The "Jersey" Girls From Deerfield Farms

The "Jersey" Girls From Deerfield Farms
Snookie is in the background!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Quick Marmalade Recipe

Let me address my mispelling of MARMALADE first. I always have a problem with that second syllable sound of a word and I just guessed. I should have spell-checked before posting. Well lesson learned! I thought I'd offer the exact recipe for the marmalade I made last post. Although, you should know, there aren't many ingredients nor exact amounts. The thing is that there's only technique and ratio involved and that's pretty much it. It's much more of an old fashioned way of cooking and I think I found this technique from one of my old cookbooks around the house. So just to commit to a recipe and in recipe format here it is:

Yield: a little over a pint (about 20oz)

1 pound clementines
1 pound sugar
1 lemon (juice only)
water as needed

  1. Put a plate in the freezer. This will make sense later in the recipe.
  2. Thinly slice your clementines. When it comes to the ends lay them flat and cut them into julienne.
  3. Put all of the clementines in a larger pot than you may think you may need. Preferably a heavy bottomed pot.
  4. Cover them by about 2-3 inches of cold water. Bring just to a boil and drain them off.
  5. Repeat step 3 two more times.
  6. After the last boil, add the clementines back to the pot with the sugar, lemon juice and enough water to cover by about 1 inch this time.
  7. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a low simmer. The low simmer is much more important as the marmalade gets closer to the end of cooking and gets very thick. Be very careful not to scorch it! That sugar is just dying to turn to caramel on you!
  8. When the marmalde is very thick and the bubbles are getting bigger and shiny keep your eye on it because it's pretty close to being done.
  9. Pull that plate from the freezer and test your marmalade. Put a little teaspoon on the plate and let it cool all the way. Tip your plate to the side and see if it flows at all. If it runs right down the plate, keep cooking. If it stays put and just tilts a little, look for it to form a little skin that then wrinkles as it tilts. When you hit that stage your done!
  10. Put it in the refrigerator or process it into a jar(s).

***Note: This recipe will pretty much work with any type of citrus fruit including grapefruits and kumquats.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cold Morning with Fruit and Jars

It's about 15-20F outside with a wind chill of below zero. That's just a little to cold to take the dog for a long walk. Sorry Annie! What I need is some more coffee and some stuff simmering on the stove. When I know I have a good excuse to stay inside I am gonna cook, pickle, can, dry or vacuum pack anything I can. It's just in my nature! Today I stared at one of those wooden boxes of clementines on the counter and said "what am I gonna do with these things?". I know my wife will eventually eat them all but who knows when that would happen and I wanted to cook something. I had 4 more jars on the porch that needed to be filled with something and those clementines were in my crosshairs. I was thinking of making a marmelade. After all, people all over the world are harvesting citrus this time of year and making marmelade so I thought that was as good enough reason as any. Sorry honey we can buy more! By the way, apologies about the iPhone quality it's the only camera I own for silly step-by-step pictures. I started first by getting the pot of water to sterelize the jar(s). I have an electric stove that takes a wile to heat water to a boil. Then I started slicing the clementines. I wasn't too careful about it because I know they're gonna cook for a long time and get very soft and break up easily. After they were all sliced I put them in a pot with cold water and set them on the stove to bring to a boil. Then did that two more times. I had my sugar weighed out previously, after weighing the fruit, then added that to the pot with the fruit and a little more water to cover. After bringing it to a simmer I looked for any scum or forth to come to the surface and removed it. Then just simmered it to the right consistency. The short explanation is as follows (the most basic way of expressing it):

  • First weight the fruit so you know how much sugar to use.

  • Then slice the fruit. Use the pulp and skins.

  • Blanch them in cold water three(3) times, starting with cold each time you change it.

  • After the third blanch, add an equal amount of sugar, by weight, to the fruit and enough water to just cover.

  • Simmer, skimming as froth comes to the surface, until it is of marmalade consitency.
I always use the plate method to test if is the right consistency. [Just get a plate in the fridge and when you think your marmelade is close then drop a little on the cold plate. Tilt the plate to the side and see if the marmelade sets. Also you'll be looking for the surface to make a "wrinkle" when it flows. After it's the correct consistency hot pack into jars and process.]

I also had a couple of fruit preserves in the fridge that I thought I'd have eaten by now. One was a raspberry jam and the other was from a foraged berry I picked in November called Autumn Olives. So I threw them in the microwave to get them to hot pack temperature and put
them into sterilized jars. I had enough of each to fill 1 jar each plus a little extra so I combined the teo jams together to make another full jar and processed them all. Very cool! These will probably trun into gifts for when I visit someones house or for our new neighbors but I had fun, kept busy, practiced my canning and made some room inthe refridgerator. That sounds like a pretty good way to spend a cold January morning to me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thoughts of a New Maple Syrup Season

I know it may be a bit ahead of schedule when it comes to thinking about maple tree-tapping- time, but when we're here in the dead of winter I need a little something closer to look for than Springtime. I have two maple trees in the front of my yard that I suspected were sugar maples when we first moved in. Our area is littered with them so I thought it might be possible ours were too. After a little searching online with leaf identifying templates, sure enough they were sugar maples. O.K. I thought, what do I need to make maple syrup? Again, I always want to do it myself and making maple syrup didn't seem hard. I did a little more research on how the process of making maple syrup is accomplished and as I suspected it's very easy. Here is a list of things you need to get started:
  1. The first week of March (in the Northeast anyways)
  2. Sugar maple tree(s). (There are other varieties of maple that are tapped for syrup but the sugar maple is the best.)
  3. A drill with a 5/16 bit.
  4. 5/16 maple spouts. (Depending on how many you decide to tap)
  5. A bucket with a lid and a 3/4 in. hole to hang it from or Sapsac set up. (I bought 3 Sapsac kits on ebay for about $40.00 with tax and shipping)
  6. Turkey fryer kit: Propane tank, burner, and large pot(s) or if you prefer to save a little money and use the wood from your cord outside, build a little brick setup for you to raise your pot over and make a wood fire.

That's pretty much all you need to get things going. First things first, you go to your tree with drill in hand and drill a hole about 2 in. deep slightly angled up, into the tree. Then you drive your spout into the hole and hang your bucket or Sapsac. That's it! Now all you have to do is wait. That is the hard part. You will be so excited to start cooking down and watching the sap slowly reducing to sugary goodness and turning into something that you usually pay and arm and a leg for in the grocery store . Now making maple syrup I've learned it just like reducing a stock to make a glace de viande except there is alot more reducing you have to do. WARNING: if you attempt to do it all inside be prepared to reapply your wall paper in your house! This does create so much steam it's a problem. I do mine on my side porch with the screen windows open. It's a really nice thing to do on a cold Sunday when it may be snowing again and would probably keep you in the house anyways.

There are some things to keep in mind while you are collecting your sap and trying to get enough to make syrup. I think we all know that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make around 1 gallon of syrup. Obviously that doesn't mean you have to wait to collect all 40 gallons before you can start cooking it but you should have at least 10 to 15 gallons to give you an end result that your not disappointed in. As the days go on and you check your buckets/sacs you'll see that the sap will flow from a single drip to almost a "flow" as time goes on. While you are collecting your sap you want to make sure it's kept cold. That won't be hard if the nights are still cold and you leave it outside, covered. You just don't want to allow it to get warm because it can go "sour" fairly quickly. When you get to around 10 to 15 gallons or so start cookin'! I like to separate the sap into several pots so it cooks down faster. Another good tip is using large, wide pots. It's all about surface area people. The more surface area you have to work with the quicker it will steam off and reduce. When your 10 or 15 gallons reduces to 1 gallon then you can manage it a little better in the house. Once the sugar content begins to develop you have to be careful not to cook it too hard. If you do it could scorch or get darker than it should. One thing I like to do with the final gallon is to put it in the crock pot with the lid off and allow it to reduce very slowly either over night or even longer. I'm in no rush! As long as it takes is as long as I'll take it. So how do you know when it's done? It's easy but you need an accurate thermometer. You should know that depending on your elevation (for all you mountain folk) water boils at different temperatures. The higher the elevation the lower the boiling point. So you should check your boiling water with a thermometer where you are making your syrup. Once you have that reading your maple syrup should be done when it reaches a temperature that's 7.1F higher than the boiling point. For people like me at not much higher than sea level it will be 219.1F. When you've reached that you've hit the mark and have a "syrup" ready to use or even can.

There are some details that I have failed to mention for the sake of getting confusing and, quite frankly, long winded. I just wrote the basics that I follow and then it's up to you to enjoy the learning process on your own. I like a little direction and then I find the rest of the way myself. If you would like to know a more in depth description here is a link to the Ohio Sate University Extension program.

Believe me when I say anyone can make there own maple syrup. It is a very rewarding accomplishment and gives you the sense that you have gained a skill as well as maybe even built up a little more confidence. Little projects like this bring me back to a time when this was the process of how you got things in life. There were no mega-grocery stores to just have your pickings from. You knew where the tree was, how to collect sap and did what you had to do if you wanted maple syrup. The word appreciation comes to mind when you think of the process good things in life take and if you do it yourself your will certainly appreciate that maple syrup a lot more when you made it yourself than if you bought it in the store...and it will probably taste better too!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

First Blog First Post! Part 2

O.K. I feel that I'm a very seasonal cook and find more inspiration with finding ingredients through farmers markets and foraging than any other way. You will eventually see that I am also one of those cooks that has got to find a way to do things himself no matter how difficult the task, and always on a shoestrink budget. As soon as I can hang another ham, I want to do that again. I just built my own chicken coop so I could have eggs that are fresh from the chickens ass. Thge more interesting things I come across the deeper I have to dive and figure out how I can do that myself. That's where the big learning comes in. I've carried on with my side bar a little too long. May I digress back to my dinner party.
So the salad and the lemon vinaigrette was set aside and ready to go along with the Branzini. I decided to try and cook the ribeye steak sous vide. I've never done this before but I had to give it a go. I seasoned the steak with some herbs and black pepper and vacuum sealed it up. I don't have a circulator so I had to manually circulate things. Believe me, I didn't stand there stirring the whole time I just decided to flip the steak every so often. It took me about an hour and a half to cook it. I kept the temperature about 140F and monitored it carefully. Next I blanched a pound of asparagus and set it aside for a simple sauteed asparagus side dish. I also tried a celerly root puree sous vide. (Who do I thing I am!) I peeled and diced the celery root and one small potato, placed it in the bag that went into a pot of water waiting as just above a poach and below a simmer. That ended up taking about the same time as the steak.
After our guests arrived and after a Manhatten and some wine we made motion to start getting things read to eat. I was pretty much in charge of this. So I zipped open the steaks and patted them dry so they would sear well. I opened the celery root and dumped that right into the cuisinart and pureed that. That was done. I turned on my little non-stick pancake griddle and I seasoned the fish and cooked them along with the asparagus all at once. I cooked the fillets skin side down almost the whole way and they came out beautifully. I flipped them and cooked them on the other side for a brief second and they were done. I cooked the asparagus just to give it a little color and then tossed it in whole butter and salt. One of the last things I did was sear the steak. All I had t do was get a good hot cast iron pan with a little oil and drop it in. I left it there until nice and caramelized on one side, then flipped it added butter and shallots and basted it until the other side was nicely colored. And it was perfect! Entirely uniform of doneness throughout and very beefy! I plated everything neatly but quickly so it stayed hot and then placed it on the table to eat. We quickly toasted the evening with Prosecco and ate till we felt like bursting. The dinner that evening was what having good friends and conversation, in the presence of good food, can do to make great memories and bring each other even closer together.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

First Blog First Post! Part 1

After much consideration, reading and desire to discuss all topics food I've decided that blogging could be a great outlet for my thoughts and discoveries. I'm a professionally trained cook, former chef and current culinary instructor, with a driving passion to learn more about the food and cooking. There's not many topics of discussion that are as stimulating or enriching as talking about ways of cooking or places to forage or how many generations have made the same recipe and how important that is. Many people find food and eating or dining experiences as an ice breaker for getting to know each other. Being in the culinary field for a few years now, many who that hear I'm a chef want to talk about such things as somethhing they've cooked or want me to answer a question on how to cook something. That's fun stuff! That is sort of what I hope to get out of this blog...but at a seemingly slower pace. It's quite obvious that it's a topic we all share no matter where you're from or what your cultural background is.
We had a great dinner party last night with a couple that came into town from Brooklyn. I knew I had a opportunity to try out some new things but also knew I had to be careful not to turn anyone off getting too creative or undercooking something (Do you believe there are people out there that stil don't eat their meat pink!). My wife and I went to Whole Foods and shopped for all the things we were gonna need. Starting with the meat and fish, we built the menu around the best things (and price) we saw. We found some Branzini and a big bone-in ribeye steak with a good "cap"to "eye" ratio. I'm a big fan of the cap. Branzini is not my first choice for fish but I had to make the decision and it looked like the best quality amoungst all other things in the case. Then we were off to the produce to build the rest of the menu. I picked up some grapefruit (at it's best this time of year), a couples of lemons, a fennel bulb, radishes, some shallots and a few other things for the house. I wanted to make a salad with fennel and radish, grapefruit supremes and a lemon and ginger vinaigrette. So I shave the fennel and radishes very thin on the mandoline and used some of the fennel tops for the vinaigrette. Then I tossed it all together and set it aside until later. This was for the fish. Good call! As a side note, I'm a very seasonal cook. I don't like to rack up the food miles like frequent flyer miles just so I could have it for dinner. Oops! Out of blog space! I'll continue later.