Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Preserving Floyd: It's Marmalade Season!

My blog friend, Gloria Nicol of Laundry Etc, is entering her marmalade in the mother of all marmalade competitions, The World's Original Marmalade Awards, at the Dalmain Mansion in Cumbria, UK.  This competition attracts entries from around the world, all vying for the opportunity to have their own marmalade recipe made and sold by Fortnum & Mason in London.  Gloria is a very creative preserver and an ongoing inspiration and I wish her great luck in this intimidating competition.

I've never made marmalade before so following Gloria's lead, I opened her book Fruits of the Earth for marmalade-making guidance.  For Floyd locals, Fruits of the Earth is available at the Country Store.  It's a gorgeous little book and every recipe I've made so far has been superb.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Mid-Winter Bring Your Own Toppings Pizza Party

Cabin fever tends to strike everywhere in January but thanks to early and unseasonal cold and snows in December it seems to be hitting Floydians especially hard this year.  Last Sunday in an attempt to drive off some of that winter depression and celebrate my birthday we held a Mid-Winter Bring Your Own Toppings Pizza Party.  The premise was we would supply crusts, sauces and cheeses, and salad, and our guests would bring their favorite toppings to personalize their pizzas.  The turn-out was huge with some guests driving in from 30 miles away, braving the dark, deer, and potentially slippery roads.  This was definitely the largest gathering we've had in our home to date and gave us a good idea of the maximum capacity our house will hold and still be comfortable for socializing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Fly South, Swim Upstream, Jump Off Cliff, Organize Pantry

What is it about this time of year?  Cooks and preservers everywhere get this spontaneous, irresistible urge to organize their pantries.  Is it genetic? Something similar in our code to that which makes birds fly south, salmon swim upstream, and lemmings jump off cliffs?  Is it the Universal Subconscious linking us all together?  Or is it just that by January we all tire of digging through cupboards, freezers, and under the bed for all those goodies we processed and squirreled away to feed us through the dark days?  Whatever it is that motivates us, it seems like everybody is in the midst of organizing their pantries this month.

I envy people that have official walk-in pantries.  Small and not-so-small rooms that house spacious built in shelves and racks, chest freezers, and refrigerators, with properly controlled temperature and humidity for optimum food storage.  I lust for a real root cellar.  Hell, at this point I'd be grateful for a large closet.  Instead I run around the house with a thermometer looking for places to stash squash, sweet potatoes and apples that most closely resemble the storage requirements of those items.  Did you chuckle when I said under the bed?  That's where the sweet potatoes reside.

2011 Spice Rack Challenge: January/Rosemary

Fellow blogger and ChowHound poster Cynthia who writes Mother's Kitchen invited me to join the 2011 Spice Rack Challenge.  Confronted by her collection of herbs and spices, Cynthia realized she used her favorites regularly but had a lot of other flavors languishing on her shelves.  She decided she needed some inspiration and wanted others to join her.  I admit to having the same problem.  I've got three revolving spice racks that hold sixteen jars each on my counter and two baskets in the cupboard that hold another mumble,mumble number of jars, bags, and boxes of herbs and spices.  Time to use 'em or lose 'em!

January Challenge: Rosemary

I like rosemary.  I have a good sized patch of it in my herb garden and it's been a requirement in gardens wherever I've lived.  In Pennsylvania and New York it grew well forming nice little hedges that grew about shin-high.  In North Carolina I found out how it really grows: wall-out-the-neighbors waist high bushes!  No matter how severely I cut it, it came back strong and beautiful.  I would whack off great bunches of it to throw in the grill to smoke meat.

Here in Virginia the rosemary grows in those shin high hedges again and, to tell the truth, I'm somewhat relieved.  No more gallon jars of dried herb piling up unused.  But I was lax this year and didn't dry or freeze any.  I sure didn't want to buy fresh from the store so I wandered out to take a look at mine after it had been through December's snows and record cold expecting to see forlorn plants.  But to my surprise this is what I found:
A little bronzed and wind blown, but still sticky and pungent.  Now all I had to decide was what to do with it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Bottle of Red, Bottle of White

During a hiatus from Floyd we lived in the Finger Lakes area of New York state, New York's answer to the Napa Valley for proliferation of wineries.  Floyd is also surrounded by wineries and in both places I enjoy exploring the local vintages.  However, Michael and I are not big wine drinkers, usually consuming only a glass or two out of a bottle with an occasional meal.  I use wine in cooking but that wouldn't use up the rest of a bottle very fast.

I like using wine vinegars to make herbal and fruit flavored vinegars and while I could get red wine vinegar by the gallon, finding bulk white wine vinegar was more difficult.  The small bottles in the store were prohibitively expensive to buy for the amount I wanted to work with and I couldn't seem to get a restaurant friend to understand that I wanted to buy an entire case of 4 gallons if he would order it for me (he insisted on giving me a gallon of red).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Easy-Peasy Bread. Really.

Really good, honest bread made with really good, honest ingredients gives me sticker shock.  $5.00/loaf from the local artisan bakers.  Good bread of a slightly lesser lineage from the grocery store, $4.00/loaf.  Ouch!  I can buy 5 pounds of premium flour for $5.00 and a 1 pound bag of yeast for $5.00 that will last me a year stored in the freezer.  That's a lot of loaves of bread for the equivalent of two loaves from the baker!