Posts Tagged ‘sugar


pear and tomato cheese

When Julie was over with her green tomatoes, we made pear and tomato cheese. Think something between a jam and a fruit leather.

pear and tomato cheese

The recipe is from Oded Schwarz’s Preserving, which is the first preserving book I ever bought and is full of pretty pictures and sometimes crazy notions. J-P and I made pear and tomato cheese for the first time about six years ago in Boston. It was delicious, but we did a lot of things wrong: we used whatever tomatoes came in our CSA, we made a double batch, we cooked it down in a stock pot rather than something with more surface area… It took more than seven hours of simmering to get it to the right consistency. We’ve been shy of it ever since, but finally got up the courage for another go this past Sunday.

Here’s how to do it right. Yields about 2.5 pounds, and that is plenty. Please don’t try a double batch.

  • 2 lbs Roma tomatoes (really important to use a dry variety of tomato)
  • 1.5 lbs pears
  • .5 lbs apples
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups water
  • granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Coarsely chop tomatoes, pears, apple, and lemon. Put in pot with water and bring to a boil, then simmer about 30 minutes, until the fruit is mushy. Pass the mixture through a food mill or sieve. Measure the resulting puree and add 1.5 cups sugar for every 2 cups of puree. Put this mixture, with the spices, in a roasting pan or something with similar surface area that you can set over two burners. Return to a boil, then simmer forever (about 4 hours), stirring frequently. (We returned it to a stock pot after a couple of hours, out of fear of burning it.) It’s ready to be poured into oiled pans (we used two pie plates) when it plops/heaves rather than bubbles, and you can draw a clear line through it with your spoon. Let sit in the oiled pans for at least 24 hours, then turn out and coat with granulated sugar. Use a cold, clean knife (which you will clean frequently) to cut squares, which you will roll in more granulated sugar and store in tins between layers of waxed paper.


using what you’ve got

The October issue of Harpers has a wonderfully food-obsessed letter by Patrick Symmes, who spent a month in Havana living on an official Cuban journalist’s salary–$15. Though, as a foreigner, he lacks the ration book that would have made his life easier, he makes the connections he needs to procure most of what the ration book would have provided, without breaking the bank.

Good thing, too, as the rations aren’t nearly enough to live on for a month: 1 pound grain; 1 piece fish; 1 pound crude sugar; 4 pounds refined sugar. Everybody has some kind of source on the side.

But seriously, what to do with all that sugar? You can only put so much in your budget-busting coffee, can only cook so much expensive fruit in simple syrup. No way an American palate could figure out what to do with the rest, and even Cubans must find it a challenge. A Cuban contact told him the secret.

When your stash of foreign whiskey has run out and you find yourself “hard-pressed to enjoy [1,700-calorie-a-day] Cuba without a drink,” you start looking for yeast, purified water, and the clean tubing that will turn your government-issued pressure cooker (given out as part of an energy-saving scheme) into a still. Distillation complete, Symmes writes, “this pattern continued for the last week of my residence[: i]nstant stomachache, mild drunk; headache. The two or three hours in the middle were well worth it.”


brown sugar cookies

Last night, Liza, Jenny, and I inaugurated the Cookie of the Month Club (may we meet more than twice a year). First, we ate potato-leek soup with buttered bread and drank cheap bubbly. Then we got down to Jenny’s brown sugar cookie recipe. Brown a large quantity of butter, then remove from heat and add some more butter. Add dark brown sugar (we used very molasses-y Muscovado sugar), then vanilla, the egg yolks and whole eggs, then the dry ingredients (flour with salt and baking soda and powder). Roll in a mixture of white and Muscovado sugar and bake at 350F for 12 minutes. As Jenny says, they don’t have the same bursts of flavor as a chocolate chip cookie does–they underwhelmed her the first time, but they ended up being addictive.

Liza brought a Martha Stewart magazine (she swears she only likes the Halloween issues) that discussed hazelnut recipes and fossil-imprinted cookies. For next month (since we’re a monthly club): hazelnut cookies with imprinted genuine Permian Basin trilobites? Or for more authenticity, fossil-topped pecan sandies.


link round-up

More Questions of Authenticity and Fusion
Members of the Daring Kitchen take on Robb Walsh’s recipe for stacked green chile enchiladas. Australian suggestions for simulating tomatillos include gooseberries with sugar and green tomatoes mixed with tamarind paste, lime juice, and prune juice. Robb Walsh’s report on the results of the challenge links to recipes from London, the Netherlands, and Canada.

Taste of Beirut reminisces about a childhood favorite, chocolate salami: a French confection made from American and Middle Eastern ingredients and exported back to the Middle East. In which of those locations is it most authentic?

The National Museum of American History’s cafe celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) by adding Asian flavors to the menu at each of its stations. You’ll find pizza with Asian plum sauce and black rice used in a recipe that actually called for purple rice, but the title of their blog post about it proudly proclaims the exclusion of one of the oldest Asian-American fusion dishes (one with a history similar to chili gravy’s): No Chop Suey Here.

Locavores Tackle Meaty Questions
Culling the pest population in a deer-hunting class (actually, a deer skinning and processing class) in Charlottesville. Thanks to Jon of Audrey and Jon for the tip.

Mission hipsters consume another kind of pest at a cricket- and mealworm-tasting.

More Things Hipsters Do
Sell coffee from a bicycle-mounted stall.

Sell seed packets (seed bombs) from old gumball vending machines.

Follow-up: More on Arizona, Tavern on the Green, BP
Arizona’s racial profiling law raises worries about this fall’s lettuce harvest in Yuma.

New York City has revoked Dean Poll’s contract to re-open Tavern on the Green after he failed to reach an agreement with the restaurant’s workers’ union. The city is looking for a new new operator.

It’s about time: the BP oil slick has made Cake Wrecks.


the root of the pill

In Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, Sidney Mintz identifies the 19th century commercialization of sugar beets as “the first important seizure by temperate agriculture of what were previously the productive capacities of … tropical region[s].”

This tidbit stuck with me, and I’ve spent some time trying to come up with other examples. Often, it’s temperate chemistry that undercuts tropical agriculture, but I think that’s within the spirit of Mintz’s comment. Indigo, natural rubber, and palm oil (replaced as an industrial lubricant by petroleum products) have been undercut this way.

This morning, Richard Grijalva brought the case of barbasco and the birth control pill to my attention. Barbasco is the wild yam indigenous to Mexico from which chemists learned in the 1940s to synthesize the steroid hormones that made the Pill possible. Gabriela Soto Laveaga’s Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects, and the Making of the Pill tells how the Mexican government encouraged peasants to cultivate barbasco for this new use, and then to use the new product to regulate their own population growth.

Today no one–whether in the pharmacy or in the campo–remembers this part of the Pill’s history. Which reminds me of a another tidbit from Mintz. Writing about the temperate world’s shift from a preference for the whitest (and therefore purest) sugars to browner, less-refined varieties, Mintz notes that the latter were once traditional foods of the poor but are now “expensive relics of the past … [on] the tables of the rich, … now produced in modern ways that make money for people quite different from those who formerly produced them.” I wonder if barbasco’s involvement with science has given its consumption a similar trajectory, and if Laveaga’s book has anything to tell us about it.


East Austin urban farms tour

On April 11, I took a tour of four East Austin urban farms. At Boggy Creek, the grande dame of East Austin farms, I asked Carol Ann whether her eggs vary by season, and she said no–Austin grows yummy things for chickens to eat year-round, and in fact, winter’s cole crops make “fabulous” eggs. Carol Ann also protects her chickens from predators by stringing solar-powered red LEDs on their coop’s fencing. She says the lights make possums, raccoons, and other pests think “somebody else is already in there doing the job.”

At Boggy Creek I also learned about Treaty Oak Platinum Rum, which the tablers said is distilled in Austin from molasses processed in Texas from Texas-grown sugarcane, and available at Spec’s. They claim their rum is unique in its local sourcing and production, but a Google search turned up three other rums that may rival it. Railean Rum is distilled near Houston from “Gulf Coast” (though perhaps not Texan?) molasses and will be on the market July 1. And Texas-based Au Naturel Spirits distills two rums, also not yet on the market, under the Temptryst label: Cherrywood and Mesquite. No word on the source of Temptryst’s molasses–and no word from any of the companies about who works the cane fields, or under what conditions.

At Hausbar Farm, which supplies all of the eggs for East Side Cafe, I saw Jim Hightower roaming the grounds. At Shady Lane, I admired the clever use of spare parts from the Yellow Bicycle Project, especially this bamboo chicken tractor with a bicycle wheel:

But my favorite story of the day belonged to Springdale Farm, which the owners of Texas Trees and Landscape founded about a year and a half ago as their business began to suffer from the recession. The urban farm would give owners and employees alike something to do and, they hoped, a new revenue stream. In fact, the farm had to expand due to its success in selling its produce through a farm stand, CSAs, and contracts with local chefs. Although they at first feared that Boggy Creek would see them as interlopers, Carol Ann was happy to be their mentor, and sales at both farms have been brisk. Said a friend of the owners, “There’s a market here that just really wants this.”

And despite my strong misgivings about the disconnect between urban farmers and most farm workers, the phrase “my soul feels fed” crossed my mind and wouldn’t leave as I walked between Springdale and Hausbar, pausing to block a runaway soccer ball and kick it back to the kids playing with it in the street.

More pictures here.

Also, a belated thanks to Mission Local for yesterday’s link to Stuff White People Like.

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