Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Happy Accident of Nature

Oh what a happy accident of nature for Meyer Lemons and blueberries are in season at the same time. (Can I get an amen and a hallelujah from the peanut gallery, please!?)  I have been consuming both of them in vast quantities over the last few weeks. I will be very sad when my supply of them fade away with the season.

I am not going to spoil the surprise, but here is my latest creation with those two friends. Can you guess what I am making? I will share the results with you in about a month.

For now, the four quarts I made made are hiding out in my "curing cupboard."  (What? Doesn't everyone had a cupboard where they stash their fermented goods and curables? I always have a couple of jars of something in there getting happy whilst in the dark with the roasting pan and polka dot casserole dish. Don't you?)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Banana Brulee Butter

 Banana Brulee Butter

What is Banana Brulee Butter? It's like jam, sort of. It's like bananas foster, sort of.  It's like caramel sauce, sort of.

It's like...well, it's like heaven in a jar.

The brown sugar lends a rich caramel flavor to this delightful and unusual preserve, while the tiny Tahitian vanilla seeds add depth and character.  One of my favorite things about this recipe? I get to use up all those bananas that went south too fast here in the South. (Can someone please remind me that fruit ripens at the speed of light here along the gulf coast and to not buy large bunches of bananas any more?)

This recipe is totally and completely the fault of my sister-in-law, Maryann. She told me about some jar of some banana something or another she had picked up at her favorite little shop in town and asked me if I could make something like it. I am not sure if this is anything like it, but it sure is deelish-us!

Banana Brulee Butter Recipe:
4 c. smashed bananas (about 11 fully ripe)
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. EVER-FRESH fruit protector (optional)
1 box SURE-JELL pectin
1/2 tsp. butter
4 c. granulated sugar, measured into a separate bowl
2 c. brown sugar, measured into bowl with granulated sugar
1 Tahitian vanilla bean

BRING boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot, soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
SMASH the bananas thoroughly using a fork. Measure exactly 4 cups of banana into 6- or 8-quart pot. Stir the lemon juice and fruit protector into prepared fruit in pot.

SPLIT the vanilla bean in half with a sharp knife. Scrape out the seeds and add to banana mixture in pot. Place cleaned pod in pot as well.
STIR the pectin into banana mixture in pot. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
STIR in all of the sugar quickly. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly - this recipe burns easily so don't step away! Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.  Remove vanilla pod & discard.
LADLE quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids and screw bands finger tight. Place jars on a rack in canner, making sure water covers jars by 1-2". Bring to a boil, cover, and then process 5 minutes.  Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.) 

 My Instructions:

Here's all the good stuff. Bananas. Sugar. Lemon juice. Drunken vanilla beans. And pectin. (I didn't have any vanilla beans that were loose so I fished one out of the vanilla that has been aging in the back of my cupboard for the last couple of weeks. WOW - the seeds came right out and were so tasty!)

Smash the bananas with a fork. I cut away any bruised parts. Remember, preserving fruits doesn't make them magically of a higher quality. The quality of your preserves depends on the quality of the fruit.

 Always use a bottled lemon juice when making jams and jellies - the acid levels are more uniform and will give you a more predictable result. Another helpful hint: Hide the bottle of lemon juice in the very back of the fridge behind the broccoli so your sons don't drink it all.

I know the recipe says to pour the bananas into the pan first, then add the lemon juice, but I usually forget to do something and need a few extra minutes to prep. I just pour the lemon juice over the bananas to keep them from getting brown, do what I need to do, and then come back to them.

All better now! The banana and lemon juice are in the pot. Now add some fruit preserver, if you want. Sometimes I remember, sometimes I don't.  It doesn't seem to affect it either way...which begs the question, why do I add it at all?

Stir in the pectin.

Oh, sweet mystery of life at last I found you! And to think you were swimming around in the rum in the back of my cupboard this whole time, you bad little bean. (Don't worry Ma, I am not drinking the rum, just making vanilla. Really. I promise).  Now get your goodness into that pot, you lovely Tahitian vanilla bean!

I supposed one doesn't have to use a Tahitian vanilla bean but then they would miss out on the dark, chocolately floral notes of the glorious Tahitian bean. Some Indian beans are rather nice in jams, though. Vanilla from India tends to have more of a cherry flavor like a Bourbon. I don't think I would ever use a Mexican vanilla bean because their flavor profile is so bold, but that's just me. Experiment and see what you like best.

 -Unbeknownst to most, happiness can be measured by the amount of vanilla beans you have.-

Oh man, this is where it starts smelling good in the kitchen.

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over a high heat. DO NOT step away to answer the phone. You will regret it. Trust me.

Add in the sugar to the boiling bananas all at once.  This is the part where your seven year old calls from the other room, "Mom!! What is it that you are cooking? It smells like heaven again in this house!" Then he wanders in all dreamy eyed and leans his head on your hip, "Mom, I think I will stand right here forever."

Return the mixture to a rolling boil and boil for one minute. DO NOT stop stirring, even if it is your husband calling you on Skype and you haven't talked to him in a day. The husband is much more forgiving than the banana brulee butter.

Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/8" headspace. Wipe the rims and threads. Place two piece lids in place and tighten finger tight (not too tight - you want the air to escape!)

Bring canner to a boil and cover. Process for 5 minutes. Remove and immediately tighten rings. Let cool in an upright position.

At this point, you may need to hide it from your children and spouse if you are wanting any of it for yourself. Or, you can just plan on making it once every week or so. After all, what else are you going to do with all those bananas that are on the edge?

(This stuff is great on French Toast. Or toast. Or a spoon. I imagine it would be good on ice cream, too, but we have never had it around long enough to try!)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Meyer Lemon Curd

Do you have any recipes that are bowl licking good? For my husband, that's cake batter. For me? It's this stuff. Not only is it bowl-licking good, it's I-want-to-eat-this-e.v.e.r.y. single-day-of-my-life good.

Except if I did, I would be the size of a house since the main ingredients are eggs yolks, whole eggs, butter, and wait for it...sugar. Yes, there is lemon in there too, a lot of it, but caloric-ally it doesn't hold a candle to butter, egg yolks, and sugar. Fortunately, I have figured out a way around feeling the duty to eat the entire batch of lemon curd because I don't want it to go bad in the refrigerator.

I give it a bath. Now I can make big batches of it and put it up in pint size jars and save it for later. They say a girl can freeze it too, but that makes me a bit nervous. I guess next time I make it, I can set aside some for the freezer and see how it holds up.

So without further ado, here is my favorite lemon curd recipe. (P.S. In the photos, I am actually DOUBLING the recipe, so don't freak out if you don't have 14 eggs yolks in your bowl, too.)

  • 2 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. lemon zest
  • 1 c. lemon juice
  • 6 oz. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into approx 3/4" pieces
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 4 large whole eggs
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt

Wash 4 half-pint jars with warm, soapy water. Rinse and keep hot until ready to fill (I use the sanitizing cycle on my dishwasher for this step).  Start water heating  in the canner. It needs to be no more than 180 degrees F by the time you add the jars of lemon curd. Place rings and lids in small pan and heat.

Separate egg yolks. No, I didn't bump any color profiles in photoshop. The egg yolks really are that deep of an orange-yellow. Gotta love free range hens.

Use a peeler to peel the lemons, making sure not to get any pith. No, I didn't bump the color profile of the lemon peels either. These lemons happened to lean towards their Mandarin orange roots a little more than other Meyer lemons I have encountered. I am totally fine with it, by the way.

Put lemon zest and sugar in food processor.

Pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Just have to show you this little homemade rigging I came up with. The little safety doodad that allows the machine to run broke off a while. I discovered if I just lodge something in there to press the little thingamabob the doodad was protecting down, my food processor works great. Actually better than before because I can lift the lid off while it is running.

Measure the butter. Be sure to use the highest quality butter you can find! Ingredients really do make a difference since this is a fairly simple recipe.  This is one of my favorites.

 Cut the butter into 3/4" pieces.

Squeeze the lemons. If you need more juice, use your favorite lemon juice to make up the difference.

 Here's the brand I use. Love this stuff. Love it. But can you see the difference between the Meyer Lemon juice and this from Eurekas? Crazy, eh?

Start heating the water in the bottom of a double boiler (or a pot with a bowl that fits over the top). The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl/pan, the steam is hot enough to cook the curd.

 On the counter, whisk the eggs and egg yolks together in the top of the double boiler.  Slowly whisk in sugar mixture and salt, blending until well mixed and smooth.  Blend in lemon juice and then add butter pieces.

Place the top on the double boiler. Stir continuously but slowly to prevent mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. You want to keep the mixture moving so it doesn't curdle, which is different than making curd. Continue cooking until mixture reaches temperature of 170.

Pull double boiler off of heat and then continue to stir gently for about another five minutes.  (This is the double boiler I use when making a bit double batch like this).

You will know its ready when it coats a spoon and has the consistency of a thin pudding.

Strain the curd to remove the lemon zest. Place strainer over a large stainless steel bowl (don't use glass! The curd is hot and could make it break.)

Press the curd through, then discard the zest.

Laddle into prepared jars. Wipe rims clean and place lids and rings - only tighten lids finger tight!

 Place in canner and process for 25 minutes from the time the water comes to a full boil.

Remove and immediately tighten lids. Let cool.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sangria (Blood Orange) Marmalade

 Oh. My. Stinkin'. Heck. Would you look at the color of this marmalade? There is nothing apologetic about it, is there?

The recipe is an old one - not sure where it came from. I like it because it is adjustable based on how much fruit you have. Only end up with 5 cups of the fruit mixture? No problem! Just adjust the sugar. Have 10 cups of the fruit mixture? No problem, just adjust the sugar. Adjusting the sugar is ridiculously easy, too. It's a 1:1 ratio for the fruit mixture and sugar.  (If you have more oranges, just up the amount of water the recipe calls for.)

  • 3 pounds blood oranges
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 cups granulated sugar 
Start with the most gorgeous, colorful fruit you can find. The more color the skin has, the more intense the color of the flesh.

Cut the tops and bottoms off of the oranges. Try not to gasp at the oranges deep garnet color. Score the peel of each orange lengthwise into quarter-segments.  (Keep the tops and bottoms!)

Remove peels and set the fruit aside for later.

Place the peels into a saucepans and fill with water until they are just covered. Over a medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Rinse and repeat. No seriously. Drain the water, cover the peels with cold water and then bring it to a boil again for another 10 minutes.   Drain the peels and let them cool (or if you are impatient like me, run cold water over them.)

While peels are cooking, cut orange flesh away from the membranes. Chop into small pieces. (Since you planned ahead and peeled an extra orange, share some pieces with the adorable green-eyed little girl tugging at your apron saying, "Yum yum yum - I eat!")

It looks like a crime scene.
Don't worry...the electric pink stain on your hands will eventually go away.
Once peels have cooled, use a spoon to scrape away the pith (that's the white stuff). Discard (compost!) the pith unless you know some crafty or clever use for it, then by all means, knock yourself out and keep it.

Cut the peel into very thin strips.

Place the fruit in a heavy-bottomed pan and squeeze the membranes over the pan to get as much juice out of them as possible. Then add in strips of the orange peel. Try not to gasp at the intensity of the colors.  Add four cups of water and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, then reduce the heat an boil gently for about 30 minutes or until the peel is soft. Then remove from the heat and measure 6 cuts of the fruit mixture.

Don't fret if you have more than 6 cups of the fruit mixture - just fix the sugar/fruit ratio. Because this recipe does not use commercial pectin, you can adjust the sugar for the amount of fruit mixture. Just use EQUAL amounts of sugar and fruit mixture. I had 8 cups of the fruit mixture, so I used 8 cups of sugar. 1:1. Simple, eh?

Prepare your canning supplies.  Sterilize the canning jars by running them in almost boiling water for several minutes (I run mine through the rinse cycle of the dishwasher and leave them there until needed), and simmer a few cups of water in a small saucepan for the lids.

Then bring the fruit mixture to a boil over a medium-high heat. Add the sugar in gradually - try to maintain the boil. This step takes a bit of patience, but it will be well rewarded! Bring sugar and fruit to a full boil and boil hard for 20-30 minutes (this means you can't stir the bubbles away), stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the gel stage. Gel stage is 220 degrees or 8 degrees above boiling point for your elevation.  I personally use a thermometer and do a sheet test along the way, just in case my thermometer isn't working. One or two degrees one way or the other makes a difference but the spoon never lies.

Here's a link to the Ball canning website: and here is the description they have posted about the sheet test (AKA the spoon test).

"Sheet Test Dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling soft spread. Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally with edge down so that the syrup runs off the edge. As the mixture cooks, the drops will become heavier and will drop off the spoon separately but two at a time. When the two drops join together and “sheet” off the spoon, the gel stage has been reached."

When the mixture reaches gel stage, skim off any foam and ladle the hot marmalade into the jar, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Screw rings on (not too tight!) and then process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove lid and let them sit for another 5 minutes before removing the jars. 
Makes six or so 8 oz. jars. (I got 10 8 oz jars with 8 cups of fruit mixture).