Archive for March, 2009

Citrus season: marmalade!

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My cousin Nina is a marmalade queen. All winter, it seemed, she had a pot of marmalade bubbling on the back of her stove.

She inspired me and the boy to make several big batches of the lovely stuff before we left the land of local citrus.

We did four kinds: ponderosa lemon, bitter seville orange, bergamot, and blood orange (left to right in the picture). They taste nothing alike, and they are all incredibly tasty. The lemon is bright and fresh, very thick and pectiny. The seville orange is a classic marmalade, orangey with a sharp edge. The bergamot is incredibly fragrant and strong, with thick, chewy pieces of rind. And the blood orange is sweet and spicy and soft, absolutely amazing on ice cream.

It’s very easy to make marmalade. Here’s my lazy method:

Slice your citrus. (Make the pieces about the size of the chunks of peel you’d like to have in the finished marmalade.)

Take the seeds out as you slice. Put them in a small muslin bag, or tie them up in cheesecloth. (They provide your pectin! If you don’t have many seeds, as sometimes happens with eating-type oranges, add some extra seeds from another citrus.)

Put your citrus and wrapped seeds into a big, nonreactive pot (i.e., stainless steel or enamel).

Add enough water so that the citrus barely starts to float.

Simmer for forty-five minutes or so, until the pieces of peel are done to your liking.

Set aside to cool.

After the mix is cool, remove the seed bag (squeeze out all that lovely slimy pectin first).

Put your marmalade back on medium heat, and start adding sugar. (I do this by eye, and by taste, but the traditional proportions are 1 part each of citrus, water, and sugar, by weight.)

When the marmalade is as sweet as you want, keep it simmering until it reaches the texture you’d like. (To test the gel, drop a bit onto a plate and put it in the freezer for a few minutes to cool it. This will give you a good idea of what the texture will be like when it’s cooled. If you have trouble getting it to gel, you might need more sugar, or just more patience. But I say there’s nothing wrong with soft marmalade — all the better to spoon over ice cream!)

You can use one kind of citrus, or a mix. You can even add ginger like the English do sometimes. Or whatever strikes your fancy.

Have fun!

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Hysteria is anti-useful: food safety edition.

I know you’ve gotten one of the email forwards:

“It’s the end of the world! Organic farmers will all go to prison! It will be illegal to garden in your own backyard!”

Well, let me just tell you, that’s ridiculous. That kind of absurd scare-mongering only makes it easy for lawmakers to dismiss the people with real concerns about several food- and farm-related bills in congress right now.

Food and Water Watch has a good summary of the situation here.

The bottom line: Don’t get hysterical. Do call your senators and congresspeople. Do tell them you’re concerned about the effects of food-safety regulation on small farms. Tell them it’s important for any legislation to take into account the different needs of different kinds of farms. And while you’re at it, tell them they need to outlaw the dangerous and unsafe factory farming methods that brought us things like E. Coli hamburgers.

The Organic Consumers Association says this: “write to Congress to urge it to enact food safety legislation that addresses the inherent dangers of our industrialized food system without burdening certified organic and farm-to-consumer operations.” Makes sense to me.

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Home! Springtime! Daffodils!

I am so glad to be home.

San Francisco is paradise, but paradise makes me nervous.

I am very glad to be back in a place where the only meyer lemon marmalade I can find is the one I made myself!

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