First, Happy New Year to you all! I am determined that this year will be different, better and far more worthwhile. So a lot of changes are planned . I started out with the simplest – no New Year’s Resolutions! In the past they have just been a way to feel guilty. No more….
Next, we are rapidly becoming a gluten-free (as well as often vegetarian) household. It is looking likely that 1.5 of us have celiac disease – possibly VERY badly. Wheat is gone. So is barley. So is rye (not much of a loss that last) and so are most oats (because they always apparently have some wheat byproduct left from the mill). The biggest concern is of course, beer. Fortunately sorghum appears to work and Briess actually has two varieties of Sorghum extract that have the required characteristics to produce beer – mostly rather lightish apparently – kind of like Budweiser only it tastes of something. In fact A-B, the brewers of that foul concoction, actually make the top-selling gluten-free beer (Redbridge I believe) and I have had it and it tastes quite a lot better than Bud. Not brilliant, but not bad. So I have hope on the brewing front. I plan to try additions of dark rice syrup and molasses and roasted non-gluten grains to bring up the taste. So there’s challenge number one.
Next up is bread – despite all the many great gluten-free food blogs out there, I sense that the bread (and especially pizza) under discussion is NOT going to cut it. Especially since I amnow committed to the wood-burning oven project. Whatever pizza and bread recipes I come up with have to work in a 500 degree or hotter wood-burning oven. So that’s challenge number two.
There are of course things like cakes (especially the famous lemon cake) that will have to be redone, but that sounds more doable, so I have hope.
Coffee roasting is going to continue. I really enjoy roasting a new pound every week and a half or so and recently I roasted the best coffee I have ever tasted bar none – no matter what. It was an Ethiopian Yergachefe that I got from More Coffee and it not only had the best aroma, it delivered far more of the taste than coffee usually does. I roasted as usual to the beginning of second crack and got a coffee rich in complex caramel, roasted almonds and complex fruit flavors. It had great depth and also lasted well. I did, however, do one thing different. I dropped a whole cinnamon stick into the coffee before I roasted it and roasted the cinnamon along with the coffee. It added a VERY subtle layer to the coffee as a whole and the layer stayed with it because I kept the stick in the jar with the beans. Once or twice during the week I also broke a small piece off the stick and ground it in with the beans. You can buy cinnamon-flavored coffee commercially but the stuff is disgusting – heavily infused with an artificial flavor (or at least artificial tasting). You can also make cinnamon coffee by adding a small piece of cinnamon stick as you grind regular beans – that is MUCH better. But it is nothing compared to roasting the cinnamon with the coffee. I got the idea many years ago from ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ by Lawrence of Arabia (a really interesting book) and just now got to try it. As I recall, they mostly did it with cardamom, so that’s next to try. So, more coffee roasting is challenge number three – I’ll try to provide roasting and tasting notes – mostly for me so I can figure out what I like best.
One thing we did a little of just before the holidays that I plan to do more of is canning. First off, the family and a friend harvested about ten pounds of rose hips from the yard. They then made lots of things, but the one that was best was rose hip syrup – basically boiling chopped rose hips in a big muslin bag with sugar and pectin and then canning the result. It is really fantastic – very much worth the time and effort. They took most of the day and ended up with about 8 pints of rose hip syrup, about two pounds of rose hip tea and six loaves of rose hip bread. I was inspired by their example. We still had about ten pounds of persimmons left from harvesting half of our half of the tree in the back. We had already given away about twenty pounds and eaten another eight or so. But they weren’t going to keep forever, so I peeled them and cooked them down slowly for two hours just covered in water. Then I pureed them, added two pounds of sugar, two lemons cut in halves and a cinnamon stick. I cooked this mixture down for about four hours on VERY low, fished out the lemon and cinnamon and canned it. By that point I had about 8 pints. That was the first project. Next I made some Meyer Lemon Dundee Marmalade. Our neighbours have an infamous Meyer Lemon tree. Let’s just say that after picking 40 lemons I couldn’t tell anything was gone! So what is Dundee Marmalade? First off, British (or REAL) marmalade is less sweet than American marmalade. Dundee Marmalade is then different in that it is made with larger chunks of citrus peel and it is cooked longer, caramelizing the marmalade a bit more. To make it, I juiced all 40 lemons and removed SOME of the excess membranes from inside the left over lemon peels. I discarded all the seeds obviously. Then I chopped all 40 lemon peels into pieces at most a quarter inch square. These all went into a large stockpot with enough water to just cover, two pounds of sugar and all the lemon juice. I then simmered it VERY low for a couple of hours, added another pound of sugar and then added pectin in the form of all the persimmon peels from the butter, carefully wrapped in a cheesecloth package (apples and pears work well for this too, or you can just buy some pectin…). This all simmered for another two hours. I occasionally skimmed foam off the top. Then I removed and thoroughly squeezed out the persimmon peel package. Then I left it all to sit with a lid on overnight (yes) and resimmered it the next morning for another two hours. At this point is was far more brown than yellow, and tasted very marmalady. So I canned it. It was good. So more canning this year – it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.