Spiced Pear Vodka

recipe from Put ‘em Up

Ingredients
– 2 pears ($2.50/lb @ Santa Monica 3rd St. FM)
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1 vanilla bean
– ¼ cup sugar
– 2 cups vodka

Learnings
HOLY MOLY THIS SMELLS GOOD. Vanilla cinnamon pear…It’s pretty hard not to eat this immediately and forget about that silly ol’ vodka.

VANILLA BEAN. $10 for 2 beans? Really?? I know that you can reuse them, but dadgum. This recipe called for the bean to remain intact during the infusion so once it’s done, I think I’ll cut the bean open and try it in Blueberry Vanilla Vodka or Brandied Plums With Cinnamon & Vanilla (depending on the lingering vodkaness).

Usings
Spiced Peartini!

Pear Ginger Preserves

recipe from Canning for a New Generation

Ingredients
– 3 lbs pears ($2.50/lb @ Santa Monica 3rd St. FM)
– 3 tbsp diced ginger
– juice and zest from 1 lemon
– 1½ cups sugar

Learnings
BRUNOISE. Hello, my new favorite knife cut. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a crush on tiny squares and circles (don’t even get me started on penny tile) so you can imagine how tickled pink I was to learn this for cutting the ginger. The recipe explains that by cutting the ginger brunoise-style, you introduce this tiny kick in every bite without it being overpowering.

Usings
Besides the usual biscuit or toast, it seems like this would be a lovely garnish/glaze for baked ham, pork, or turkey.

Habanero Mint Jelly

recipe from Food & Wine

Ingredients
– 2 habaneros (from mr. jonez’s garden)
– 1 cup small mint sprigs
– 3½ cups sugar
– 1 cup water
– ½ cup apple cider vinegar
– One 3-ounce pouch liquid pectin
– 1 drop food coloring

Learnings
LIQUID vs POWDER PECTIN. This was my first jelly, first pectin experience so I didn’t know what to expect. Moreover, I didn’t know if the randomly-purchased powder pectin in my cabinet could substitute for the liquid pectin. (Apparently it can, but you have to change the order ingredients are added.)

GREEN APPLE vs STORE-BOUGHT PECTIN. This store-bought liquid pectin experience was a little…unnerving. There’s something about pouring this clear, sticky goop into my fresh produce mixture that just seemed so wrong. And don’t even get me started on trying to clean the pot, spoon, ladle, and funnel that it comes in contact with. Next time I want to try Canning for a New Generation’s method of boiling green apples to extract the pectin naturally found in them. Sounds so wholesome and friendly! (Like me!)

FOOD COLORING. All the chile and/or mint jelly recipes I’ve found want you to add a drop of food coloring or red onion skins/plums/cranberries to enhance the color. But why does it matter? As you can see in the photo above, I made two different batches of jelly: one with 2 seeded habaneros and 1 drop food coloring (the darker one), and one with 2 unseeded habaneros sans food coloring. For me, I think the natural yellow hue is quite pretty on its own. (Although in this case, it is kinda nice to visually distinguish between the two versions.)

HOTNESS. I like spice that’s more peck on the cheek than bear hug. The version of jelly I made with 2 seeded habaneros had only the slightest kick (handshake hotness in my book). The other unseeded version definitely had a bear hug kick to start but then it faded away after only a couple seconds. Strange, eh? I wonder why it wasn’t stronger or lasted longer. Maybe it’s because the recipe called for minced chiles whereas I only diced? (Note to self: laziness ruins all the fun.)

Usings
This great article from F&W cites lamb chops, lamb burgers, and corn muffins as delicious pairings. Mr. Jonez also had great luck using it as a glaze on roast chicken.

Grapefruit Curd

recipe from local kitchen

Ingredients
– zest & juice from 1 red grapefruit (75¢ @ Venice FM)
– 4 egg yolks
– 2/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
– 4 tbsp butter
– pinch sea salt

Learnings
KA-POW. Whereas the Lemon Curd was in-your-face lemony, the grapefruit version is almost too subtle. I feel like I taste more eggs and sugar than actual citrus. Maybe more zest would have upped the ka-pow?

Usings
With all those egg whites left, it’s almost a shame not to make a little meringue and toss this puppy into a tart. That is, if I can stop eating it out of the jar.


Grapefruit Vodka

recipe from CHOW

Ingredients
– peel from 1 large red grapefruit (75¢ @ Venice FM)
– 750 mL vodka

Learnings
THE WHOLE BEAST. This isn’t exactly nose-to-tail cooking, but I love when I can multitask with the different its ‘n bits of a star ingredient—in this case using the peel for infusing and the juice for curd. Canning for a New Generation is full of these magical acts. A particularly interesting one uses the papery skins from red onions to enhance the color of Hot Chile Jelly, then you transform the flesh into Sweet & Sour Pickled Red Onions. (Miss digest LA, I think a canning party is in order.)

TITOS vs 3OLIVES. Does the quality of vodka make a difference? The recipes I’ve encountered are pretty evenly split. I am not an avid vodka drinker so I’ll have to wait for an expert opinion on this one.

BITTERY. On first test, this brew seems to have a bitter aftertaste. I thought I was careful not to include any pith in the peels but maybe some sneaked in or I let it sit too long. Either way, I read that if this happens a tablespoon of grapefruit zest will right all wrongs.

Usings
I love Greyhounds and store-bought grapefruit vodka with tonic so this infusion was a no-brainer. Now I just need to revive my rosemary bush!

Crushed Tomatoes

recipe from Canning for a New Generation, pg 166

Ingredients
– 5 lbs tomatoes ($2/lb @ Venice FM)
– ¼ tsp citric acid per pint

Learnings
HEIRLOOMS ARE EXPENSIVE! Which is exactly what Kevin explains at the beginning of his recipe, so this venture should be saved for when the unexpected seconds or gift box falls into your lap. But it sounded so very special that I couldn’t wait for fate. I shelled out $20 for 5 lbs of the most beautiful tomatoes, which eventually ended as TWO tiny pints of sauce. Oh Kendra, you’d better go fertilize that money tree.

CITRIC ACID vs LEMON JUICE. Tomatoes, depending on their variety, when they’re harvested, and the conditions they’re grown in, may not be acidic enough to be safely preserved in a canning water bath. Thus, you must add citric acid or lemon juice to lower the pH. Myself, I prefer tasteless citric acid since the lemon tends to add way too much sweetness.

CULVER CITY FARMERS MARKET. This is my new favorite place to find tomatoes. The prices are reasonable and there’s good variety—not as good as at the Santa Monica 3rd St FM, but pretty good. This particular day, one vendor was selling boxes of heirlooms for so cheap that I just couldn’t pass it up. They didn’t smell sour and were firmish, so the price didn’t make much sense other than it was getting late in the day. Regardless, I didn’t really want to know.

Usings
Add some olive oil, garlic, spices and salt, cook down a bit and I’ll have myself a fine little tomato sauce.

Peach Rum Sauce

recipe from local kitchen

Ingredients
– 3½ lbs peaches ($2.50/lb @ Venice FM)
– ½ cup sugar
– ½ cup raw sugar (organic turbinado)
– ½ cup brown sugar
– 1½ cups spiced dark rum
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
– large pinch salt

Learnings
SUGARS. I liked the depth of flavor that came from mixing the 3 types of sugar. She suggested cutting back if your peaches were nice and sweet—which I started out doing—but the sauce still ended up a tad sugary for my taste. No matter, another glug of rum evened things out.

Usings
Besides all the normal sweet concoctions—ice cream and pound cake especially—I’m intrigued by her ideas to use this as a glaze over chicken and pork.