Posts Tagged 'winter survival'

zing pow

Well hello! It’s been a while, no? I’m struck with a pang that this little piggy may have been written off as just another blog, dying a slow, bloggy death. But I hope that’s not the case. I’ve thought a lot about this space and what I want it to be. I’ve wrestled with trying to make it a “real” blog, but I’m not sure I have the drive for that. And maybe that’s okay, because honestly what resonates most about this place is simply that. It’s just a place. A place to write a casual note to a friend. And if the friend is lucky, maybe a recipe at the end. So if you’re good with such a note, however random or regular it may be, climb aboard. I’ll do my best to keep in touch.

Now. Lets get on to the business at hand. Bears. Friendly ones.

It’s hard to say where my loyalties laid as a kid. The happy-go-lucky, bumbling Pooh, or the exceptionally polite Paddington? They both have their merits. But lets talk about Paddington. Paddington has a suitcase with a secret compartment. This trumps an empty honey pot in my book. Well mannered, yes. But still not above pulling out his Very Hard Stare for those he disapproves of. I’m here to tell you—a well applied Very Hard Stare can take you places. And then there’s the marmalade sandwiches. How can you go argue with a bear who keeps a marmalade sandwich tucked under his hat? You can’t.

maramalade toast

After becoming fully acquainted with the bear in the blue duffel coat, I desperately wanted to love marmalade. But my 10-year-old pallet just wouldn’t go there. All those peels! And the bitterness! I knew Paddington must be onto something, but I couldn’t exactly figure out what. Though not for lack of trying, my distaste of marmalade lasted through most of my adult life. Until just a few years ago when I half-heartedly tapped into a jar of Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade. There I was one cold January morning when every last bit of wintery sunshine came hurtling though my kitchen window and landed smack dab on my piece of crusty, buttery toast. Zing pow. I get it Paddington. Finally!

Lucia’s is a long-standing favorite restaurant in uptown Minneapolis. It’s one of those comfortable places that you can’t bare to leave without buying some sort of treat to take home. My inner Paddington must have prompted me to pull a jar of marmalade off the shelf one visit. And that was it. My love affair with marmalade, or at least Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade, was set. It became a staple in my Christmas stocking. One bitter-sweet jar to be enjoyed in the bitter-sweet cold. It just had this way of evening everything out.

You may have noticed that I’m talking about Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade in the past tense. This year’s Christmas stocking was filled with many delectable items, but Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade was not one of them. “They don’t make it anymore,” is what my mom claimed when grilled about its absence. (I knew she had stopped there because Earl was the lucky recipient of a sack of Lucia’s peanut butter dog biscuits.) I was stunned. January will be okay, I thought. I’ll make it through without a jar of marmalade.

I made it precisely twenty-two days into January without a jar a of Lucia’s grapefruit marmalade. On the twenty-third day of January, the cold and endless grey skies left me no choice but to google “grapefruit marmalade recipe” and subsequently procure a few pounds of ruby red Texan grapefruit.

Having relied on Lucia for the entirety of my marmalade obsession, I was a little uncertain of my marmalade making prowess. And I’m not sure what I did actually constitutes genuine marmalade, as there was no overnight macerating as many of the recipes call for. But the recipe I finally settled on, via the New York Times, claimed marmalade, so I went with it. It also promised little “bursts of Meyer lemon” which is what ultimately swayed me.

Despite the lack of maceration, it was still a rather time consuming process, albeit a cheery one. Watching pink and yellow and sweet all meld into one was a nice cure for the winter blues. Though my level of skepticism remained high the entire time the fruit was simmering. I was seriously doubting that the water would cook off in time, but by some miracle, it did. Marmalade magic.

grapefruit marmalade in the making

I jarred up my marmalade, dubious (again) about seals forming without a proper hot-water bath. But every jar sealed. Everyone except the one I didn’t even bother putting a lid on. I think I might have eaten half the jar before even attempting to make a piece of toast. This magical concoction would also be a great compliment on a cheese plate, with brie and blue, maybe a pear and a few pecans. And, it’d be quite nice, I imagine, with roast pork or chicken. And on a turkey sandwich. Or just by the spoonful.

Having never attempted marmalade, I stuck to the recipe below pretty closely. Though I did halve it, and I also cut back on the amount of grapefruit peel. I was worried that the addition of bits of Meyers lemon with their peels might result in a peel overload. I also upped the quantity of grapefruit just a bit. My advice is to prep the peel called for and then play it by ear. Once it’s all in the pot, you can get a better sense of how peel intensive it will be. In retrospect, I still would have cut back, but maybe not quite as much as I did.

And yes, making marmalade is a process that is worth its time. Ask Paddington.

Grapefruit and Meyer Lemon Marmalade
(from June Taylor of Still-Room, via the New York Times )

5 pounds grapefruit (strong vote for organic here)
5 Meyer lemons (again, organic is best)
½ cup lemon juice (from 2 to 3 additional lemons)
2 ½ pounds sugar

Remove the grapefruit skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut the peel into 1/8-inch slivers; stop when you have 3/4 cup. Discard the rest. Slice off the ends of the grapefruit and the remaining grapefruit peel and pith. Remove grapefruit segments, reserving membrane. Stop when you have 5 cups of segments.

Cut the ends off the Meyer lemons, deep enough so you can see the flesh. Leaving the peel on, remove the segments of lemon and reserve the membrane. Cut the segments crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. (I found this to be the trickiest part. Use a small paring knife to cut the lemons so you can detach the membrane while still leaving the fruit attached to the peel.)

Put membranes from the grapefruit and Meyer lemons in a jelly bag and tie closed.

In a wide and deep pot, combine the grapefruit segments, grapefruit peel, lemon pieces and jelly bag. Add lemon juice and 2 1/2 cups water. Simmer until the grapefruit peel is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Preheat the oven to 225 F. Working over a bowl in your sink, squeeze the liquid from the jelly bag; keep squeezing and wringing it out until you extract 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pectin. Add pectin and sugar to the pot. Place over high heat and boil, stirring now and then, until marmalade is between 222 and 225 degrees and passes the plate test. (Spoon a little onto a plate and put in the fridge for 3 minutes. If it thickens like jam, it is done.)

Meanwhile, put 6 sterilized 8-ounce canning jars and lids on a baking sheet and place in the oven. When jam is done, remove jars from the oven. Ladle jam into the jars, filling them as high as possible. Wipe the rims. Fasten the lid tightly. Let cool. If you don’t get a vacuum seal, refrigerate the jam. (Makes 6 8-ounce jars)

grapefruit marmalade

cabbage dialog

I’ve got a wireless weather station on my wall that gives me all sorts of stats. Humidity, sunrise, sunset, moon phase, and naturally, temperature – indoor and out, high and low. But really I get all the information I need from the little fellow in the middle of the LCD display. Weather Boy. He sports a range of weather dependent wardrobe options, from swim trunks to full winter regalia complete with scarf and hat. Anything below freezing and a snowman appears by his side. And that’s all I need to know. I probably don’t need to tell you that Weather Boy has been in the company of his snowman ALL winter.

weather boy

Polar vortexes, arctic blasts, record setting wind chills – it’s been one wicked winter. Last time I checked, Lake Superior is 93% frozen and is on track for a complete freeze over. This hasn’t happened for 18 years. And it’s been 20 since we’ve had a January as cold as this one was. Earl has set a new personal best for taking care of his daily business. I haven’t ventured out to check on my sweet little bees since December – partially because of temperature and partially as an exercise in letting go. One of our backyard treasures – the Apostle Islands Ice Caves – has gone viral, generating throngs of people that (for me at least) dilute the magic of it all. The woodshed is frighteningly low. Propane is hovering at $5 per gallon.

Despite all this, there is one thing that delivers solace. Cabbage. I am rich in cabbage. No matter how bad it gets, there will be cabbage.

Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Is it worrisome that I’ve been channeling the pioneers and early settlers? They survived much worse – quite possibly without cabbage. So I consider myself lucky. It’s difficult, in all this snow and cold, to accurately recall the garden, but my cabbages help remind me. Last summer boasted perfect conditions for late season greens. I loaded up our make shift root cellar this fall and have continued adding to it with cabbages from our Hermit Creek Farm winter CSA share. I pull one out about once a week. That’s the beauty of cabbage, it’s durable. Even a tired, slightly slimy cabbage can be revived by peeling away a few outer leaves.

I must not be the only one with a cabbage surplus. I’ve overheard an unusual amount of cabbage dialog this winter. My aunt Lynn turned me onto a bright tangy slaw from the original New York Times Cookbook with caraway, onion, mayo, and plenty of lemon juice. When my friend Ann saw Mollie Katzen’s latest Heart of the Plate, on my shelf, she raved about the peanut coleslaw – tenderized cabbage with a savory peanut sauce. And the always inspiring Mary over at the Cookery Maven motivated me to make my first ever hot and sour soup – cabbage based, of course.

cabbage-wedge

But it’s awfully hard to beat plain old chopped cabbage sautéd in a little butter with onion, salt and garlic. Add a thinly sliced potato for bulk, a pinch of caraway, maybe a fried egg over the top and you’ve got a stick-to-your-ribs winter meal any homesteader would be proud of. And I’d argue it’s nearly impossible to top roasted cabbage. Far too late in life I discovered the glorious things that happen to cabbage when it meets a hot oven. It turns melt in your mouth soft and takes on a rich, caramelized sweetness. Even non-cabbage people tend to like it – trust me on this, you non-cabbage people.

Roast cabbage can be served in any number of ways, but my favorite – like most things – is to keep it simple. I love a big spoonful slopped alongside of a bowl of warm beans. Good Mother Stallards are my choice, but any dense meaty bean works. Sprinkle a little shaved Parmesan over the top, pour a glass of wine, and cozy up to the fire. Winter never looked so good, despite what Weather Boy has to say.

winter antitodte

Oven Roasted Cabbage

Peel away any tired outer leaves from the cabbage and remove the core. Cut into even slices, about 3/4-inch thick. Lay slices on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400º F oven for about 30 minutes, turning one half way through. Try and keep the slices intact when you flip them. Remove form oven when cabbage is slightly browned and has a few toasted edges.