Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sicilian Blood Orange-Bergamot-Lisbon Lemon Marmalade

Finally this week I ran out of the last of the high summer preserved fruits. Through the chilly, rainy San Francisco winter, it was nice to have a physical remnant that somewhere, at some time, there was a bright, cloudless sky.

The first strawberries appeared this week, but probably I'll wait for high berry time when spring swings through the door. Instead I focused again on citrus, taking cues from the offerings at the DeSantis stand.
Tarocco Sicilian blood oranges were $2/lb; I picked up four. For the first time ever I saw bergamot in its natural state: an Italian citrus about the size of an orange with yellow skin and that distinctive smell you'll recognize from Earl Grey tea.
The price looked intimidating: $15/lb? I bought one, thinking it would be $3 or $4; it was $8. Yes, I bought an $8 orange. And then I walked around the market saying "Look at my $8 bergamot!"

Marco told me to check out the Lisbon lemons at Twin Girls Farm. I bought six of the small, dense, exceptionally tart lemons for $1.

Second verse, same as the first: I used the same basic recipe as last week, but the result is a bombastic pink concoction supporting thin strips of bergamot. Oh, you know I used every little bit of that $8 bergamot, despite the recipe's rule to toss out 2/3 of the skin.The pith on the bergamot was thicker than I expected. With my knife I scraped down the peel, pulling away the white film to reveal the oily plane below.

The taste? The flavor on the bit left over on the spoon was complex: a slow start that breaks into ecstatic, layered sourness. I can't wait to try the cooled marmalade.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

One Day, One Jar

Small batch is term artisanal producers can use to describe the food they produce. Sometimes slow, careful treatment of the best possible ingredients nets you only so much bourbon or coffee.

With my jam it's the same way. In part because I am particular about the fruit I select, in part because there is some appeal to me in bottling an experience: being able to look at a single pint or half-pint jar as representative of a particular time.

Take apricot jam, for example. That was the week I met Dan's daughter Mia, a sparky kid who was haggling with an elderly Vietnamese farmer. I remember the slight cotton candy smell of the apricots as they slipped their skins and puddled into the silver pot. Eventually I used the jar for rugelach I made for my friend Kate's open studio. Though it was probably six months ago, her boyfriend Elliot fondly recalled those rugelach last weekend.

That picture up there? That's the complete output of last weekend's work. One jar, which is probably going to the exceptionally talented Shuna Fish, who seems like she could use a love note of an edible kind.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Seville Orange-Sweet Lime Marmalade

Marmalade is the princess of preserved fruits. While most jams more closely resemble hardy farmhands inured to careless treatment, marmalade lays swathed in cashmere blankets on the terrace of a Swiss sanatorium, coughing palely and demanding a proper fish fork for her boiled dinner.

Instead of tossing some fruit in a pot with sugar and checking in every half hour or so, I started this recipe by peeling away the rind from my fruit and selecting only the most plump and flawless pieces, discarding about 2/3. Carefully I sliced the chosen pieces into thin strips, which I then boiled until soft (about half an hour). A recipe I consulted recommended replacing the water every ten minutes, but I was cooking three other dishes concurrently and hadn't the time.

Then I took the reserved fruit pulp and boiled it for about half an hour before using a sieve to extract the juice. To seal the deal, toss the strips in the juice and add a bit of sugar--I started with three Seville oranges and three sweet limes, which made one cup of (dry) strips and two cups of juice, to which I added about a half cup of sugar.

Boil down until it passes the freezer plate test and process, quickly and cleanly, so as not to kill your friends with botulism.