’t remove all the pith from the peels—it will provide some structure and tastiness.
  9. Combine 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water and ¾ tsp cream of tartar.  Slowly bring to a simmer, whisking often.  The sugar syrup should be clear before it reaches a simmer.  Be careful—this liquid is hot!
  10. Add the peels to the sugar syrup (add enough water to completely cover the peels) and simmer gently for about 1 hour, until the mixture forms a thick syrup and the peels are translucent and tender.  The temperature should be about 230 degrees.
  11. To test for doneness, lift a peel slice from the syrup with a slotted spoon, let it cool slightly and then sample.  If you can easily bite through the peel, it’s done.  If not, continue simmering peels until tender.  If the syrup becomes too thick, add additional water.
  12. Turn off heat, gently remove peels from the sugar syrup with slotted spoon and lay separately on a wire rack set on an edged baking sheet.  Watch out!  The peels will be very hot.
  13. Once cooled, cut each peel into thin strips (no wider than ¼ inch).  These can be great knife practice for smallish hands, but be sure to work carefully.  Set peels separately on a clean wire rack to dry overnight.
  14. A few pieces at a time, toss each peel in a sugar-filled bowl to coat.
  15. Store in an airtight container.

Candied peels are best used at least two days after you’ve made them—they won’t have dried sufficiently if used right away.  After no longer gooey to the touch, they should be kept refrigerated in an airtight container.  They will last several weeks (assuming they are not gobbled up before then by unicorns).

 

And try this:

  • Dip peel ends in thinned royal icing or tempered chocolate and place on parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.
  • For orange peels, try adding ground ginger or nutmeg to the sugar.
  • Chopped, the candied peels may be used as a topping to pudding, custard, ice cream, pie, fresh granola or cookies.
  • Remaining citrus and cooled liquid and may be used as simple syrup to make amazing homemade lemonade Just add juice of 5 lemons (leftover from the above recipe) and water to taste and refrigerate.
  • Or, on the eve an especially long day, concoct a comforting cocktail.  Cool the remaining citrus and liquid, and serve with your spirit of choice.

Note: I originally published a version of this (sans above cocktail tip, of course) in Whip Up’s Action Pack Magazine for kids (Issue 6).   Chock full of quality projects for creative curious kids who love to do stuff, Action Pack is a downloadable high-quality ad-free e-magazine by Kathreen Ricketson.  Diagrams and photos illustrate each boredom-busting step-by-step kid-friendly project—make a lemon battery, a citric acid fizz popper, cinnamon sticks wooden jewelry and handmade chalk.  For more hands-on projects like this one, click HERE.

 

 

There is No “I” in Pie

October 26th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

As mentioned here and here, I don’t like to cook.  Or even to bake, really.  For me every meal is a trial.

There have been a few times when I actually have enjoyed my time in the kitchen.  Almost all have involved a glass or two of wine.

And, so when my smallest person returned from school the other day determined to enter a homemade apple pie in the farmers market pie contest, I immediately broke out in a cold sweat.

I have never baked a pie.

My pie-o-phobia is mostly due to years of extensive advice provided by well-intentioned gastronomes—freeze the flour, mix with a light hand, roll from the center, pre-cook the apples, heap them up high, wet the top crust—to me, this is dizzying.  But how do you dismiss a small pie-obsessed enterprising firebrand who makes a completely convincing case—Mom, we could do it together, she says.

In the end, I have learned that if you can make a purple Play-Doh pie (and my daughter is a self-proclaimed master), you can make an apple pie.

Oatmeal, hazelnuts, boiled cider, sour cream, ground cloves, lemon zest, pepper, melted apple jelly, vodka—all can do wonders for an apple pie, I’ve heard.  We stuck with a few simple ingredients we had on hand—fresh fruit, flour, butter, eggs, sugar.  Homemade pie can only be as yummy as the produce put into it.  We put in a mixture of local Honeycrisps, Macouns, Jonathans and Crispins.  Other late-fall blends could include Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Rome, Cortland, Braeburn, Rome, Idared, and Black Twig.

 

The Recipe

This recipe is perfect for making one double-crust apple pie.

Flaky Butter Crust:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, chilled and diced
  • ½ cup ice water

In large, refrigerated bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter only until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in water, a Tbs at a time, until mixture forms a ball.  Don’t overwork the dough.  Shape dough into two flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.  Unwrap one dough disk and roll out on wax paper.  Invert over 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.  Ease dough into pan bottom and corners.  Refrigerate.

The Rest:

  • 6 cups apples, quartered, cored, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 1 Tbs lemon
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 eggwhite
  • 1tbs milk
  • 1 Tbs butter, frozen

Set pizza stone or cookie sheet on center rack of oven.  Preheat oven to 475.  Brush bottom piecrust lightly with egg white.  Bake for 5 minutes.  In large bowl, mix apples with lemon.  In separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add apples and mix.  Add salt and mix.  Arrange apples in layers on dough-lined pie plate.  Heap them up high, since they will cook down a bit.  Cover filling with diced butter.

Roll out second dough disk.  For a lattice-top crust, cut ¾ inch strips and carefully weave onto filling.  For a solid crust, center dough onto filling and cut steam vents near crust edge with paring knife.  Trim and tuck edges.  Place pie in freezer for 10 minutes.  Brush top with a light layer of milk and sugar.  Reduce oven temperature to 400.  Bake on preheated pizza stone until top crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Fasten foil rim around crust edge.  Continue baking until juices bubble thickly at pan edges and big slow bubbles rise up through the vents, about 35 more minutes.

Transfer pie to wire rack and (the ultimate challenge) commit to an hour-long mouthwatering wait.  At least.

 

The Story’s End

At this point, you are most likely at the edge of your seat wondering about our pie contest outcome.  To our complete surprise, the pie was a prize-winning one.  Yay!  And so, later that week at a friend’s house, composed and confident, in an attempt to replicate success, I made the same exact world-class pie and popped it into the oven.  And broiled it.  A total flop.  I will spare you the gory details.  And yet, I remain fully committed to trying this recipe out with fresh local Anjou pears next week, er tomorrow.

Now, go forth and bake ye some pie!  And at Thanksgiving dinner (It’s coming, you know!) when folks ask your kids, What have you been up to lately?  He or she may reply, Oh, nothing much.  Just hanging out. 

And making the best pie ever.

 

 

Quickles

September 16th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Although our rabbit-eaten radishes were certainly nothing to whoop about this summer, we did have a tricky time keeping up with our cukes.  Started too many seeds and neglected to thin the strapping young things—they were so very eager and enterprising, producing a healthy progeny of slicers and picklers.  We planted too much.  We always do.

The best way to deal with all these cukes is to slice ‘em up and make several batches of pickles.  Given this situation, many folks with patience and minimal time constraints would opt to sterilize a case of canning jars and commit to a month-long mouth-watering wait.  In the interest of small hungry project managers craving speedy outcomes and post-project snacks, we most often opt for “refrigerator pickles,” or “bread and butter pickles,” or “quick pickles”—we call them Quickles.  Make them in the morning, and gobble them up at lunch.

As mentioned before, I do not like to cook.  My friend Jenny (who, unlike me, loves to cook and is really good at it), makes a superamazing Detox Soup—promise me you must save at least a few cukes for this recipe.  It is superfabuloso.  In comparison, Quickle-making is more of a magic trick than a recipe, like when the coy magician’s assistant enters a locked cage and transforms into a savage tiger.  Voila!  Tangy and sweet with a bit of a bite.  Mee-yow!

Your pickles are only going to be as yummy as the produce you start with.  Use the freshest pickling cucumbers you can find.  If you don’t grow your own, find locally-grown organic cukes.  Don’t be afraid to ask the farmer when the cucumbers were picked.  You will make the best pickles from cukes that were picked the same day, or, at the very least, within the last 2 to 3 days.  You can use any variety of cucumber you fancy, though we prefer using either “pickling” or “lemon” cucumbers.

You can make Quickles with just a few simple ingredients—fresh cukes, vinegar and salt—but a few extras will do wonders.  Feel free to experiment: garlic, dill, mustard seed, capers, hot or sweet peppers—branch out on your own.   The recipe below is perfect for a 1-quart Mason jar of pickles.

What You’ll Need:

1 ½ pounds (6 cups) pickling cucumbers, trimmed and cut to ¼-inch rounds

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup Diamond kosher salt (don’t use table salt)

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup distilled white vinegar

1 cup sugar (white or light brown)

Shake of black pepper

Clean, freshly washed 1-quart Mason jar with lid

 

What You May Want to Add, Just Because You Can:

1 tsp mustard seed

¾ tsp celery seeds

1 cloves garlic, slivered

1 tsp dill seed or chopped fresh dill

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Bay leaf

 

What You’ll Do:

Place sliced cukes and onions in a colander within a large bowl.  Add salt and toss well.  Cover the mixture with ice.  Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour.  Rinse thoroughly and drain.  Pat cukes dry with a paper towel.

In a large pot, bring vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and spices to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer.  When sugar has dissolved (about 10 minutes), add cukes and onions.  When mixture starts to boil again, remove from heat and cool.  Use a slotted spoon to pack the jar with the veggies within an inch of the rim.  Pour the warmish vinegar syrup into the jar to ½ inch from the rim.  Seal with the lid.  Place in the fridge.

Wait a few hours and eat ‘em up.  Sometimes they are so very seductive, we eat them all before they are completely chilled.

Quickles will stay fresh in the fridge for about 10 days.  The perfect balance of sweet and sour, they are picnic, potato salad, sandwich, and veggie burger champions.  In my humble opinion, there is no reason to ever purchase another jar of commercial pickles.

The Smopsicle

July 25th, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

If, in fact, you did come over sometime soon (and our fingers are crossed), my little team and I would whip you up a batch of our favorite simple, all-natural organic summer smopsicles—quick and easy smoothie pops that run salty preservative-y saturated fat-ty high fructose corn syrup-y snacks clear out of town.

Most ingredients can be found at a farmer’s market like ours.  But we’ve been known to make these pops in the thick of winter.  As luck would have it, we’ve found that frozen fruit works best, so these days we squirrel away peak-season favorites in our freezer.  Thankfully, though, we’re not picky.  We’ll freeze and eat just about anything smoopsicle-worthy.

Here are some of our superfabuloso recipes.  Most are not ours, really.  We’ve stolen bits and pieces from aunts, close friends, neighbors and complete strangers.

 

Basic Smopsicle Ingredients:

1 cup plain or vanilla organic yogurt (Greek live and active bacterial culture is best)

3 to 4 Tbs concentrated fruit juice (orange, pomegranate, cranberry, any favorites will do)

1 cup fresh or frozen fruit (plus extras for testing)  (strawberries, raspberries, sliced peaches, mmmmm)

Blend all ingredients, saving 2 or 3 Tbs fruit, until smooth.  Pour a few Tbs of blended ingredients into pop molds.  Add fresh, whole fruit layer.  Add another blended layer, and fruit layer. Finish with a blended layer.  Pop in pop sticks.  Pop in the freezer.  Wait…..

 

Waterminty Pops:

2 cups seedless watermelon chunks

3/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt

¼ cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)

3 to 4 fresh mint leaves

Cinnamon

1 Tbs honey, stevia, agave, maple or your favorite natural sweetener, to taste

Puree watermelon, honey and mint in blender.  Pulse in yogurt and cinnamon just until smooth.  Pour into pop molds and freeze.  Note: we’ve been known to pop chocolate chips into this recipe post-blending for “watermelon seeds.”  Mmmmm.

 

Mangopsicles: (inspired by Moosewood)

1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into chunks

2 ripe bananas

3 to 4 Tbs orange juice concentrate

1/8 tsp ground cardamom

Puree all ingredients in blender.  Pour into pop molds and freeze.

 

Note: as a quick alternative to any recipe above, add ½ cup crushed ice and blend with ingredients to make smoothies.  Drink immediately.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to wait.

On Hunger

January 27th, 2011 § 9 comments § permalink

TomatoI think we are off to a good start.  At this time, I’d like to come clean with something that may be of some concern.

I do not like to cook.

Now, I’m not sure if this is due to the fact that our teeny kitchen has just two functioning stove burners and one single (semi-working) drawer, or if it is because, at this point of my life I am enveloped by things I have produced that either unfold, get dirty, get taken out and put on the floor, are un-made or get thrown away within minutes of me feeling the satisfaction of completing the task.  Maybe I am simply searching for something with more of an appreciated value (Uuk!  How many of THOSE do I have to eat…..).  Or, perhaps I am just not woman enough to appreciate the sheer beauty of stuffing grapevine leaves with peeled and cored eggplant and squash while a little person is tugging at me hungry hungry hungry.

In any case, for me every meal is a trial.

There have been a few times when I actually have enjoyed my time in the kitchen.  Most have involved a glass or two of wine.

But soup.  Soup is another matter altogether.  Any sort of soup—mixed bean, lentil, wild mushroom with barley, curried pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot and yam bisque, tomato, hearty spring vegetable—I could happily drown in a sea of soup, let it toss me about for a while and then spit me out.  Happy.

My friend Jenny (who, unlike me, loves to cook and is really good at it) makes a mean Butternut Squash Soup with Apples—easy and perfect for a cold wintry night.  My old standby is Vegetable.  Nothing fancy—just a beautifully basic soup that can accommodate whatever combination of freshly picked or frozen veggies I have on hand.  It tastes different every time.

Simple Vegetable Soup:

3 Tbs olive oil

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Handful of carrots (chopped)

3-4 celery stalks (chopped)

4 ears cooked corn (kernels removed)

4 medium sized potatoes (cut into chunks)

Can of kidney beans

Can of chick peas

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add celery and carrots and cook on low until they start to soften (about 10 mins).  Stir in the broth, corn, potatoes, beans, chick peas and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the veggies are almost tender (20 mins).  Stir in the parsley.

Other great additions include: cabbage, parsnips, turnips, zucchini, lima beans and bell peppers.

Yum.

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