Peach Marmalade

Peaches Marry-nating before the Magic Happens

Most people in the South would call this recipe “preserves,” but the amount of lemon in it gives it some punch. I also came up with the idea of adding some lemon pulp to the mixture.

Ingredients

5-6 Fresh Peaches

1 Meyer Lemon

1 cup Sugar

Why Meyer Lemon? It’s something of a cross between a lemon and an orange. And check out the size.

Lemon v. Peach

My wife Melanie Jane grew the lemon, and the peaches came from an orchard a couple of mountains away from here. Time for some process.

Place the peaches in a colander or strainer in a sink, along with the jars, flats, and rings. Crank up the old teakettle and soak them all with scalding water. You’ve just done two steps at once.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and lemon juice/pulp in a non-reactive pan. Lemons pulp easier if they are frozen first, and then thawed. Peel the peaches, and compost the peels (I fed mine to my chickens. They’re experts at composting.) Cut into eights, and add to the lemon sugar mixture. Let that marry-nate until the sugar dissolves.

Action time! Slowly bring the mixture up to a boil, and then turn it down to low. Sing the refrain from “Lady Marmalade” a few times–that’s the part that’s in French. When the peaches are soft, mash them into small cubes with a potato masher. Cook for another five minutes, at a higher temp, and then you have two options.

Can at this point, if you want a juicy spread. Add pectin, if you want a firmer marmalade. I use Certo, because it’s quick, and available everywhere. Pour the mixture into jars, and boil ten minutes in a water bath. Here’s the result:

Strangely enough, the diva Patti LaBelle, who recorded “Lady Marmalade,” is also an accomplished cook, and has a number of cookbooks in print. I don’t know if she has a marmalade recipe in any of them, but she is welcome to try this one.

Steamed Sponge Cake with Fresh Berries and Cream

That’s a Spring Dessert

We have wild blueberries in the woods, and fresh strawberries at the Festhalle, our local farmer’s market. How about a spring dessert?

Just cut up the strawberries, and add some sugar. The blueberries don’t need anything but their own fine selves. Whip up some heavy cream and steam a sponge cake.

Ingredients for the Sponge Cake

2 organic Eggs

1/2 cup organic Sugar

Vanilla

Meyer Lemon Juice

1/2 cup Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Separate the eggs, and turn the whites into a meringue with the sugar. I used our thirty year old Kitchen Aid, but a whisk will do as well. Add the yolks, vanilla, and lemon juice, beat for a minute or so, and then slowly fold in the flour and baking powder. Butter a baking dish, and get to steaming.

San Fran Wok with a Homemade Lid

I bought a USA made wok from the Wok Shop in San Fran, but made my own lid out of an old mixing bowl. The knob is dogwood that I turned on my lathe. The lid is exactly the right size. It accommodates a steaming rack and a cake pan.

Cake passing the Toothpick Test

The steamed cake has a wonderful texture and taste. It better, as it has all that juice to soak up. The last bite, which is nothing but cake mush and berry juice, is the best.

Homemade Ricotta, Two Ingredient Version

Two Ingredients, Fresh Ricotta

Time for a chemistry experiment for big kids! This one involves heat, a liquid, and some acid. The result is money in your pocket and some great food in your belly.

Homemade Ricotta

1-2 Quarts organic Whole Milk

Acid (2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice or Vinegar, 1/2 Teaspoon Citric Acid)

Optional: Salt, Cream, Herbs

Tools needed are a large non-reactive pan ( I use a stainless steel lined copper one), a colander, and some cheesecloth. Pour the milk into the pan, and add the acid. Stir thoroughly once, and bring the milk up to 170-190 degrees. Ultra pasteurized milk works fine with citric acid, though I have not tried it with any other of the acids. The heat/acid combo causes the milk solids (curds) to separate from most of the liquid-instead of using a thermometer, you can just watch the transformation take place, as it reaches the maximum effect when the milk begins to boil right around the edges of the pan. At this point, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let sit for at least five minutes.

Place the cheesecloth in the colander in the sink, or in a bowl, if you want to save the liquid portion, which is known as the whey. No whey? Yes whey. Pour the cheese mixture into the cheesecloth (a single layer of cheesecloth is sufficient). Let drain for a minute or two, tie up the cheesecloth and hang the ricotta to drain–I just hang it off the faucet on my kitchen sink. I leave it for an hour or more, and take it down to cook with it or store it. It should look like the above picture.

The manifold uses for ricotta are well documented, and it can be used for any meal–try some in scrambled eggs sometime. As a teaser, I’ll give notice that I will eventually post my favorite ricotta recipe, Penne alla Pastora, in the future. It’s so complicated that it has a total of five ingredients.

Growing Citrus in the Central South

Key Limes

Key Lime and Meyer Lemon, grown north of Birmingham, Alabama.

Our latitude here may be more or less the same as northern Morocco and Libya, but it still gets nice and cold. The hardiest citrus plants would still survive outside during the winter, but the problem is that the fruit would not. Who wants that? The answer is growing in pots, aka containers.

The advice here is simple: buy the largest size container you can handle, and then get a plant trolley/buggy to wheel them around with. I made my own out of pressure treated pine. We wheel our plants in in November and put them outside in April. The honeybees love the blooms, and can locate them within minutes of putting the plants outside. It’s almost scary.

Our favorite varieties are the Key Lime pictured, Satsuma Mandarin Oranges, and Meyer Lemon. Year in and out the Meyer is the best, though it is really a hybrid between lemons and oranges. Even in a container it has enormous fruit.

You can also underplant your citrus with something like Christmas Cactus, to make it more decorative.