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May 19, 2009

Mexican Strawberry Jam



Mexican Strawberry Jam

strawberry, lime and hibiscus

While at Trader Joes last week I came across Candied Hibiscus, something I had never seen before. Stumped on what to make for my next post I knew I had found the magic ingredient. They look like Willy Wonka evil baby squid gummies and taste like weird fruit roll-ups. Kinda cool! I’m sure they’ll turn into one of those tipping point ingredients that suddenly appear everywhere.
Hibiscus, with its tart cranberry-like flavor seemed a perfect mate for sweet strawberries. I had a huge bowl of limes and flat of berries sitting on my counter at home. It all came together, Mexican Strawberry Jam.
I prepared it as I would a normal strawberry jam using lime instead of lemon. I used Tazo Teas Passion tea, but any hibiscus tea will do. I added the tea bags while macerating the fruit, adding the candied hibiscus to the pot toward the end of cooking, to retain its chewy texture. It came out fantastic, slightly marmaladey from the candied hibiscus.
I have been experimenting with cooking my strawberry jam a bit more (past 220 to 224) as I wanted a thicker jell without pectin. This worked out great with this jam, the set was perfect.

Next time I am going to add tequila and see what that does to the flavor. I think the hint of pepper would be fantastic. Meanwhile I am on a roll with the hibiscus…more to come.

INGREDIENTS:

5 lbs strawberries washed and hulled
½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice

8 cups sugar
6 hibiscus tea bags
8 candied hibiscus flowers cut into thin ribbons

METHOD:

1. Cut strawberries up into bites sized pieces. Place in a non-reactive bowl with sugar, lime juice and tea bags. Cover with a tea towel or parchment and macerate over night or until sugar is dissolved.

2. Strain, reserving the fruit in the bowl. Boil the syrup and tea bags for 5 minutes, skimming as needed till you reach the gel point, 222-224 on a candy thermometer. Pour syrup back over strawberries and soak overnight. (This allows the berries to absorb the syrup so the fruit does not float to the top of the jar)

3. The next day add candied hibiscus to strawberries and syrup and bring to a boil. Skim as needed. Immediately turn off heat. Repeat this three more times cooling in between. Careful not to let it boil over (mine did and it made a fierce mess on my stove.

4. Remove tea bags. Place jam in hot sterilized jars, seal, process and label .

YEILD: 8-10 ½ pint jars

May 11, 2009

GLAMOROUS PRESERVED LEMONS



PRESERVED LEMONS

Perhaps you don’t know it, but you need preserved lemons. They are an indispensable pantry item, the use of which makes you seem instantly sophisticated, kind of like having a really good hand bag. On days when you need to dress something up you pull them out and presto, instant glamour.

They are dead easy to make, and once you have a jar in your fridge you won't know how you ever got along without them. Traditionally they are used in Moroccan cuisine, particularly tajines, but I put them in everything. Last week I added them to a tuna salad with fennel and dill, elevating the ordinary into something special.

There are two methods of making preserved lemons. One employs a flavored brine (water, salt and spices). The other, the traditional Moroccan version, Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern food guru Paula Wolfert's recipe, uses just salt and lemons.

I tested both versions certain I would prefer the traditional. Surprisingly I preferred the brined for a variety of reasons, listed below.

• the lemons were less salty and subtly perfumed by the spices
• the recipe was less fussy. You made it all in one go. Paula's method you had to go back and add additional lemon juice every couple of days. At one point I ran out of lemons; very annoying.
• the brined lemons looked cleaner and prettier in the jar, more photogenic (shallow, I know).
• the added olive oil on top was a nice touch as it coated the lemons as they come out of the jar.

The brine method needs to sit up longer as there is water in mix. The Moroccan method uses only salt and lemon, thereby breaking down the peels faster. If you are in a hurry method two is a good choice.

I am providing both recipes if you want to compare. Please, share your results; I would love to know what you think.
I made this with Meyer lemons, which are thin skinned; if you use regular lemons they will take a bit longer to cure (maybe a week or two depending on the thickness of the skins). Make sure your fruit is ripe. If you have very thick-skinned fruit you may want to parboil it for a few minutes (2-4) before canning.


METHOD ONE, BRINED LEMONS

Yield: 4 Quarts (I like wide mouth Ball jars)

3 quarts Water
2 1/2 cups kosher salt
4 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves
4 star anise
24 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
24 or so (depending on size) lemons washed and cut in half
Olive oil
4 lemon or kafir leafs
(this is decorative).


1. Boil water and add spices except lemon leaf.

2. Pack lemons snugly into hot sterilized jars pushing down on them with the back of a sterilized ladle so they express a bit of juice. Try cramming in another lemon.

3. Ladle in the hot brine, dividing the spices evenly between the four jars. Push down the lemons one last time. Slide your lemon leaf in , so you can see it and top with ¼”- ½” olive oil.

4. Seal with sterilized lids. Store in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking jars occasionally. Refrigerate after opening.
Curing time will vary depending on the thickness of your lemons skin. Keeps for 6 months
Rinse lemons before using.

PAULA WOLFORT'S MOROCCAN PRESERVED LEMONS

RECIPE LINK:

http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipes/cookbook/preserved_lemons.html

(from one of my favorite food blogs/sites the fabulous Lietes Culinaria)


USES:
Add to salad dressing
Add to sauces
Sliver and toss with steamed veggies or salad
Add to a compound butter (recipe below)
Roast with cauliflower, garlic and cilantro
In a Sauté with veggies and garlic
Paula Wolfert’s Roasted Expat Chicken
http://www.surlatable.com/gs/paula-wolferts-expatriate-roast-chicken-paula-wolfert-chef-author-recipes-3.shtml
Be adventurous make a tajine
http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searchresults?type=food&search=tagine
Mince and add to marinated olives

Preserved Lemon Compound Butter

Toasted Pine Nuts
Preserved lemon, slivered
Basil
Garlic
Butter
S & P

Whiz nuts in a food processor; add lemon, basil and garlic. When well blended add butter and season. Shape into a log and refrigerate.

This is an amazing crust on a rack of lamb or on chicken or fish