Preserver’s Minestrone

February is always the worst for me. It’s always when I hit my quota of tea and time spent under a blanket in a hoodie because I am too cheap to turn up the heat in this sieve of a house. I become awash in itchiness, not just physical but also mental – craving warmth, Vitamin D, and sunlight with every fiber of my being. It borders on obsessive, but it’s never usually too long before I can get some trickle of relief.

Except this year. This year, a frigid February has bled all the way into late March. It seems we may get a brief thaw towards the end of this week. You know, the exact same story as the past three or four weeks. Today didn’t even crack freezing. Again. Sigh.

Yes, yes, I’m well aware of the irony given this blog title. When it’s driving me this batty, I can’t imagine the torture for folks who aren’t inclined to enjoy any of the white and cold stuff. And there’s not even much white stuff to be had on the ground these days. If we were to get any more I think most Nutmeggers would start to permanently twitch. #gohomepolarvortexyouveoverstayedyourwelcome #notthatyouweremuchwelcomeinthefirstplace

Ahem. So. In an effort to relieve my intense seasonal itchiness, I’ve been reading, taking stock, and cleaning out my freezer stash like every other preserver on the planet. Plum & merlot preserves, raspberry rhubarb cardamom jam, rhubarb bitters all out of the freezer and onto the shelf. I am on a one-way stubborn driven mission to clean out all of the old fruit before I allow any new through the front door. Because spring will come at some point. Right? RIGHT?

While much of the Great Freezer Cleanout of 2014 is putting up once frozen fruit, some of it is trying to use up the last dregs of pantry staples too. This soup is a great vehicle for exactly that. Leftover protein? Sure. Wilted carrots? Of course. Greens of all kinds? Yes. Add whatever and call it minestrone anyway – I won’t tell. Full disclosure: not one ounce of Italian genes here, so my blessing doesn’t mean much. Who cares? Soup is forgiving.

Preserver's Minestrone | Snowflake Kitchen

Preserver’s Minestrone
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons herbes salees
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained
2 cups ditalini pasta
3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup red wine
3 quarts chicken stock
1 small dried chile, chopped or crumbled
1/2 head swiss chard, chopped into spoon size pieces
Freshly ground black pepper and pecorino romano to taste

Most minestrones start with some sort of pork rendered (sausage, bacon, pancetta) but I find that it doesn’t lend a whole lot here. So I generally leave it out. I sweat the beans, herbes salees, paprika, onion, carrots, chile and garlic in a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot. Saute for a few minutes, then stir in the tomato products. While you can use sundried tomatoes out of the jar, these ones were dehydrated in the height of tomato season. I like that they add a real depth of richness to the soup without more oil or vinegar. Deglaze with the wine, and then add chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add pasta – cook until al dente. Wilt in the greens just prior to serving. Serve with crusty bread, a drizzle of super green extra virgin olive oil and as much grated hard cheese as you like.

Make this recipe one last time, and with any luck, you won’t want to make it again for six months or so.

Cherry and Sweet Annie Manhattan

What a strange winter this is. Not one, but TWO polar vortices, sheets of rain, and finding myself grumpier than usual about it. Most winters, I can scurry between house and car and office and car and house and other than deliberate ski trips, stay cozy inside. This winter, however, I have to take the furry guy that takes up most of my Instagram feed out for at least thrice daily walks. Some days, it’s chilly but lovely – the perfect thing to clear your head. Other days (ahem, today) it’s all driving snow and wind and even a Swix hat, Xtra tufs and two base layers can’t keep out the chill.

If I had a fireplace, I would make one of these after making a raging fire and stare off into nothingness for a while. Alas, as my personal fireplace is only in my head, I will have to settle from the internal warmth that comes from bourbon. Back on the bitters train, a Manhattan makes a great vehicle for tinkering. If you are a cherry fan, this one is definitely for you.

Cherry and Sweet Annie Manhattan | Snowflake Kitchen

Cherry and Sweet Annie Bitters
1 cup sweet cherries, thawed
1/2 cup sour cherries, thawed
1 cup high proof liquor (grain alcohol or unflavored moonshine)
2 tablespoons gentian root (or other bittering herb)
1 tablespoon wild cherry bark
1 tablespoon fenugreek
1 long branch of sweet annie, broken into smaller pieces
2″ cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Mash the thawed cherries and mix with the bittering herbs into the alcohol in half pint or other glass jar with a lid. Toast the spices over medium heat until fragrant, and swirl into the same mix. Top with the sweet annie and infuse for at least three weeks. Shake once daily and start tasting after three weeks or so. My batch was ready at four.

The Sweet Annie really makes these bitters. It’s intensely herbal tasting, but also fragrant. Cherry bitters a lovely, but try to find some if you can. I am lucky to have Sub Edge Farm closeby, and they bring bunches to market in the fall. Desperate? Email me – maybe I’ll even share my stash.

Cherry and Sweet Annie Manhattan
Inspired by the Manhattans at Firebox Restaurant in Hartford, CT
1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce cherry bounce
1 ounce ginjinha
5 drops Cherry and Sweet Annie bitters

Mix the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, or mason jar. If there is no ginjinha to be found, sweet red vermouth will work. Also if you have no cherry bounce (shame on you and make it next year!) – double your bourbon. You could even add a spoonful of cherry jam. Shake – stir – as you see fit. Add ice if you feel like it – this is an easygoing cocktail. Strain into a glass of choice – I alternate between a fancy coupe glass and a plain old Duralex tumbler – and then add bitters. No garnish needed, but a brandied or chipotled cherry would do you just fine. Alas, all I had was a clementine peel.

Swiss Chard Pot Pie

Anyone still hungover from the holidays? I don’t mean in the traditional sense, but in the too much of EVERYTHING sense: food, drink, sugar… over-stimulation all over the place. It’s been a wonderful, joyous holiday season, but I’m feeling lethargic and tired and need to reign things in a little. Ok, a lot. I suspect, with you lot, that I am not alone.

The problem is, it being winter and all – I still crave something warm and delicious and satisfying. Luckily, this recipe splits the best of both worlds. It comes together super quickly if you have crust ready to go in the freezer, and it not there are plenty of recipes for you to choose from. It can operate as a clean-out-the-fridge-and-pantry recipe too: half a chicken breast, sauteed veggies – just throw in the already cooked stuff towards the end.

Swiss Chard Pot Pie | Snowflake Kitchen

Swiss Chard Pot Pie
1 pie crust – rolled out approximately 1/8″ thick
1 bunch swiss chard (approximately 8 mature leaves), chopped
2 red potatoes, cut in 1/2″ chunks
3 carrots, cut into 1/2″ chunks
1 cup corn frozen
1 cup peas, frozen
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 pint chicken stock
1 egg, beaten
coarse salt

Swiss Chard Pot Pie | Snowflake Kitchen

Add olive oil to a dutch oven and saute onion and garlic over medium heat. Add potatoes, carrots, peas and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, until potatoes and carrots are fork tender. Add peas, carrots, and swiss chard. One to two minutes later, add the flour. Much of the chicken stock should be reduced, but if not, add more flour until the veg is well-coated. Add in the milk/cream. Spoon the filling into oven-safe ramekins. Coat the rim of each ramekin with the egg wash, and top with a piece of rolled out dough. Cut each piece so that there is a bit of overlap for the ramekin. Top the dough with more egg wash and some coarse salt, and bake until golden brown.

While not technically all the way in the “lighter” fare, this pot pie recipe can help you on your way to a happy and healthy new year. Here’s to all 2014 has to offer!

Cranberry Brown Sugar Mostarda

I have taken it upon myself in the last few years to make the cranberry accompaniment to our family’s Thanksgiving meal. We were never really a jellied stuff out of a can family, more the “fresh” stuff out of a plastic tub family. And then I got into preserving and found how incredibly easy cranberry preserves are to make – due in no small part to the fact that that most cran-based preserves are almost guaranteed to set (thanks to their high pectin content).

Cranberries pair with a myriad of flavors. Pommes are still around this time of year in cold storage if you give your local orchards a call. As someone who stashes fruit away all season in the freezer, rhubarb, blueberries, plums, meyer lemons, raspberries… all could work in one form or another. And think of the fresh and dried spices: bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, chiles or peppercorns all would add different dimensions. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t refer you to the liquor cabinet: spiced rum, gin, fortified wines and my favorite bourbon each would bring out different notes.

I always make two cranberry condiments – a more low-test version and a more complex (ahem – less traditional) one. Last year lead to a locally grown ginger, clementine and bourbon combo, which was entirely lovely. This year saw a smoked salt and pomegranate molasses version and we saw a bourbon clementine reprise. For almost certain future reference, I bookmarked Cupcake Rehab’s Rockin Moroccan Cranberry Sauce with Preserved Lemon (already scheming preserved citrus for next year’s cran!), Kitchen Simplicity’s Cranberry Curd and Canal House’s Cranberry-Port Gelée.

In fact, the more I think about it, shouldn’t we nominate cranberry preserves as the official gateway preserve? Most people start with strawberry jam - despite the heartache of getting the right set and the pressure of it being the first fruit of the growing season (excluding my beloved rhubarb of course) lead to all this unnecessary drama. Cranberries are easy to work with, the set is reliable, and the timing is great. Make a small batch for Thanksgiving and serve fresh, make a larger batch and waterbath can for holiday gifts and enjoy the fruits of your labor in the off-season to get comfortable before June hits.

The best part, though – is the leftovers. Too much cranberry? I always make at least two pints and have some leftover. You could always make a cake. I don’t know about you – but all of my thoughts about baked goods right now are not pleasant. So I turned to something to temper all the sweet of late – mostarda. Great served alongside your poultry leftovers but also pork – which could be a nice change of pace from the fowl overload of the last week.

Snowflake Kitchen | Cranberry Brown Sugar Mostarda

Cranberry Brown Sugar Mostarda
Leftover cranberry sauce (approximately a cup)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup white wine
1/8 cup dijon mustard
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon red chile flake
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Add all of your ingredients to a saucepan and cook over medium heat until fragrant. Turn heat to low and cook until desired consistency. Pour into a glass jar with a lid (mason or locking) and refrigerate.* Serve alongside poultry, pork – or even a cheese plate if your holidays haven’t quite tapered off yet.

*While this recipe is in all likelihood safe for waterbath canning, it greatly depends on the cranberry product you start with. If it was a relish or chutney (possibly containing low-acid ingredients like onion or garlic), I would keep this a fridge recipe. If it was homemade and had generally low-acid or pH neutral ingredients – go for it! I would process at 15 minutes.

(Long Overdue) Vanilla Coconut Maple Bitters

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It was a tough year. (Dear anyone that has any influence over these things: can 2014 continue an upward trend? Thanks.) I know its a bit early for a year-end retrospective – blame the incessantly grating Christmas creep. Since we last spoke, there have been all sorts of changes around these parts, mostly of the personal variety. I like to think that I’m willing to do a lot for people – to put my time, sweat, love and attention towards a multitasker’s nightmare of shared projects. And as long as those projects continue to give back – via a paycheck, gratitude or otherwise, that works for me. It’s a simple equation, really (isn’t it always?) when those endeavors stop giving back and become more of a source of pain than of fulfillment, then it is time to reevaluate and sometimes move on. Needless to say, when your days are consumed by personal evaluation, your writing gets pretty dull. Seriously – you should see my drafts folder. Let’s just say its been a year of full-on mental and physical decluttering.

The first casualty was my writing, but initially, so was my kitchen – enabled by my move to a much more urban location with excellent food aplenty. Obviously neither were great for my health or my wallet, so I eventually made my way back into the kitchen. Then – full disclosure – I hid there for a while. I realized that the kitchen shouldn’t always be a place of refuge. It can and should be a haven from stresses of work, play, and everything in between. But (and this may be a bit of a ‘duh‘ moment for most of you), I find there is something missing when my life is devoid of creativity and collaboration. And, after some navel gazing, I’ve come to accept that I get a lot of fulfillment not just from cooking and preserving but also from this blog.

So as I’ve reevaluated my life, I’ve reevaluated this space. Do you ever get a moment to take a step back and really think about how to do something right? I almost never get that chance. Thanks to the talented Cyn at River Dog Prints, ye olde blog has had a lovely reno (so come on and visit snowflakekitchen.com, you RSS readers). The new digs are emblematic of the new reality and I am quite taken with them.

I’ve also become more taken with bitters. I tried citrus bitters earlier in the year. They were good, but I found myself having to use a pretty large amount (like close-to-equal parts with the main booze of the drink) to get the flavor I was after. Ready to tinker again, I treated myself to a bottle of Onyx 111 and picked up some gentian root and other herbs from the Penn Herb Company. And though I’ve only had these bitters with one whiskey drink and one spiced rum drink, I am already enamored with them. They’re that little-something-extra-you-can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on that takes your drink over the top.

Vanilla Coconut Maple Bitters | Snowflake Kitchen

Vanilla Coconut Maple Bitters
Adapted from Imbibe Magazine’s Homemade Vanilla Bitters

1 cup Onyx Moonshine (or other high proof neutral liquor)
1 scant teaspoon gentian root
4 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 tablespoon fenugreek
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
2 cardamom pods
Grade B maple syrup, to taste

Decorticate the cardamom (apparently that is the correct word!) and then toast the peppercorns, fenugreek, cardamom and coconut over medium-low heat until fragrant. Take care not to burn the pan. Add your toasted spices to a glass jar that has a lid – either a locking jar with a gasket or a mason jar will work well. After scraping, cut the vanilla pods in half so that they completely submerge and can fully infuse the ‘shine. Add the gentian root, vanilla and add Onyx to cover. If you don’t have high-test moonshine to work with, grain alcohol would work just fine. I find that a higher proof alcohol really does make a difference here – spring for the high-test hooch, people. The bitters need to infuse for a while – start tasting after three weeks or so. Once you can taste all of the flavors, strain and add maple syrup to taste – I ended up adding approximately 1/4 cup. Bottle into a smaller jar, or better yet find a vessel with an eyedropper. The coconut makes the bitters taste almost creamy, and the dark maple syrup and fenugreek add an almost malty flavor. I’m sure these are only the latest in a long line of bitters experiments.

So make these, tweak to your taste, and invite me over. I’ll bring chutney and cheese and we can catch up. And thank you for sticking around – I am so looking forward to many good things in store for the future.

No Waste Strawberry Cordial

Has it really been a month? In my defense, I moved house and home (and jars) since we last spoke. Now I am in the unpacking stage, which is really more difficult and time-consuming than packing: you have to force yourself to get it done, otherwise it can languish for-ev-er. I say this because I’ve lived here for almost a month and I still see boxes of jars in corners. Somehow, my roommate hasn’t asked me to leave yet.

In the month span, Connecticut strawberries have come in like a deluge. The heavy rain and generally weird weather made them come in almost all at once. Luckily, a few select orchards have my cell number and can put out the call to round up seconds at a moment’s notice. It’s a win-win – they still get paid for their hard work, and their hard work doesn’t spoil – and I am all too happy to take it off of their hands. So if you are thinking about any sort of jam making – hook up with your local farm and orchard. You’ll be glad you did.

I answered one such call two weeks ago, and lo and behold came home with 23 pounds of strawberry seconds that had to be hulled that night or wouldn’t make it 24 hours. The best kind, really, and the only kind I get these days. So I hulled away on the couch (because the dining room table is, ahem, still covered in flats of jars) and then all 23 lbs went in the fridge to macerate. And no, my roommate still did not ask me to leave when I quickly filled 2/3 of the fridge with strawberries, rhubarb and various projects. Miraculous. 

No Waste Strawberry Cordial⎥Snowflake Kitchen

The true miracle, though is what came out of the waste. I am not a meticulous strawberry huller – especially not when faced with 23 pounds of overripe fruit. Just a paring knife and some repetitive motion, and I will get there. But I’ve taken to throwing the hulls into a jar for later use. Many of the hulls have quite a bit of red on them – like I said, not a meticulous huller – which made for a beautiful infusion. Most of the time I will infuse, then add simple syrup (for a limon- or whatever-cello like cordial) but this time straight strawberries and vodka were perfect. Simple, exceedingly sweet (thanks to the beautifully grown overripe berries from Easy Pickins Orchard, I’m sure) and sips perfectly all by itself. Though occasionally a few bubbles can’t hurt. If you still have strawbs in your neck of the woods – make this! I do always love making something out of nothing, but this idea turned out particularly great. You won’t regret it for a second.

No Waste Strawberry Cordial
Strawberry Hulls
1 clean jar with a lid
Vodka to cover

You can rinse your berries before hulling, but dont feel like you need to be meticulous here, as you will catch everything at bottling. Pack the hulls to within 1 inch of the top of the jar, before moving onto a second (or third! or fourth!) jar. Pack them medium tight – leave enough room for the vodka to do its thing. Top with vodka and let sit for anywhere from 3 days to 1 week. Swirl each day to circulate the infusion, and start tasting after 3 days. Mine was ready in 4.

No Waste Strawberry Cordial⎥Snowflake Kitchen

To bottle, strain through a coffee filter and store at room temperature. If it isn’t sweet enough for you, you of course can add a little simple syrup or soda. I particularly like it with an oaky bourbon and splash of ginger ale.

Double Duty: Ramps (Compound Butter & Pickles)

Three steps forward and one step back.

I pack my life into a tiny room but have to leave it for three weeks until I can be myself in my own space again. My parents finally get a closing date on their house but then their lease falls through. I finally make some progress on a difficult project at work only to have to rearrange all the deadlines to put out another fire. The new apartment accepts dogs but has a $300 non-refundable pet fee.

Saturday I woke up to 43 degrees and driving rain, but left my warm waterproof sneakers packed 90 minutes away. Because who expects fall-like Juneau, Alaska weather at the start of Memorial Day weekend in Connecticut? Argh.

This is the part where I usually say that despite the lack of posts, I’ve been cooking great things. Well, folks – that isn’t true this time. The last decent thing I made was made on the fly on my last day at my old house. I’ve told you about that place right? The place where in the spring I can grab ramps outside my door IN MY PAJAMAS if I want – so long as I wear some decent XtraTufs? Man, am I gonna miss that place.

I have been so careful with the ramp patch, too. Harvesting only the greens most of the time, with enough bulbs for one small jar of pickles. But this year? After being so careful in my tiny personal patch for the last two years, I found a whole other carpet. Not sure how I missed it before – blindness in the heat of ramp euphoria, perhaps. And though I still took only one jar’s worth for pickles, I made sure to get the fattest ramps there were.  Because I hope to come back next year, but who knows? Because I wanted to. Or just because.

Of course, I made the decision to make pickles after I had packed away all of my jars. But ever-fleeting ramps are one thing thats always worth digging out a jar.

So three steps forward and one step back. This is my life lately. At least I have by ramp pickles in my fridge and compound butter in my freezer, waiting for after June 1st in my new apartment.

Ramp Pickles by Snowflake Kitchen

Preserved Lemon & Ramp Compound Butter

One stick unsalted butter, softened
Ramp greens (approximately 5 ramps – 10 leaves), cleaned well, dried and finely chopped
One preserved lemon, flesh removed and rind finely chopped
Black pepper to taste

In a perfect world, leave your butter on the counter, go forage your ramps, prep everything and when you come back, it should be soft enough. If you are like me and keep your butter in the freezer, it might take a bit longer, and you might get a bit impatient – so prep ahead of time. Small firm, but not frozen, chunks can be helped along in a food processor. Which – if you’re going to already get dirty, you might as well mix the whole batch in there. Of course you can just as well make quick use of a bowl, mixing utensil and/or your hands.

Like my favorite recipes, this one involves mixing everything together, tasting, and when satisfied, forming into a log/packing into your vessel of choice and freezing until later. The tasting is key here, as is using unsalted butter. The preserved lemons bring plenty of salt to the table for my taste. My 2013 batch of preserved lemons has a nice kick of aleppo pepper, which is really great here, but please use what you have. No preserved lemons? Make them next year, and add salt and chopped lemon rind (but take care to minimize the bitter pith).

Use everywhere from searing scallops to melting over the top of a great steak to serving with crusty bread.

Ramp Fridge Pickles
15-20 ramp bulbs, cleaned, de-rooted
One wide mouth pint mason jar
1/4 cup of white vinegar
Water to cover
One teaspoon salt
One bay leaf
One tablespoon mixed peppercorns
Spring of thyme or rosemary

The best thing about fridge pickles is they take exactly no time to come together. Add your veg in a jar, add your vinegar, salt and spices and top with water. Place in the frige and swirl gently a couple of times over the course of a week, and you have a great accompaniment to cheese, in salad, or finely chopped in place of your usual cukes. They are great sliced thin on top of tacos in place of pickled onions.

The Good, the Bad, and the Bitter

If you’ve been making double duty syrups and infusions for a while, no doubt you’ve been imbibing some homemade cocktail greatness. And while they can be spectacular (one Kate here, requesting rhubarbarita delivery, stat), sometimes they can fall a little flat. Bubbles are pretty great most of the time. Plastic bottle rotgut or top shelf artisanal spirits – depending on your mood, both have their place. Though, I still have yet to find a place for watered down light beer or jagermeister. Not even since during college. But it all can get kind of boring after a while. Nothing a little secret ingredient can’t fix.

Want to take your cocktail nerd up to eleven? Bitters, my friend.

Grapefruit Vanilla Bitters with Pink Peppercorns and Cardamom by Snowflake Kitchen

Not just that funky bottle with the label torn off in the back of your Dad’s liquor cabinet. (No? Just mine? Ok then.) Homemade bitters are the secret ingredient that you can never figure out. The one thing that takes your drink over the top and makes it not just memorable, but elevates it to obsessive.

So forgive me if this post finds itself a bit late in terms of seasonality, but good organic citrus can be found year round, even if the great stuff is more of a winter thing. Make it anyway. Your future cocktail nerd won’t regret it.

Grapefruit Vanilla Bitters with Pink Peppercorns and Cardamom
Adapted from Autumn’s Grapefruit Bitters with Juniper
Rind of approximately 2 grapefruits
3 tablespoons pink peppercorns
10 cardamom pods, cracked
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
Onyx Moonshine, to cover

First off, wash and peel your grapefruit. Supreme it if you want, and make Marisa’s Grapefruit Jam or AJ’s Preserved Grapefruit with Mint Sugar Syrup with the fruit. Or just dip it some vanilla sugar and scarf it – you’ll thank me later. Chop the rind into small pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients and top with a high-proof liquor. Everclear and vodka work just fine, but I was lucky enough to have Onyx Moonshine on hand. Surely you’ve heard of ‘shine – its unaged whiskey – and this particular spirit is particularly delicious. Onyx is a local product for me and business that I love, and just so happens to make great bitters. I highly suggest you seek it out for yourself.

Grapefruit Vanilla Bitters with Pink Peppercorns and Cardamom by Snowflake Kitchen

Long story short: peel your grapefruit, use the fruit elsewhere, add everything to a jar, top with Onyx, and wait. Start tasting after 3ish weeks or so. Unlike other bitters made with bitter herbs, this one takes a while to infuse. I was happy with mine after a month, but yours may need to age for a longer or shorter amount of time. Add a tablespoon or so, and taste. You can always add more. (Note: for true bitters made with bitter herbs, most recipes call for only a drop. Citrus pith bitters are less intense, and you should add more volume to get the same bang for your buck). The grapefruit and vanilla play wonderfully with gin or St. Germain in a cocktail.

PS: I also made a meyer lemon version with coriander, ginger, chile and bay leaf with the same method. It’s really great when mixed with Bulleit Rye Whiskey. Make that too.

Double Duty: Grapefruit (Candied Peel + Syrup)

I think it happens unconsciously most of the time, but in general I like my food to reflect my spirit. When my heart is in the food that I make – I like to think that you can almost see the adjectives: Frugal. Simple with an unexpected twist. Local. Solid flavor. Tasty. At the same time, if you lined up recent eating: Passive-Aggressive. Broke. Unhealthy. Unplanned. Kind of depressing. Something is definitely up here. Like life re-evaluating. I don’t want to get into it too much, but on a food level, it speaks volumes.

It’s almost like I had unconsciously planned for this. I had multiple soups in the freezer, some my own and some from our local foodswap, ready to go for when I woke up and lunch was the furthest thing from my mind. I had jam and pickles and cheese, and could throw a few things in my bag and not throw off my whole day or go out and spend more money I didn’t have. That’s really the heart of putting things in jars, isn’t it? Preparation for the future. I mean, the ability to have a gift at any given moment is nice, but I like to think not the primary reason. Maybe I’m naive.

I planned ahead for when I couldn’t possibly have an appetite, but I also planned ahead with a few great distractions. Well – that’s not entirely true – I always have one or two major kitchen projects in the works. Though things didn’t work out for an order of beautiful Texas Ruby Reds, I did score some organic grapefruit at my coop. Salted grapefruit lime jam, a riff on Kaela’s Salted Cranberry Grapefruit Jam, while tasty came out far too cooked for my liking. There were some lovely grapefruit bitters and straight up segments, but far too much leftover rind. I figured if this idea didn’t work out, at least it would only cost me some sugar and time, so why not? I am so glad I did. And not just for the distraction.

grapefruit

Photo credit: Laura Stone Photography

Candied Grapefruit Peel
Adapted from Candied Clementine Peel on Epicurious
5 organic grapefruits, preferably red
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
Vegetable oil to grease drying rack
1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar

First and foremost – yes, you do need to spring for organic fruit here, as with any application that uses the rind of fruit. Take care to remove your peel – either by peeling the fruit or juicing. You need to accomplish two things: small, finger-sized pieces of peel that are completely without fruit and also have minimal pith. Do not make the peels too small here, you can always break into smaller pieces later. Some pith is, of course, fine – and I like that it makes the grapefruit peel not 100% sweet. That said – do take some of it off, and if you can take care to make it smooth it will help when the candied peels are air drying.

Take your trimmed peels and cover with water in a saucepan. I like to use one that is about 4″ deep – enough for the peels to float plenty but not a huge pot, either. Add a half teaspoon of the salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for approximately 10 minutes, but be careful that it doesn’t boil over. Drain the peels, but take care – they are somewhat delicate. Repeat the process twice more, starting with fresh salted water each time.

At this point, add the peels, granulated sugar and water into a clean pot. You are making a thin simple syrup that will gradually reduce into a thicker one while infusing the peel with sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to a low boil. This step may take anywhere from 20 minutes to more – depending on your environment. You know the peels are done when they are translucent and the syrup is thick.

While the syrup is reducing, set up your final station with a drying rack and bowl of vanilla sugar. It helps greatly to lightly both oil the rack (canola oil is great) and place parchment paper underneath to catch excess syrup. Once finished, transfer the peels to the drying rack. They really do need half an hour to dry – do not shortcut this step. You may cut them into smaller pieces once they have cooled, if needed. Toss with vanilla sugar and continue to dry on the rack overnight. You may have to turn them several times and/or toss again in the sugar. Once sufficiently dry (it may take longer than you expect), store in a bowl or jar. If you put the peel in a jar and it re-liquifies, it needs more drying time.

Salted Grapefruit Margarita and Candied Grapefruit Peel by Snowflake Kitchen

Grapefruit Syrup

A lovely byproduct of the above recipe. Simply strain the leftover syrup, bottle, and use at will. Because it results from sugar, water, zest and pith, this syrup has a decent bitter note. Added to seltzer it makes a great grapefruit soda – one that isn’t too sweet like some off-the-shelf grapefruit beverages. Added to either gin or tequila, it also is a fabulous base for a paloma or margarita. I’m sure you could can it, but I prefer to use this syrup fresh.

Aleppo Pepper Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons have a few different aliases: you may know them as lemon pickle or lemon confit (though I tend to think of lemon confit as something else entirely). Whatever you call them, making at least one jar of these has become a favorite yearly tradition of mine, using some of Karen’s wonderful meyers. I love the yearly splurge so – no other time of the year is it more appreciated and so needed. February is tough – the cold around here really starts to get old, record-breaking snowfall wears you out and your bones themselves begin to crave spring. Warm sunny says seem so long ago they become the stuff of legend.

Preserved Lemons by Snowflake Kitchen

Luckily, meyer lemons cure all ills. And preserving them in salt captures their brightness for year-round use. I make a different batch each year. The first year I made them, I used equal parts pimentón and cayenne. They were nothing if not LOUD. The flavor mellowed towards the end of the jar, but in 2012, I veered in a different direction and used curry spices – cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander and cumin seeds. A nice change, but I find myself longing for some heat. Some – in no way shape or form am I anywhere close to becoming a chile head, but I do find myself appreciating some lower-end Scoville units in my preserved lemons.

This year, I went with aleppo pepper. It’s recent arrival bought from a new year spice binge from Whole Spice (PS: they might be having a 30% off sale right now – use the code “spice.” I’m sorry for your wallet/You’re welcome.) I find myself reaching for it when I want to add some subtle heat to savory dishes. Nothing could ever replace the pimentón I remain practically wedded to, but aleppo chiles bring something else the to table. The more I find myself drawn to it, the more I find my thoughts with the city that shares its name. As this batch lasts through the year, I hope by the time I finish it some peace has come to Syria.

Aleppo Preserved Lemons by Snowflake Kitchen

Aleppo Pepper Preserved Lemons
5-6 meyer lemons, ends removed and quartered
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons crushed aleppo pepper
2 bay leaves
Coarse salt to cover, approximately 1 1/2 cups

Remove both ends of your lemons and quarter them, reserving any juice. Take a wide mouth quart jar and cover the bottom with salt. Mix the remainder of salt with the aleppo and black pepper. Tilt the jar at an angle, careful not to spill any salt, an add quartered lemon slices in one even layer. Tuck your bay leaves on each side, between the lemons and the edge of the jar. Add enough peppered salt to cover, and then add another layer of lemons. Repeat until you are almost out of room in the jar. Top with the remaining salt and reserved lemon juice. Shake on your counter about once a day for a week or so, and then place in a darker spot in your pantry.

To use, strip off the lemon flesh and discard. Chop the peel and add to soup, tagines or even preserves.