Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blueberry Pucker Conserve

At the end of the blueberry season, I bought 2 bags of pie/canning berries from a vendor at the Ferry Building, meaning to can them right away. However, life interfered and they ended up in my freezer for months. Feeling a need to clear out that space, Lisa and I met to can them. Our projects turned out to be Blueberry-Lime Jam, an in-process fermented blueberry syrup, and Doris and Jilly's Lime Pucker Conserve: link here. This is a wonderful recipe, as is, but we did modify it a bit, adding more citrus than called for in the original. We also found that it needed a much longer cooking time to gel. Perhaps because the berries had been frozen?

Blueberry Pucker Conserve

12 cups frozen blueberries
8 cups sugar
1 1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts
About 24 dried apricots, chopped
4 lemons, plus the juice of 4 more

Julienne 4 of the lemon, and juice the other 4. (Next time we will probably just add all 8).
Toss everything in a pot, stir, and turn on medium heat. Stir gently until the blueberries start to break down and the sugar melts. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil for the water bath.
 Bring the blueberry mix to a boil and cook rapidly to the gelling point, approximately 40 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on it—it will foam.
Fill jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Canning recap 2010

Sometimes you wake up at 2:30 in the morning and can't get back to sleep. Last night rather than getting up and organizing my sock drawer or giving up and reading I decided to try to list from memory everything that we had canned in the past year. I missed a few, but it was a reminder that I had been meaning to do a recap of our projects of 2010. So I've made a list and despite checking it twice, feel like I am missing things. Is it really possible we did not can green beans this year? Perhaps that is why I have none left. But it seems like we must have. Ditto for the pickled cauliflower. But, not according to my notes. So, the list below. By the way, this weekend I have 10 pounds of frozen farmers market blueberries to deal with. Suggestions welcome.

In roughly chronological order with stars for my favorites:

Blood Orange Marmalade with Port
Orange Marmalade with Rosemary
Orange Marmalade with Whisky post here
*Pickled Carrots Pretty colors even
Pickled garlic and green garlic
Pickled cipollini, green and pearl onions. alliums
Pickled asparagus
*Pickled beets: yellow with herbs and red with herbs and red wine
Kumquats with Mint
Pickled rhubarb and rhubarb syrup rhubarb
*Bourboned and brandied cherries A favorite
*Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam (twice)
*Plum Jam
Pickled mango
Zucchini Cornichons
Lots of apricots: apricot chutney
apricot jam with amaretto
*apricot jam flavored with their kernels,
apricots with alcohol (brandy and Qi)
apricot syrup (a lovely by product of the alcoholed fruit) Jam recipe
Crushed tomatoes
Peaches: Jam
barbecue sauce, relish
*Blackberry-peach jam. Masumoto tree share
Tomato sauce (twice)
More pickled carrots
*Another favorite Pear Buddha's Hand Butter
Two variations: The first had two vanilla pods and the seeds scraped into the mixture from one of the pods.The second had 1 teaspoon cardamon and remaining zest from the Buddha's Hand.
Honey pears
Pepper Relish

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birthday Pork

I have birthday issues. I like to think I am a relatively well-adjusted person, but I am a bit stark-raving-mad-crazy where my birthday is concerned. I think it has something to do with having had parents in retail or maybe those childhood combo birthday-Christmas gifts. To be honest, at this point it does not really matter why. I fully admit that I am completely irrational around December 17th. This year was not any different. After oh, six months, of whining about the upcoming birthday (Seriously, a certain author  has emails from June), Alice Feiring suggested that rather than continuing to sulk, I throw a dinner party. It was a very good idea as the process of party planning would both distract and focus me. So that same morning I sent out emails extending an invitation. I ended up with 10, including my best friend Amy who flew up from LA to help me prep.

The question then became what to eat and drink. After asking several people for champagne advice and taking a test of sorts, I ended up with a truly lovely bottle of Billiot 04 for me to drink while cooking (thanks Hiram). It was so good, in fact, that noticing my joy, Amy graciously opened a bottle of cremant for herself. Rude, a bit. But it was my birthday and she did insist.

But what were we prepping? Well, bread, cheese, salumi, arugula salad with home pickled beets, green beans with shallots, scalloped/gratin potatoes (thanks K/O) and pork shoulder, along with lemon tart handmade by the eight-year-old and wonderful cupcakes from my friend Molly. Pork shoulder was a cut that had not occurred to me at all until Terry Theise suggested it in an email. Terry had suggested brining and slow-roasting and that was my original idea. But after asking on facebook, the consensus was that brining was unnecessary. After looking through my bookshelf of cookbooks, I discovered a recipe from Melissa Clark, in her marvelous In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Of course, I played around with it a bit. The recipe is below.

But, first a note about wine. Taking advantage of my work Rolodex, I asked three wine professionals what to serve with my pork. The answers were all over the map:
1 Chianti or a not-too-full-bodied red with some acidity and earthiness.

2 the mustard makes me take it more to Burgundy, though a Saint-Jo or Crozes would work just fine.  w/ or w/o rosemary.
3 I think it kind of  screams for Riesling or an orange wine.......or a Jura white.  Or one of Jose's Canary......or I suppose, Hamel's Pinot? 

For the record, we served a Heidi Schrock Muscat, a Coenobium white, a Bonny Doon Vineyards Grenache Blanc, A La Clarine White Blend, A Hamel syrah and a Cobb Pinot. I actually feel bad for not trying the Saint-Jo suggestion, but in the last minute party prep, neglected to shop. So it was wines I had in house and also, wines from friends. Or at least one's that I had a connection to. Any guesses as to which worked best?

Birthday Pork
7 pounds pork shoulder, bone in
6 not so fat garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard (I used a very coarse mustard from Navarro)
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

Combine garlic, salt, olive oil, mustard and pepper to form a paste. Rub the mixture over the pork and transfer to a large roasting pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 and let the pork come to room temperature. Sear the pork on all sides on the stove top before returning to your roasting pan. Roast uncovered, on a rack if you remember (and I didn't), until the meat is fork tender, about 4 hours. Due to weather and late arriving guests, my pork was probably in for 5 hours. It was still moist. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ridge Blogger Tasting

Earlier this year I was delighted to be invited to the first Ridge Wine Blogger Tasting. That day we met at Monte Bello and did a memorable vertical tasting: Monte Bello  I missed the second, rhone varietal tasting in July, but made it to Lytton Springs for a vertical in September. For this last tasting of the year, we met back at Monte Bello and tasted both three wines that were pairings for their calling all cooks contest: Calling All Cooks and a random assortment of mystery wines. Wines that would provide letters and allow us to solve an anagram to receive a prize. With helpful hints from the always delightful Christopher Watkins, you will be pleased to know that we succeeded. Challenge explained

As those who read regularly know, I'm not much for tasting notes. Below you'll find a few notes on the wines tasted, done much in the style of the Wine Bloggers Conference live blogging session. I have to say for me one of the joys of these tastings has been the opportunity to taste so many different vintages. Even, as I said yesterday, the 02 which makes me feel a bit guilty each time, as I still have not acquired a case of birth year wine for K.

07 Monte Bello Chardonnay around 1000 cases 14.4% alcohol Some heat from the alcohol. Smooth, rounded, yeast.

08 Buchignani Carignane Northern most property in Sonoma that they work with. 100% Carignane 13.9% Pepper, acid balance

08 East Bench Zinfandel Youngest vines for their nationally distributed zins. One of the food pairings with a grilled sandwich. 3000 cases.  14.9% 100% zin. Big, fruity, some oak and tannin.

07 Lytton Estate Zin to be released next year. Labeled as primitivo. Young planting on the Lytton block. Planted in the early 2000s. 15.2 93% zin 4% carignane 3% petite sirah Sturdy, young, concentrated. Deep cherry flavors. Herbal note.

03 Geyserville Zin Beef Tenderloin pairing for their food contest Holding the deep color. Oak on the palate. Still strong tannins.  76% Zin, 18% carignanae, 6 % Petite Sirah 14.6%

02 Nervo Zin  92% Zin 8% petite sirah 14.9% 39 barrels produced Lots of tannin.  Fruit fading?

02 Lytton Estate Grenache 75% Grenache 13% Petite sirah 9% Zinfandel 14.7% Age has made it more rounded but tannins are still hanging on.

03 Lytton West Syrah  Only ever national Rhone varietal offering. Some real sweetness. 91% syrah 9% viognier 14.8%  Beaucastel clones, purchased from Tablas Creek.

07 Old School (new name for Independence School) Just released. Current ATP. 15.2% 100% zin Lots of jam, dark berry 3% residual sugar, hot year

03 Independence School 88% Zin  9% Carignane 3% Petite Sirah 15.4% Again, big, jam, deep fruit, still youthful. Need a leather chair and a fireplace.

2000 Monte Bello 75% cab 23% merlot 2% Cab Franc 13.4% alcohol Winner of "taste of Paris" rematch.

Mystery wines: Ridge Alicante Bouschet Pagani! This was a special treat brought by one of our tasting group. Three truly mystery wines. We were told only that they were from Ridge and from the twentieth century. Suffice it to say that I guess wrong. Thanks Allan! As was said yesterday, oh so pretty.
1 93
2 94
3 97

07 Essence 16.95 rs 13.5% 77% zin 23% Petite sirah  Yummy may be the best descriptor.
This would be a lovely post-holiday meal sip. After all, I have the fireplace and the leather couch.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December Can Jam-Pepper/Dried Fruit Relish

We made it! Barely, the early posting deadline this month made it look doubtful at times. But, with this post, Lisa and I made it through the year of the Tigress Can Jam, plus our assorted extra projects. I'll do a favorites post in the next week or two.

But for December, dried fruit:

From the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving:

1 c. diced sweet red pepper
1c. chopped dried apricots
3/4 c. chopped onion
1 apple, peeled cored and chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 Tbsp. minced candied ginger
1/4 tsp each, cinnamon, mace and salt
1/8 tsp cayenne

Combine all ingredients except spices and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and boil for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add spices and cook for about 15 minutes (recipe calls for 5 minutes, but peppers gave off a lot of liquid and needed to cook down a little).  Note:  we doubled the recipe to make 5 jars.

Ladle into jars and process for  10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Rye-sis

When I decided a little while back to have a rye tasting with friends, I did not realize that there was a rye shortage. Even though I read about it nations_bartenders_battle, I did not take things seriously. That is, until I realized I had one week until our scheduled rye tasting and none in the house. K and I ventured forth the day after Thanksgiving in an attempt to buy a few bottles. Suffice it to say, 5 stores in, she coined "rye-sis," to describe the look on my face as we repeatedly came up empty or were presented with less than appealing choices.

Regardless, I persevered as did my invited guests on Friday night we had ten ryes to taste. In the tradition of many a wine tasting, we not only used a spit bucket, but tasted from lowest to highest proof. I took my typically mediocre notes. After tasting them straight, there were several Manhattan variations tried. I will admit to giving up on the note taking by that point. Tasting notes below, in tasting order, not in order of preference. if you've tried any of them, let me know in the comments below.

Pikesville: The cheapest rye and it tasted that way. $13.95 Thin and bitter.

Old Overholt: Stronger flavors, more rounded with some fruit notes. At $15, a good bet for cocktails.

Michter's: A real disappointment. Deeper color, a minimum of 36 months in oak. A good rye, but at $45 it should have been a lot better.

*Redemption: Not only had I never had this rye before, but I would not have even purchased it if I had not been stressed out about a need for more variety. Also, it had a nice label. This was lovely and fruity and quite different from any of the others in the tasting. Made into a Manhattan with a mild vermouth, it was almost a different drink than the expected Manhattan. At around $30 a very good deal.

*Sazerac: Deeper color, less burn with wood spice. $26.99 Very smooth and rounded. Makes a very good Manhattan.

*High West: My favorite from my last mini-Manhattan tasting. $47.99 Less sweet, lots of spice, some vegetal flavors. Combined with Antica vermouth, it made for an almost perfect Manhattan.

ri1 (Rye One) $42.99 Nice fruity nose, but a bit of a medicinal aftertaste.

Old Portero $55 Very woody. Others liked it a lot more, but my notes read: Everything I don't like to find in a red wine.

*Rittenhouse 100: To be fair, this bottle arrived with only about a 1/3 left and had been open for a while so who knows what it tastes like when fresh. But, I sure did like it. Very smooth, rounded. $20. This would be my regular rye, if I could find it anywhere.

Wild Turkey: $18.99  Did this one suffer from being the last tasted? Probably. But the strongest notes were of burnt plastic. I wonder if I can cook with it?

Now, anyone want to join me for some rye?