31 January 2013

Satsuma and Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Satsuma marmalade had been on my to-do list for ages when I learned of a marmalade competition being held within walking distance of where my mother's family lived in Cumbria (England) for centuries. How could I resist? I immediately gathered my fruit and walked down to the shops to buy new lids for my half-pint canning jars. One must always use new lids for water-bath canning.

Making marmalade is a bit of work, no question. Is it worth it? That's a matter of opinion, but to me, yes. The flavor is brighter than any marmalade you can buy, and just look at it. Satsumas are a winter fruit, but doesn't Satsuma marmalade look like sunshine in a jar? I also made a batch that I cooked longer to make a caramelized, dark marmalade with an entirely different flavor.

"I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor." ~ D. H. Lawrence

You don't even need any special equipment really. I haven't had a big canner with a rack and all that in years. All you need is a big pot with a folded kitchen towel in the bottom (see the recipe for more details). Since it's impossible to get the wax and pesticides off the peel of conventional fruit, and marmalade is all about the peel, do use organic Satsumas and Meyer lemons.

Through much experimentation, I've come up with what I think is really the easiest, least messy and complicated way of making marmalade. You will see many recipes that have you measure the boiled fruit and water mixture to determine how much sugar to use. Fuhgeddaboudit! Just weigh your fruit whole and use an equal weight of water and sugar. Two pounds (907 grams) of fruit? Then two pounds of water (that's 1 quart, or 32 fluid ounces) and two pounds of granulated sugar (that's 4 1/2 cups) and be done with it!

Also, do not listen to the experts who tell you not to stir the boiling marmalade "because it will cause crystallization." It won't; but if it would, who cares? It would be preferable to having the marmalade stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, am I right? You have to gently stir it occasionally (then frequently, then almost constantly at the end) to keep it from sticking to the bottom. If it sticks to the bottom, it will burn and fuse to the bottom of your pan like the highest-quality, guaranteed-not-to-chip-or-peel black paint. (Don't ask me how I know this, just trust me.) 

Marmalade seems to be one of those things people either love or hate. But even if you hate store-bought marmalade, you should try homemade. It's an entirely different matter! Tell me your views on the subject (and whether you're a Paddington Bear fan)! 

Satsuma and Meyer Lemon Marmalade (water-bath canned)

(Makes 4 half-pint jars)

1 1/2 pounds Satsumas
1/2 pound Meyer lemons
1 1/2 quarts water
2 pounds (4 1/2 cups) sugar 

1 Scrub the fruit well. Peel the Satsumas (you can just pull the peels right off). Cut the peels into short (aiming for 1/3-inch, some will be 1/4-inch, some will be 1/2-inch), very narrow* strips. Coarsely chop the peeled Satsumas; no seeds (pips) to remove. Halve the lemons lengthwise, slice them crosswise very thinly, remove the seeds and cut each slice into 4 pieces. Cutting the fruit on a plate helps contain the juice.

* Just how narrow? Well, in marmalade there is fine-cut, medium-cut and thick-cut. There doesn't seem to be any agreement on specific measurements, but I'm going to give you my definitions: fine-cut 1/16-inch or 1.5-mm, medium-cut 1/8-inch or 3-mm, thick-cut 3/16- to 1/4-inch or even up to 8-mm. I was aiming for fine but got something between fine and medium.

2 In heavy, wide, nonreactive 4-quart pan (I use my 5.5-quart Le Creuset French oven for a jam kettle), combine fruit, peel and water. Bring to a full boil. Boil, uncovered, for 7 minutes; no need to stir. Remove from heat, cover and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate for 8 hours or for a day or two.

3 When ready to make the marmalade, get your jars ready. Get out canner (or large pot deep enough that water will be 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars), two kitchen towels, 2-cup glass measure, thermometer, jar lifter, tongs, half-pint jars, new lids, bands. Put a saucer in the freezer for testing the doneness of the marmalade.

4 Put a folded kitchen towel in the bottom of the large pot (unless, of course, you have a canner with a rack). Fill 2/3 full of water and begin heating the water. Heat extra water in a teakettle or saucepan. Submerge clean jars and new lids in the hot, but not boiling, water. They'll be hot in about 10 minutes, but just keep them below simmering until ready to use. 

5 Bring fruit mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil gently, uncovered, about 20 minutes, or until peel is tender. No need to stir at this stage. (If I didn't use the weight method, I would then at this point in the process measure the mixture, pouring it into a 2-quart glass measure, return it to the pan and stir in a cup of sugar for each cup of fruit mixture. But if you're doing the weight method, just stir in 4 1/2 cups of sugar all at once until dissolved. 

6 Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (big bubbles all over the pan that cannot be stirred down), stirring frequently. Keep it boiling hard for about 30 minutes, or until it registers 220 degrees, stirring occasionally, till the end when you will need to give it a gentle stir pretty much constantly. When done*, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes (keeps the peel from sinking to the bottom of the jars).

Note: *Doneness can be difficult to determine. There are several tests recommended by various experts. I've tried them all, and they don't work for me. In my experience, they all result in overcooked marmalade. I cook it until it's 220 degrees and "looks right." If the marmalade has thickened and darkened a bit and it's 220 degrees, have the courage of your convictions and take it off the heat. After you've made it a few times, you'll get a feel for it.

7 Do one jar at a time. With tongs, remove a jar and lid from the water. Using the 2-cup glass measure, ladle the hot marmalade into the hot jar, leaving 1/4-inch headroom. Stick a knife or something (I use a chopstick) into the filled jar right next to the glass in about 4 places to release any air bubbles. Check the headspace measurement again and add more marmalade if needed. Wipe off the top of the jar with a damp towel, carefully place the lid and screw the band on (but don't tighten it). Repeat for all the jars. Put the water back on the heat. 

8 Return filled jars to the water bath, adding enough hot water to have water 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars. Jars must be upright and not touching. Heat to a gentle boil, covered, and set timer for 10 minutes. Adjust the heat to keep the water at a simmer. After 10 minutes, move the pot off the heat and take off the lid. Let the jars sit in the water for 15 minutes. If you're not using a rack with handles in your "canner" and don't have a jar lifter, just ladle out some of the water so you can lift the jars out with an oven mitt. Remove the jars and set them on a kitchen towel on the counter. The lids will make a popping sound when they seal, so just count the pops as the jars start cooling. Leave them undisturbed for 24 hours. Then, if you lost count of the pops, check the seals by pressing on the center of the lids; they should be a bit concave and not move. Properly sealed jars are ready to be stored in the cupboard. Any jars that did not seal should be stored in the refrigerator.

Note: You might also like my Strawberry Freezer Jam and Peach Freezer Jam.

24 January 2013

How to Make an All-Butter Pie Crust By Hand - Pie Crust Unplugged

Making an all-butter pie crust by hand may not be quite as quick as with a food processor, but this method is just about as easy. You can also use a pastry cutter and a large bowl, but a pastry scraper (also known as a bench scraper) and a cutting board make the job even easier.

As I said in my tutorial about How to Make A Flaky All-Butter Pie Crust with a Food Processor, if you're new at making pie crust, I'd suggest you stick to making the same recipe in the same amount every time, until you've mastered it. The recipe below calls for 2 1/2 packed cups (12.5 ounces) of unbleached all-purpose flour and makes enough pastry for one 9-inch double crust pie or two 9-inch pie shells.

It's also important to use the exact same ingredients every time until you've mastered it. The same brand of flour, butter, etc. I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour and organic unsalted butter. A lot of excellent pie makers use lard or shortening in their pastry, but I always use butter (except for those occasions when I've been called upon to make a pie at someone else's house and used whatever they had on hand--including a wine bottle for a rolling pin!).

I always use glass pie plates, the classic 9-inch Pyrex pie plate to be precise, for which you need to roll the pastry out to 13 inches for the bottom crust and 11 inches for the top. The easiest way to roll it out is between two 12-inch squares of parchment paper. Always roll from the center to the outer edge, doing eighth- or quarter-turns to make it round. I had three different types of wooden rolling pins--the kind with handles and ball bearings, the straight (or baker's) pin, the tapered (or French) pin--and couldn't quite decide on a favorite. 

Then I discovered a fourth kind--handles but no ball bearings. When I was sent the Vermont Farm Table Big Mama rolling pin for review, I was eager to get into the kitchen and try it out. Hand crafted in Vermont from a solid piece of cherry, it is a beauty. (It also comes in maple, walnut and tiger maple.) With a 13-inch rolling surface, it's a snap to roll out a 13-inch crust for a 9-inch pie plate--without a ruler.

Update 02/07/21: It seems Vermont Farm Table no longer makes rolling pins, so this is a collector's item! 

Shortly after it arrived, a friend noticed it on my counter (how could anyone NOT notice it!) and remarked on the enormous size of it, and I said "I expect it will roll out the dough while I'm just standing there!" And at close to 3 pounds and more than 3 inches in diameter, it practically does!

(By the way, the pie pictured is my Sweet Potato Pie.)

Pastry for One 9-Inch Double-Crust Pie or Two Pie Shells (by hand method)

2 1/2 dip-and-sweep cups (12.5 ounces/354 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (8 ounces/226 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 15 minutes
2 tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
Ice water to make 3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) liquid

1 On large cutting board, mix together flour, salt and baking powder. With pastry scraper, cut frozen butter cubes into flour mixture.

2 Mix the ice water and vinegar and sprinkle 1/2 cup over the mixture, tossing lightly with a fork until the mixture just barely begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, you've used enough water. If not, sprinkle on more, a tablespoon at a time.

3 Divide the crumbly dough onto two pieces of plastic wrap and shape each into a 4-inch round disk; wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes. If you're making two pie shells, make the disks the same size; if you're making a double-crust pie, make one disk a little larger for the bottom crust. But I just make them the same; then I don't have to label them "top" or "bottom" for the freezer. 

4 Place a disk of dough on a lightly floured 12-inch square of parchment paper; save the piece of plastic wrap as you'll be using it again. Lightly flour the top of the dough and top with second 12-inch square of parchment paper. Roll the dough into a roughly 12x9-inch rectangle. If it is too crumbly, sprinkle it lightly with a teaspoon or two of water. Using a bench scraper or just the paper, fold the dough into thirds like a letter (it won't look neat), then fold it into thirds the opposite way, to form a rough square. Wrap it well with the reserved piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate again for at least 30 minutes or up to three days. Repeat with second disk of dough. If you've chilled dough for just 30 minutes or so, you can roll it out without waiting. You'll need to let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before rolling.

5 When ready to use, remove disk(s) from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 10 or 15 (up to 20, if necessary) minutes to make it easier to roll. Save the plastic wrap; you'll be needing it again (I'm very sparing in my use of plastic wrap and like to get as much use out of a piece as possible!)

Note: You can even freeze the dough, wrapped well, for up to a month. To defrost dough, move it from freezer to refrigerator for one day before using it. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.

For two-crust pie: On lightly floured surface, or between two lightly floured 12-inch squares of parchment paper, roll out disk, rolling from center to edge and rotating by quarter-turns to attain round shape, to a 13-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Check for sticking and add a little flour between dough and parchment if needed. It doesn't need to be perfectly round as you'll be trimming off the excess anyway and can make it round then. Remove the top paper and transfer dough to pie plate, paper side up; remove paper, cover with reserved plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll out top crust (again, save the plastic wrap) and place it on a rimless baking sheet; cover with reserved plastic wrap and refrigerate. Make pie filling. Then assemble pie and bake as directed.

For single-crust pie: roll out and transfer dough to pie plate, pressing dough (but not stretching it) to fit pie plate with a half- to one-inch overhang (trim with knife or scissors), crimp edge, cover with reserved piece of plastic wrap and chill until ready to bake. If blind-baking crust (baking the empty pie shell), preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a pie tin inside the pastry-lined pie plate and bake for 25 minutes. If partially baked crust is needed, remove pie tin and proceed with recipe. If fully baked crust is needed, remove pie tin and continue baking another 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.


17 January 2013

Sausage Rolls - Book Review and Giveaway - Le Charcutier Anglais

My vegan and vegetarian readers will want to skip this post, I'm afraid. The book I'm reviewing was written by an extreme carnivore! 

Le Charcutier Anglais: Tales and Recipes from a Gamekeeper Turned Charcutier is more than a cookbook. Though it has lots of recipes, for everything from terrines and verrines to pizza and pastry, it is actually a crash course in butchery and charcuterie (the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés and confit, primarily from pork). Marc travels widely, in Europe as well as throughout Britain, spreading the word and teaching others what is becoming a lost art.

It is also filled with humour. I had the privilege of reading a draft of the book long before it was published, and I remember laughing out loud and then having to read bits to my husband because he wanted to know what I was laughing at. Must warn the sensitive: the humour can be a little indelicate at times, but what can I say. Marc-Frederic (his French name) is a Lancashire lad, and when he asks you to read part of a story in a Lancashire accent, it's hilarious!

I must say there is one chapter I just skimmed with one eye (offal) and one chapter I skipped entirely (blood). Those who have religious, squeamish or other reasons for avoiding one or both of those chapters will still have a lot of reading. The first chapter gives close attention to, and important specifics about, the equipment you'll need for tackling various tasks. 

The recipe I chose to make first, sausage rolls, is a classic British snack, perfect for picnics and parties. The recipe is on page 142 and calls for a few simple sausage ingredients and either homemade puff pastry (recipe on page 180) or frozen puff pastry. Next I'm going to make the pork pie with the traditional hot water pastry, something I've never done. But the book isn't all pork. There's beef, other meats, game, fish and fowl. Of course, the pastry chapter is my favourite.

Sausage Rolls - A British Classic / www.delightfulrepast.com

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Sausage Rolls

(Makes 32)

Adapted from Le Charcutier Anglais. Recipe in the book says salt and pepper to taste and mixed herbs; my adaptation lists the specific seasonings and amounts I used, which you may change to suit yourself.

2 pounds (32 ounces/907 grams) ground pork
1 onion, finely chopped (I cooked it)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1 17.25-ounce (489 grams) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg (medium, in UK)
1 tablespoon water

1 In large bowl, combine ground pork, chopped onion and seasonings. Cover and refrigerate to chill and allow flavors to come together.

2 Preheat oven to 400F/205C/Gas6. Unfold the two pastry sheets and cut each lengthwise into two strips. In small bowl, beat the egg and water to make an egg wash.

3 Divide the sausage into four portions and roll each into a log the length of the pastry strips. Place a sausage on each pastry strip. Brush the long pastry edge farthest from you with egg wash, roll the pastry around the sausage and crimp the edge to seal. Turn the roll over so that the seam is underneath. Kind of roll it around a bit, to a length of 12 inches.

4 Brush the rolls with egg wash. Cut each roll into eight 1.5-inch lengths. Cut 2 small slashes in top of each roll.

5 Place sausage rolls on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. If you're paranoid about the doneness of pork, as I am, you might want to give it an extra 10 or 15 minutes at 325F/165C/Gas3.

Giveaway Closed

Le Charcutier Anglais Giveaway

One winner will receive a copy of Le Charcutier Anglais: Tales and Recipes from a Gamekeeper Turned Charcutier. All readers anywhere in the world who enter before 11:59 pm Eastern time Wednesday January 23 will be put into a random drawing. Winner will be announced here in the comments before noon Eastern time on Thursday January 24. If I don't hear back from the winner of the random drawing by 11:59 am Eastern time Sunday January 27, another drawing will be held and a new winner selected from the original entrants (those who commented before the giveaway deadline).

Buy It Now Le Charcutier Anglais is available online at Amazon.

To enter the contest, post a comment below, and please include your email address in the body of your comment.

Disclosure: The book for this giveaway is being provided by the author. I was given a copy of Le Charcutier Anglais for review, and all opinions shared are my own.

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10 January 2013

French Onion Soup - Soupe a l'Oignon Gratinee

When I took the time to thoroughly caramelize the onions for a special version of my Vegetable Beef Soup last week, I got to craving classic French onion soup. Ever since my mother and I watched Julia Child make it on television when I was a child, I've intended to make it. Every time I have it in a French restaurant, I've intended to make it. For some reason, I never have. But, at last, today was the day! 

Naturally, I started with Julia's version in Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Volume One. And, just as naturally, I couldn't help making a few additions and subtractions as well as streamlining the directions. There's nothing difficult about it. It just takes a little patience and some good broth or stock. If you don't want to take at least 45 minutes to properly caramelize the onions, don't make this soup. If you don't want to make homemade beef stock or buy some really good stock or broth, don't make this soup. 

I used Pacific Natural Foods organic beef broth, a superb product I always have in the pantry, and it was wonderful! Good, flavorful, not-too-salty broth or stock is key to this soup. And there are plenty of recipes out there shortcutting the cooking of the onions. Don't you believe them!

If your eyes are as sensitive to onions as mine, you need to get these fabulous onion goggles -- they have changed my life! And they're kind of cute, too. Unfortunately, no one was around to take a picture of me modeling them!

We have many weeks of Soup Weather ahead - tell me about your favorite soups.

French Onion Soup - Soupe a l'Oignon Gratinee

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

(Makes 7 cups / 6 servings)

1 1/2 pounds yellow onions, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 quart very good beef broth or stock
1 quart water

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons brandy, optional
6 rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan

1 In heavy-bottomed large pot (a 4-quart is fine, but I used my Le Creuset 5.5-Quart French Oven), cook the onions in butter and oil over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes. No need to watch them, just set the timer and walk away.

2 Stir in the salt and sugar (helps with browning). Cook, uncovered, over moderate heat (onions should be sizzling), stirring frequently,* for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until onions are well caramelized, evenly golden brown.

* Who even knows what "stirring frequently" means? I've never seen a definitive answer to that question, so I'm going to say it means every 2 or 3 minutes (though maybe every minute toward the end).

3 During the last 15 minutes of cooking the onions, bring the stock and water to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan.

4 Sprinkle flour over the caramelized onions. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the sherry, and cook for 1 minute.

5 Off heat, stir (gradually at first) the boiling liquid into the onions. Stir in the thyme, marjoram and black pepper (and the brandy, if you're using it). Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning (at this point, I added another 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper). May be made ahead to this point, cooled and then refrigerated until ready to use. While soup is simmering, cut slices of French bread to fit your broiler-proof* soup bowls and toast them on a baking sheet in the oven until they are hard as well as toasted. 

6 About 10 minutes before serving, preheat broiler. Bring the soup to a boil, then ladle into broiler-proof soup bowls. Place toast rounds on top, and spread cheeses over each. Place on a large, foil-lined baking sheet and put under the broiler for about 2 minutes to melt cheese and brown the tops.

*If your bowls are not broiler-proof, after oven-toasting the bread just top the toasts on the baking sheet with cheese and pop them under the broiler until cheese is bubbling and browning, then float them on the bowls of soup.

Note: If you're a Julia Child fan, you might enjoy reading my Vegetable Quiche post about one of my conversations with her.  

03 January 2013

Dinner Party - A Roundup of Recipes for a Winter Menu

You are cordially invited to my winter dinner party. Once all the holiday hubbub dies down, don't you get in the mood for a nice sedate little dinner party for six to eight people?

Maybe get the party started with some Sausage Pinwheels (above), or Gougeres, and your favorite beverage. Gougeres (pronounced goo-ZHAIR) are these gorgeous little savory French puffs that are so easy to make and never fail to impress.

Then invite everyone to sit down at the table for a hearty winter meal. Start with a first course of soup, maybe Roasted Tomato Soup, and save the salad for after the main course.

It's a bit of a production, but everyone needs to make Boeuf Bourguignon once every winter.

And Boeuf Bourguignon calls for Perfect Mashed Potatoes.

Of course, you'll want some Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls with that.

Here's the perfect salad for a winter dinner party. Winter Salad. You make it, and dress it, the day before. So that's one more thing you don't have to do right before the party.

A hearty menu like this calls for a light dessert, like Angel Food Cake with Custard Sauce--Creme Anglaise, if you want to carry through on the French theme.

Hope you enjoyed the party!