May 30, 2009

Pantry: Grenadine

Grenadine

Grenadine is used in many drinks, but the grenadine you can buy in grocery and liquor stores is, well, nasty. And it might not even have any pomegranate in it, but it may contain some "tasty" corn syrup and bright red dye. Unfortunately, pomegranate juice really isn't bright red, and grenadine shouldn't set your teeth on edge with sweetness.

There are lots of recipes for grenadine available. Most of them start with bottled pomegranate juice. If you've forgotten to plan for the guests arriving in a couple of hours, fine. Make a simple syrup using bottled pomegranate juice. It'll be better than any grenadine you'll find in the store. But if you can plan ahead a bit, hand-crafted grenadine requires nothing more than fresh pomegranates and a few days.

When selecting pomegranates, be sure to reject any that have a brownish area at the blossom end because they're past their prime and will have an "off" flavor. Carefully cut the pomegranate open crosswise, then remove the seeds using a spreader or other blunt-end knife. Avoid the cottony white pith; it's very bitter. If you want to buy just the seeds, go ahead.

Measure the quantity of seeds; you'll get about one cup from one ripe pomegranate. Put the seeds and an equal amount of sugar into the work bowl of a food processor and add one-fourth as much water. That's a 4:4:1 ratio, and it scales up nicely; one pomegranate will produce about six ounces of grenadine. Pulse a few times to make a rough purée. The object is to break open the pulpy membranes and release the juice. If you don't have a food processor, a blender will work fine.

Pour the purée into a glass bowl, cover with a cloth, and let stand at room temperature for 3 days, stirring now and then. Place the bowl into a larger bowl with some water in it to avoid sharing with ants. If you taste every time you stir, you'll find the flavor deepens and richens over time, and that the color darkens slightly.

To finish, line a sieve with dampened butter muslin or two layers of dampened cheesecloth, place over a saucepan, and drain the purée for two or three hours, extracting all the juice without any pressure. Then place the saucepan over medium-low heat, raising the temperature of the syrup to about 180°F/82°C and no higher than 200°F/93°C; you should see tiny bubbles rising to the surface. Cook for about 3-5 minutes at temperature. Pour into a sterilized bottle, cool, cap, and store in the refrigerator.

You may find you need to adjust your cocktail recipes somewhat when using hand-crafted grenadine. It isn't as sweet, so you might need more.

May 29, 2009

In My Pantry: Salt and Pepper

Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper. The most ubiquitous pantry items in Western Civilization, they're on virtually every table. And we always say "salt and pepper" as though there were just one of each. I don't know about you, but I typically have six or more salts and at least four peppers. Let's explore my pantry.

Salt

I have several kinds of salt in my pantry. The one thing I don't have is table salt. It have no use for it except to make copper-cleaning paste (equal parts flour and table salt, add distilled white wine vinegar to make a paste). Table salt is bad for you. Worse, it tastes awful. I use sea salts, kosher salt, and natural rock salts only.

Most of the salts I use are finishing salts. They aren't used as a basic cooking salt, but rather are added at the point of "season to taste" or as the food is plated. Sometimes I'll put a cellar of the appropriate finishing salt on the table for those who insist on adding salt to their food at the table.

Sel gris is basic grayish sea salt. You can find sel gris in most any grocery store now. It's usually called sea salt or gray sea salt, but I like to use the French because it's more posh. In the picture above, the salt on the right is sel gris. This is the salt I use as my basic cooking salt.

Fleur de Sel, or "flowers of salt," is a hand-harvested sea salt. Workers scrape the topmost layer of salt before it sinks into the salt pan. Usually it is harvested early in the morning, when the dew is rising, but only when there is no breeze. Fleur de Sel de Camargue, Fleur de Sel de Guérande, or Fleur de Sel de Noirmoutier would be an excellent addition to your pantry. In the picture above, Fleur de Sel is on the left.

That pink salt in the center of the photo above is Australian pink flake sea salt. It has a slight mineral flavor and is a bit spicy. It's an excellent all-around salt, and is the salt I use most frequently to finish a dish.

I use a smoked sea salt when I want to add a smoky flavor to something; I have both chardonnay- and cinnamon-smoked salts. I also have Himalayan Pink and Alaea red sea salt from Hawai'i. I use the Alaea when I want a very earthy salt.

I believe that you really must have at least two salts in your pantry: either sel gris or kosher salt; and Fleur de Sel. If you expand to three, go with a smoked salt. From there you are only limited by your taste and budget.

Pepper

Pre-ground pepper is an abomination with no place in the kitchen. I usually have four peppercorns in my pantry--five counting allspice. I also have two pepper mills.

Tellicherry peppercorns are the basic black pepper of choice. The taste is strongly peppery with a nice bite. They grow on the Piper Nigrum vine and are the fully ripe corn.

White peppercorns are black peppercorns that have been soaked to remove the husk. They bring a sensation of warmth to food without so much peppery bite, and are absolutely essential if you're cooking something lightly colored and want pepper.

Pink peppercorns aren't true pepper at all. They're actually the dried berries of the Baies Rose. They are sweeter than black or white peppercorns and are commonly used to season fish or desserts--pink peppercorns are an excellent addition to chocolate. They cannot be used alone in a pepper mill because they're too soft. It's alright to use them in a pepper blend, however.

Szechuan peppercorns are required for authentic Szechuan cuisine. They're the berries of the prickly ash (Xanthoxylum piperitum). The taste is citrusy and a bit medicinal, and if you taste one by itself it will cause tingling and then numbness of the lips. If you try one, be sure not to bite more than once or twice before spitting it out. If you don't feel any tingling within a few seconds, the pepper isn't fresh. Szechuan peppercorns cannot be used in a pepper mill.

You really should have both black and white peppercorns in your pantry, and a pepper mill for each. The best pepper mill I've found is the Perfex pepper mill. It offers the best control over the grind and is front-loading so you don't have to try to find your perfect setting when you reload.

May 28, 2009

Granola

Granola

If you've gone to the trouble of making yogurt, you really ought to consider making some granola to go along with it. The hardest part of making granola is deciding what to put into it.

Granola doesn't require a recipe. You select what you want in your granola, and in what quantity. All you need are the general instructions.

Mix together about 3 cups of regular rolled oats--steel-cut oats would work as well--a teaspoon or two of cinnamon and any other spices you might want, a teaspoon or so of vanilla if you wish, a cup or so of nuts and seeds of your choice, a cup or so of unsweetened shredded coconut if you wish, about three-quarters of a cup total of honey and maple syrup, and a quarter cup of canola oil. You'll have to adjust the quantity of honey and maple syrup to your taste. The oil is optional, but unless you use a nonstick baking sheet, you'll have problems with sticking without it.

Spread the mixture on one or two baking sheets and bake at 300°F/150°C for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so. It's done when it just starts to get dry. Mix in a cup or so of dried fruits to finish. After it's cool, store in an airtight container to keep it fresh. It will freeze well if you make a really large batch.

About that maple syrup. Use the real stuff, not something maple flavored. I recommend Grade B syrup. There's no need to spend more money for Grade A. Grade B is darker and has much more intense flavor. Grade A is nice for pancakes and waffles, but is really wasted in cooking.

Making granola is a great activity for children. They can pick what they want in their granola and mix it up themselves. They'll just need a bit of help with the baking part. They'll end up with a good lesson in cooking and a breakfast or healthful snack they can brag about because they made it themselves!

May 27, 2009

Simple Sides: Potato Gratin

Potato Gratin

Simple yet elegant, and always a hit, gratin is a dish that every cook should know how to make. There's nothing difficult about making a gratin, and once you understand how to make one, you'll be able to make a gratin any time you want using whatever you have at hand.

A gratin is sliced food layered with optional cheese and seasonings, topped with cream and optional bread crumbs, then baked at 350°F/175°C until done. The only thing special you'll need is a good porcelain gratin in which to make it.

For this gratin simply wash and peel some russet potatoes, then slice them into a bowl of slightly acidified cold water; I used the juice from a quarter of a lemon. The particular thickness of the potato slices isn't important so long as all the slices are the same; thicker slices takes longer to cook. Let the potatoes rest in the water for a few minutes to get the surface starch off.

Potato Gratin First LayerTo assemble the gratin, begin by brushing some clarified butter or olive oil into the baking dish. Pat the potato slices dry with paper towels, then lay them into the dish, add shredded or grated cheese, add a few cloves of garlic confit if you wish, then season with salt. I shaved some parmigiano reggiano for the cheese, and used  Casina Rossa Truffle and Salt for the salt; truffle and potato is a classic combination. You can see the bits of truffle below.

Potato Gratin Add CreamTo finish the dish, add another layer of ingredients, leaving out the garlic confit if you're using it, and a third layer if you're using a deep dish. Finish by adding cream to fill the baking dish about two-thirds full or so, being certain to wet the entire surface with the cream. Place in a 350°F/175°C oven and bake until done. It's going to boil over during cooking, so putting the gratin dish on a baking sheet to catch the spillage will save some oven cleaning.

You could easily substitute or add other vegetables, or fruits for that matter, change the cheese or leave it out, even add some sugar for a sweet gratin. Just layer whatever you slice with seasonings, finish with cream, and bake until done. In the unlikely event you have some left over, just reheat it in the microwave, or if you used vegetables, consider a frittata.

May 24, 2009

Salmon, Strawberry, and Watercress Salad

Salmon Strawberry Cress Salad

Cooking for other people is great, but sometimes I just want to treat myself. Tonight was one of those nights. I actually spent more time shopping for this meal than I did preparing it, but I do love shopping for food!

After dinner, I sent the photo to a few friends and family members and started writing a post. I soon started receiving responses, and decided I needed to write a different post. "Why those ingredients," one person asked. Another commented, "I can't imagine how the flavors go together." Here's the why and how of this dish.

This meal began, as most of mine do, at a market. I look for what speaks to me, what looks good, what will go together with the other things in my shopping basket. The first thing in the store to grab my attention and refuse to let go was the organic strawberries that were on special. I grabbed some and looked for watercress. Why?

Next time you get your hands on a strawberry, taste it. Bite into the fresh berry and ignore the sweetness you expect. Instead, focus on the rest of the flavor. Notice the spicy notes, the acid bite of the vitamin C, the hint of sourness. Now, imagine that complex flavor paired with some peppery watercress. The slight sweetness of the strawberry will contrast nicely with, and tone down, the pepperiness of the cress, while the cress will bring out all the non-sweet flavors in the berry.

Berries are a traditional accompaniment to game. The fish monger had wild, line-caught Coho salmon. If you've never had wild, line-caught salmon, you've only had some pale, bland imitation fish. The salmon can stand up to the cress, which has a strong flavor that can be hard to pair with anything other than beef.

To round out the shopping, I grabbed a shallot and some microgreens. Shallots, as you know, have a flavor that crosses mild onion with very mild garlic; neither flavor component will overwhelm the strawberries. Microgreens, for those of you unfamiliar with them, are seedlings of salad greens, herbs, edible flowers, and leafy vegetables. They have very strong flavors; combined with watercress, the green portion of the salad will be quite vibrant and intense.

Putting the dish together starts with the berries. I made a fresh strawberry pickle by thinly slicing the berries and mincing a small amount of shallot. To that I added minced spearmint from the garden. I drizzled a bit of aged balsamic on the mix, then added a splash of gewürztraminer. I mixed everything well, then covered it and let it sit for about an hour. A taste at that point suggested salt, so I added a pinch of fleur de sel and let the berries continue to macerate.

After another half hour, I was ready to eat. I cleaned the salmon fillet, removing the pin bones, then poached it in 2 parts water and 1 part gewüurztraminer.

I placed a layer of watercress into a soup plate, topped it with microgreens, then spooned the strawberry pickles onto the greens, reserving the small amount of liquid in the pickle bowl. The salmon went on top and I drizzled the reserved liquid on top.

How was the flavor? I liked it, but for many people the salmon would be bland (no salt). I found it buttery with a slight gamey flavor and a hint of deep sea. The strawberry pickles would have been a bit better, more piquant, if I had used rice wine vinegar (unseasoned) instead of wine, but they worked quite well. Overall, I found it very satisfying, and will repeat the meal, with variations, of course!

May 22, 2009

Mediterranean Halibut

Mediterranean Halibut

The grocery bag that appeared at dinner time included halibut fillet, plum tomatoes, and a red bell pepper. Add some garlic, crimini mushrooms, and prosciutto and you have a meal with Mediterranean flair.

This dish requires some prep work. The mushrooms need to be sliced, some bell pepper needs to be diced, and the tomatoes should be peeled, seeded, and diced. You'll also need some diced onion and about six cloves of garlic confit or 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced.

If you've never peeled a tomato, it's pretty easy. First, cut an X across the stem, then put the tomatoes--clean of course--into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into ice water. The skin will slide right off with just a bit of pressure.

Heat a fry pan with some butter and olive oil; skip the butter if you have dairy restrictions. When the pan is heated add the onion and mushrooms. Stir for a couple of minutes until the onion begins to soften, then add garlic and bell pepper. Stir now and then.

Meanwhile, heat a second fry pan with some vegetable or canola oil for the halibut. Be sure to wash and dry the fish. There shouldn't be any bones in a halibut fillet, but run your fingers over it to check. When it's ready, place it skin-side down in the pan.

Back to the first pan. When everything is mostly done, add the diced tomatoes and a splash of whatever wine you're drinking, and reduce the heat to medium-low. You don't need to add a lot of wine, but tomatoes need a bit of alcohol to release all the lycopene. Remember to stir every so often.

When the halibut is ready to turn, carefully lift it out of the pan with the skin. Lay a slice or two of prosciutto into the pan. Turn the fish skin-side up and place it on the prosciutto, then remove the skin and carefully wrap the halibut with the ham. When the fish is done, turn it over for a few seconds to finish cooking the prosciutto. The skin makes a nice treat for the cat.

To serve, place the halibut steak on a plate. Taste the sauce you've made and add salt and pepper as needed, then spoon the sauce liberally over the fish. Add your favorite starch and a few flash-fried veggies drizzled with balsamic vinegar to complete the meal.

May 20, 2009

Pea and Mushroom Soup

Pea and Mushroom Soup with Chicken

When mushrooms have been sitting around a day or two longer than they really should, or you find a sale on dried mushrooms, make some mushroom stock. Then, when you need an umami-filled light lunch or quick soup, you'll have a great base to build upon.

I had more shiitake mushrooms than I could use, and they were starting to dry out, so I cut them into large chunks and put them into a small sauce pan with some filtered water. After they'd simmered for an hour, I added more filtered water and some porcini powder, then let the pot simmer another 30 minutes. After letting it cool a bit, I strained it, pressing as much liquid as possible out of the mushrooms. The result was a very rich mushroom stock with a nice dark brown color. A stock like this will last for 3 days in the refrigerator or a month in the freezer.

To make this soup, I cut some crimini mushrooms into thick slices and lightly sautéed them with a some butter and extra virgin olive oil; leave out the butter for a dairy-free soup. I added some chunks of grilled chicken, but it would have been an excellent vegan soup without the chicken.

I added mushroom stock to the fry pan and let the chicken warm up for about 3 minutes. Then I poured everything into a bowl.

Next, I added a bit of canola oil to the fry pan and quickly fried some cooked soba noodles--make sure you use 100% buckwheat soba noodles to make this gluten-free. Once the noodles began sticking to the pan, I poured the mushrooms, chicken, and stock into the fry pan to deglaze, added whole sugar snap peas, and grabbed some bowls. After about two minutes it was ready to serve. Total time, start to finish, was about 15 minutes.

Such a short cooking time means the peas were still crunchy, a great contrast with the mushrooms. The umami-rich mushroom stock made this a very satisfying meal.

May 19, 2009

Pear and Prosciutto Crostata

Pear Prosciutto Crostata

Last week I participated in a small business open house doing live cooking demonstrations. This was one of the demos, and everyone who tasted it wanted more. A savoury crostata, accompanied by a salad of microgreens and a glass of reisling, makes a delightful and easy brunch entrée.

Giada de Laurentiis published an absolutely wonderful crostata dough recipe. I couldn't improve it if I tried, so I'm not going to try.

Crostata Dough
from Giada's Kitchen
1½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt (I used fleur de sel)
3 tablespoons cold butter cut into small cubes
½ cup mascarpone
1½ teaspoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is approximately pea-sized. Add the mascarpone and lemon juice and pulse twice to mix. Add the ice water and run the processor until just before a ball forms. Remove the dough and press into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

PearWhile the pastry chills, you'll need to poach a pear. The pear should be cored from the bottom using a small melon baller, and peeled. Put it into a small sauce pan with a cinnamon stick and a small amount of lemon zest. Add water until the pear is about two-thirds submerged, then add riesling to cover. Bring to a simmer and poach until the pear is just tender, 5-15 minutes depending on ripeness. Let it cool, then slice it.

Pear and Prosciutto Crostata WholeRoll out the dough to about ½" thickness, or as thin as ¼" if you prefer, and place it on a baking sheet. Mix sweet onion marmalade with ricotta and spread on the center of the crust leaving about 2-3" uncovered all the way around. Top the mixture with the sliced pear and prosciutto.

Gently fold the edge of the crust over the filling, leaving the center of the filling exposed. Bake at 350° until done, about 30 minutes (less for thinner crust).

May 17, 2009

Easy Entertaining: Red Potato Canapés

Red Potato Canapes

These canapés are very popular, and generally pretty easy, but they do require that you own a nice melon baller and have the time to first cut a large quantity of creamers in half, and then scoop out the insides after baking.

You'll need at least one potato per guest--two is better. Clean them, then cut them in half. Dip each potato half in extra virgin olive oil--I used rosemary-pink peppercorn oil--and arrange on a half sheet or other shallow baking pan. Bake at 350° until fork tender, then let cool.

Carefully scoop out most of the potato, leaving enough behind to make a nice little bowl. Mash the scooped-out potato with your favorite additions. This is a good time to break out the crème fraîche, and be sure to use some fresh chives. Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes back into the empty halves.

When you're about ready to serve them, return the potatoes to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, just until the top starts to color. Best served warm, but delicious when room temperature. They are a bit messy, so have plenty of napkins available.

May 15, 2009

Easy Entertaining: White Bean Spread

White Bean Spread

When you need to make something tasty to serve guests at a party, it's nice to have simple and inexpensive dishes in your repertoire. It really doesn't get much simpler than opening a can and seasoning to taste.

White Bean Spread

1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon basil chiffonade
1 tablespoon parsley (I used both flat-leaf and curly)
3 cloves garlic confit (if you use raw garlic, 1 clove should be plenty)
juice of ½ large lemon
½ sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil into the work bowl of a food processor and purée until smooth. While the processor is running, drizzle the olive oil in until you've reached the desired consistency.

Serve as a dip with pita bread, or as a spread on crostini.

Pantry: Flavored Olive Oil

Flavored Oil Mise en Place

Flavored oils are excellent additions to the home pantry--they're a quick way to add flavor to any dish. They are also quite simple to make. All you need is a good extra virgin olive oil, the flavor components you want to include, and a clean bottle to age them in.

I started with a late 2007 harvest blended extra virgin olive oil from Fanucchi Oils. It's a very nice oil, well balanced, with a grassy flavor accented with apple and a hint of citrus. This oil pairs well with rosemary, and because it doesn't have a strong pepper component in the flavor, pink peppercorns add a touch of sweet pepperiness.

Wash and thoroughly air dry 3-4 spears of organic rosemary. Put them into a sterile, bone-dry glass bottle that holds 2 cups or so. Add two tablespoons of pink peppercorns, and then pour two cups of the oil into the bottle. Seal the bottle and put it in a cool, dark place for a one to three weeks.

The peppercorns tend to float, so you'll probably want to strain the oil before using. If you're going to give it as a gift, you'll want to put some fresh rosemary into the gift bottle to make a prettier picture.

Use it any time you want to add some rosemary and pepper flavor. Vary the flavoring elements and proportions to suit your taste. Just remember that a flavored oil will only last about 3 months, so don't make too much at once.

May 14, 2009

Home Creamery: Yogurt Cheese

[caption id="attachment_209" align="aligncenter" width="440" caption="Yogurt Cheese"]Yogurt Cheese[/caption]

Yogurt cheese is great stuff. Use it to replace cream cheese on your toast or bagel and you'll cut down somewhat on fat without sacrificing any flavor at all. And it's easier to spread as well.

[caption id="attachment_210" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Yogurt Draining"]Yogurt Cheese Mise en Place[/caption]

Start by making yogurt. I knew I'd be making cheese, so I used whole milk when I made the yogurt because the extra butterfat in the milk makes for a better cheese. When the yogurt is ready to eat, it's ready to be made into cheese.

Line a colander or strainer with butter muslin, three or four layers of cheesecloth, or some other clean, white, cotton cloth that will allow drainage but has a tight enough weave to keep the yogurt from flowing through. Set the colander into a large bowl and pour the yogurt into the cloth. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours.

That's it. Oh, you could stir in a pinch of fleur de sel or kosher salt if you wish, but it isn't absolutely necessary and you really don't need more sodium in your diet. Put the cheese into a storage container and store in the refrigerator for as much as a week. One quart of whole milk yogurt produced a scant 2 cups of cheese. Lower fat yogurt will yield less.

[caption id="attachment_208" align="aligncenter" width="447" caption="Yogurt Cheese with Peach Preserves"]Yogurt Cheese 2[/caption]

 

May 12, 2009

Mushroom Frittata

[caption id="attachment_191" align="alignright" width="277" caption="Puffball, Maitake, Shiitake"]Puffball, Maitake, Shiitake[/caption]

The primary mushroom vendor at the Portland Farmers Market had a nice selection this weekend. A friend decided I should make something with Puffball, Maitake, and Shiitake mushrooms, so she handed me a bag when I arrived at her house. "Use these for supper," she said, and asked if we needed to go shopping. "Do you have eggs and salad greens?" She nodded.

A frittata is always quick and easy and is a great way to use up leftovers. All you need is eggs. Potatoes are a traditional filler, and cheese is the most common topping. My home creamery additions included fresh butter and crème fraîche; from the pantry I added sweet onion marmalade, garlic confit, and extra virgin olive oil flavored with rosemary and pink peppercorns. A quick trip to my friend's recently planted garden yielded a couple of sage leaves and a few chives. A nice spring onion from the Farmers Market rounded out the ingredients.

First, a sauce. To crème fraîche I added snipped chives, several mashed cloves of garlic confit, and some Bali sea salt smoked with cinnamon. Making a simple topping like this before preparing the main dish allows time for the flavors to marry.

For the frittata, I first browned some butter with sage leaves, then added the rosemary-pink peppercorn olive oil and sautéed the chopped mushrooms.  When the mushrooms were about ready to give up their water, I added thinly sliced potato--not too much--and diced spring onion. After a couple of minutes I deglazed the pan with some white wine and covered to steam the potatoes for about five minutes. Meanwhile, I readied the broiler.

When the potatoes were ready, I added a bit more olive oil--no nonstick pan for this dish--then added five room-temperature eggs, lowered the temperature to medium low, and stirred just enough to mix everything well. I spooned some sweet onion marmalade on top, then I patiently waited.

Once the bottom was set I sprinkled some grated parmigiano reggiano on top and put the pan under the broiler, which is why no nonstick pan. As the frittata finished under the broiler I quickly made a balsamic vinaigrette (3:1) for the greens. The finished frittata was dressed with a generous dollop of garlic-chive crème fraîche.

[caption id="attachment_192" align="aligncenter" width="492" caption="Mushroom Frittata"]Mushroom Frittata[/caption]

May 6, 2009

Sweet Onion Marmalade

[caption id="attachment_184" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Sweet Onion Marmalade"]Sweet Onion Marmalade[/caption]

Sweet onions, whether Walla Walla or Maui, are my favorite, and I use them whenever they're available. Recently I've tasted some onion jams and marmalades but none of them featured sweet onions so I decided to make some myself.

Sweet Onion Marmalade
2 pounds Maui Sweets or other sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (substitute olive oil for a vegan version)
¼ teaspoon sea salt (kosher salt works well also)
4 cloves garlic confit (optional, but it really makes a difference)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup red wine
¼ cup rice wine vinegar

Begin by caramelizing the onions. Melt the butter (or heat the oil) in a heavy pan over medium-low heat, then add the onions. Cook slowly for four hours or so, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until the onions are completely softened and richly caramelized. Add the salt and garlic confit about three hours into cooking, crushing the cloves into a paste. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary.

When you are satisfied with the caramelized onions, add the sugar and liquids. Raise the heat to medium-high and reduce until the liquids have been mostly absorbed, stirring frequently.

Spoon the finished marmalade into sterilized jars. I used a single 500ml jar. The marmalade will keep for 7-10 days in the refrigerator. It should be served at room temperature.

May 1, 2009

Home Creamery: Yogurt

[caption id="attachment_176" align="aligncenter" width="368" caption="Yogurt"]Yogurt[/caption]

Yogurt is an important component of a healthful diet, providing lots of calcium and friendly bacteria. Many people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate yogurt, because the bacteria cultures that cause it to be tangy and thick convert the lactose into lactic acid. Yogurt can be made from milk quite easily, and from soy or other non-dairy "milks" with the addition of a thickening agent.

You'll need some equipment to make yogurt: a high quality instant-read thermometer; a good stainless steel 2-quart covered saucepan;and some means of keeping your mix warm while the culture grows--I used a heating pad for this batch. Other ways to incubate include a yogurt machine, "back of the stove" while baking, a cooler partially filled with 125° (51°C) water, a warmed thermos, etc.

To make a quart of yogurt, you'll need a quart of milk and about ¼ cup of room-temperature plain yogurt--be sure that the yogurt you use as starter has live cultures. Alternatively, you can use a freeze-dried yogurt starter. If you have a yogurt machine it will recommend a yogurt starter.

First, sterilize your equipment. Then, pour the milk into the saucepan and, using medium-low heat, slowly bring the milk to 176° (80°C), stirring frequently. Use a double boiler if you wish.

Once the milk reaches temperature. put a lid on the saucepan and remove it from the heat. Let stand 5 minutes. This process kills whatever bacteria are present.

Now, cool the milk as rapidly as possible to 115° (46°C), stirring frequently. The easiest way is to put the saucepan into a sink filled with ice water. You want to cool the milk quickly so that bacteria don't have time to colonize.

Add yogurt to the pan, stir to mix, and incubate for 4-6 hours. I wrapped the pan with a large heating pad. You'll want to keep the temperature between 98° (36.5°C) and 130° (54°C), and ideally at precisely 122° (50°C). You can incubate longer than 6 hours if you wish--the result will be thicker but also more sour.

Transfer the yogurt to sterile containers and refrigerate. It will thicken slightly over the first 24 hours. If there is a little bit of whey floating on the surface of the yogurt, stir it in.