Category Archives: infusions + syrups

Reflections Take Two & Pears in Tea Syrup

This wasn’t the way this year was supposed to be.

2011 was going to be great. I was going to preserve a whole bunch of things I had yet to try. Pickled peaches? So there. Homemade maraschino cherries? You bet. I was even going to explore new worlds of foraging, fermentation, dehydration and pressure canning… except it didn’t really happen. More jam and cucumber pickles in the larder. Sigh.

I was going to go pick cherries and peaches and blueberries and apples and pears for days on end. I got in some picking, but Irene and Alfred (I guess that’s what we’re calling this recent mess) took much of the produce this year. Connecticut farmers are hurting – the final day of the biggest farmers market in the state was cancelled this weekend due to the unexpected snow. Buying local is more important than ever and financially its harder than ever.

I was supposed to get a decent paying job after graduation. Not a “good” paying job – just enough to pay my bills and start paying back my mountain of student loans. I paid my dues, I passed all the tests and I got three degrees. The job didn’t happen.

It’s not all as bleak as I am making it out to be. Good things have happened. For a start, we can call ourselves CSA-ers. Without a doubt, we are now committed to Community Supported Agriculture for life. Once finances change, we will move into meat, fruit and other CSAs. Pre-paid veggies really saved our asses this summer.

I tried this whole preserves business thing. The jury is still out over whether it will continue into next year, but for now I have no regrets. I suppose you cant ask for more in a startup business.

Oh – and lest I forget – I do have a roof over my head, a pantry full of mostly local food, and I am able to scrape by financially. And – somewhat of a rarity these days – I also have electricity, hot water and heat.

So, that’s life isn’t it? Playing the hand you’re dealt. Sticking with the things that work, and learning from your mistakes. This recipe I made for the first time last year, and its definitely a keeper for the long haul. So grab your ice cream out of the snowbank – these pears are great heated through on your Coleman stove and poured over some vanilla.

Bartlett Pears in Lady Grey Syrup
4ish pounds of Bartlett pears
3 cups of sugar
4 cups of water
3 Lady Grey tea bags
1 vanilla bean
1 whole cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves

Set the syrup to boil over medium high heat – keep an eye on it, burnt sugar is a giant pain to clean off of your stove. Once the syrup has come to a boil, add the tea bags, split and scraped vanilla bean, cinnamon and cloves. Let steep at least 3 hours – or even overnight.

Once you’ve tasted the syrup and you feel it’s up to your satisfaction, start on the pears. Peel, core and halve the pears. You can take the stems off, but I like to leave them on to grab the pears out of the jar. Cold pack the pears in jars – feel free to add new cloves and cinnamon to each jar if you like. Re-boil the syrup, and pour over your jars. This is a recipe that does require bubbling, though not as much as a fruit butter. Top with hot, wet lids and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield approximately 3 quarts.

A Meditation on Maraschino

Those nuclear red little sugar bombs – removed as far as possible from the fresh-picked cherries they once were? I have a confession to make. I love them. I was the little girl who ordered a coke with cherries when out to eat with my parents – and not just for the novelty that my drink also came from the bar. I always would bargain for extra cherries on my ice cream sundaes. Even to this day, an amaretto sour isn’t complete without one of them at the bottom of the glass.

And I know – I KNOW.  They are tasteless sugar bombs – a hollow representation of everything a cherry really is. I even read somewhere that they have to bleach the cherries to get them that color. Oh, and if you want, you really can get any color of the rainbow. Blech. Still, sometimes I can’t resist.

Then I started thinking that I could do it better. I read up on real maraschino cherries. The kind started in Croatia and Italy. I knew I had to make the all too brief Connecticut Cherry Season last. It was even shorter this year, as about a third of the Belltown Hill Orchards crop split. I went on the first day of sweet cherry picking for 8 pounds, and the next weekend for about 5 pounds of tart cherries. At $4.99/lb – I knew I had to make the cherries worth it.

The sweet ones went into to cherry whiskey jam, two small half pints to pickle, and into the chest freezer. The pits went to infuse the last of my bottle of Jameson. (Don’t like whiskey? Infuse brandy a la What Julia Ate or Handjobs for the Home with your pits instead.) The sour ones went to the chest freezer for future apricot sour cherry jam, sour cherry lime rickey jam, with some left over. Maraschino cherries had to be.

Homemade Maraschino Cherries
4 pints light-colored cherries (Tart/Rainier)
Spices to taste
1 bottle (750ml) Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 cups water
1 split and scraped vanilla bean

Heat the Luxardo, sugar, vanilla and water until boiling. You can add the empty vanilla pod in if you want – I stuck mine in my vanilla sugar jar. You don’t really need the water – except Luxardo is expensive and I wasn’t about to buy another bottle to fill four quarts. Plus, it’s very strongly flavored. I packed the cherries and spices in four clean, hot jars. Poured the boiling syrup over the top. Top with hot, wet lids and rings and process for 10 minutes.

I infused two pints with maraschino liqueur, sugar and vanilla. I did one more with the addition of lemon peel and cloves. The fourth was with bay leaf and cinnamon. I’ve only cracked open a vanilla pint, so I cant tell you how the other flavors went, but if the “plain” ones are any indication, you should abandon storebought maraschino cherries forever.

Oh, and Kaela – you’re right. They totally look like shriveled fingertips. But they are crazy delicious shriveled fingertips.

Spice Rack Challenge: Citrus. Again.

I probably should call this post “If Lemon Curd isn’t your thing…” I already posted about Meyer Lemon Curd for February’s Spice Rack Challenge. All the way back on February 12th. Then I received a delivery from The Lemon Ladies Orchard:

THANK YOU KAREN! Sorry about the camera phone photo – I was way too excited to break out the real camera.

What to do with SEVEN pounds of delicious Meyer Lemons picked only days ago in California sunshine?

First: Preserved Lemons. Recipe courtesy of Tigress:

Spicy. Sweet. Salty. SPICY.

I used half cayenne and half Spanish Pimentón. I know Tigressprefers to use regular lemons instead of the Meyer variety, but when that’s what you’ve got…

We’ll see how they turn out. Maybe I’ll want more toothsome ones when this batch is used.

Ideas on how to use Preserved Lemons: Arctic Garden Studio has great suggestions, including preserved lemon and harissa hot dogs (have to try those!) and an awesome link for Preserved Lemon and Thyme Compound Butter (oh man…). The lovely readers at Food in Jars suggested using Cara Cara oranges (my new addiction) instead. Once they age I will definitely be trying the Spicy Potato Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives from Epicurious.

Second: Juice them! You can use the juice for curd, but you knew that already. Make lemonade, or freeze the juice for when inspiration strikes later. Note to self: Also do a Meyer Lemon Roast chicken.

If you don’t live in California, Texas or Florida, you likely had the lovely yellow beauties shipped in – dont let ANY go to waste! Make limoncello with that rind!

Señor SK and I had a bad limoncello experience on a trip to Rome a couple of years ago – but I’m willing to give it another shot. The idea of lemonade er… for adults… in the summer sounds fantastic.

Patience, grasshopper.

Thanks to Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking for the recipe.

Third: Bake. Tomorrow I might make Arctic Garden Studio’s Lemon Pull-Apart Loaf. And maybe Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Yogurt Cake. But today I came across dymnyno’s Lazy Lemon Tart on Food 52. It can’t get much easier than this: 1. Buy pre-made pie/tart crust, 2. Blend filling in a food processor – a WHOLE lemon!, 3. Bake.

I should add 4. Try not to inhale in one sitting. The crust gets golden and crunchy and amazing. Seriously – MAKE THIS NOW.

After all that, I was pretty lemoned out. Tomorrow I have plans for more lemon-infused baking and some sort of preserves. I haven’t decided whether to make Vanilla Garlic’s Kiwi Lemon Jam or Hitchhiking to Heaven’s Cherry Meyer Lemon Preserves with Raspberries instead. Or both. Any other Meyer Lemon suggestions are welcome! If I have any left…