Last time I talked about my plans for the garden this year. Today I’m going to talk about some plans for projects I want to do in the kitchen.
Jams and Jellies
Jams and Jellies were a big part of last summer. I made extra batches of some favorite recipes, explored a few new flavor combinations, and iterated on some recipes that were good but could have been better. We have quite the large stockpile in our pantry now, mostly because I can make the stuff much more quickly than I can eat it. Even giving away a few jars to friends and family, we still have quite a large collection that we need to eat before I can be making huge quantities of new recipes.
New Recipe Ideas
I have an idea floating around in my head for a Pear-Orange jelly. We have lots of pears floating around, many of which were part of gift baskets and are quickly getting overripe.
“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time, if you’re trying to eat the pear fresh. When making jam or jelly, you’ve got a little bit more leeway.
In addition to pears, we’ve got a glut of citrus hanging around. Clementines and naval oranges are around, and are coming into season strong. I really believe that some fresh-squeezed juice (from the Clementines or the Navals) would pair great with the pears. I’ll skip the zest that I would normally use in an orange jelly, and maybe add a hint of cinnamon. It’s something that, by necessity, I may need to try and soon.
I also have in mind an Orange-Pomegranate jelly. I’ve actually been thinking about this for a long time, but haven’t been able to get good poms at my grocery store. I think I’m going to be using a different store in 2014 for this and a variety of other reasons, and the new one I’m going to has plenty of pomegranates. Expect to see a recipe like this sometime soon.
Repeat Recipe Ideas
There are a few things I’ve made in the past that were particularly big hits, and I’ll probably make again this year:
- Orange Jelly
- Tart Cherry Jam
- Apple Butter
Improved Recipe Ideas
I’ve made it my life’s mission to make the perfect cherry jam. Last year I had two that turned out really well: My 50/50 cherry jam and my tart cherry jam. Using lessons learned from these two, earlier recipes, and trying a few other combinations and added ingredients, I think I can do even better this year. Expect to see lots of cherries flying around like crazy.
- Different Ratios of Cherries: Last time I tried about 70/30 sweet to tart cherries. This was a decent blend. I may try other ratios, and (if I can find them) more varieties of cherries to add into the mix. If I can find a source for wild black cherries or bush cherries, I would be so happy.
- Different sweeteners: I’ve used regular, boring white sugar. I think alternate sweeteners (brown sugar, honey) would add some good background flavor tones that are worth exploring.
- Additives: Amaretto is a classic additive for cherry jam, and one I want to play with more. Vanilla also. A little bit of vanilla can go a long way and really make other ingredients pop out.
Expect to see lots of cherry-related madness when the delicious little bastards come into season.
Other Canning Recipes
I expect to make another big pot of French Onion Soup when the onion harvest comes in. It’s a great way to use up onions which are imperfect and won’t survive long-term storage. We’re looking to put up a big batch of chicken soup and maybe chicken broth. We’ve found a source of bone-in chicken at a price that makes this possible, but only if the prices stay low.
I’ve got a few more small test recipes I’d like to play with, before I attempt a bigger batch of anything. Here are some things I’d like to try this year, when the ingredients become available. If I time things right, I’ll be able to try a new recipe every 4-6 weeks, as things come into season.
- Metheglin: A metheglin is a mead seasoned with herbs and spices. I’ve seen at least one interesting recipe with orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg. I’d like to try that out, or something close to it. Both my current batches of Cherry Melomel have been racked to secondary, so I can start a metheglin by early February.
- Maple Sap Wine and Acerglyn: From the latin Acer, the genus name for Maple trees, acerglyn is mead made with fermented honey and maple syrup. Wine made just from maple syrup would be called “Maple Wine” or “Sap Wine”. I’m a big fan of real maple syrup, and think a recipe like this would be right up my alley.
- Orange Wine or Melomel: Oranges are in season, and I’ve been starting to see some good prices on them in the local grocery store. Warnings I see around suggest that the high acidity of oranges may be a problem for yeast, so a lower-acid CaraCara orange might work well here. Blood oranges, a personal favorite, may also be used alone or in a blend.
- Pear or Date Melomel: I keep a small tub of dried dates around for snacking. They can be a bit pricey, but it’s a flavor I really love. I’ve been trying to come up with a jam that would make good use of these tasty little morsels with no success. A Melomel is probably my best option. I suspect they’d go great with pear too, since I have a little bit of pear juice available.
- Tart Cherry Melomel: Tart cherries are in for June or July. I’d like to put together another cherry melomel with fresh picked tart cherries, using the knowledge I’ve gained from my previous batches.
- Peach Wine or Melomel: If I can get enough peaches, I’d love to make either a peach wine or a melomel with them. It will depend on whether I can find a way to juice the peaches without killing myself from over-effort. Maybe if I can find some peach juice or peach cider already pressed somewhere, I can start with that.
- Hard Apple Cider or Apple Wine: When apples and good cider start coming in, I’d like to make more batches of hard apple cider or apple wine.
I’ve only got two jugs for fermenting, and each batch seems to take up 6 weeks at an uncomfortable minimum: two weeks to ferment and a full month of secondary before I can start drinking it. The problem with this setup is that many recipes really need more than a month of conditioning to be in top shape. I’m looking to either increase the number of jugs I have available or start bottling some of my creations for long-term storage on a shelf somewhere. Depending on the recipes I want to try and the schedule I lay out for myself, maybe I need to do both. Having some recipes that could sit for two or three months of bulk conditioning before moving into bottles for a few more months would probably be ideal.
I’ve read throughout the internet that meads and maple-based wines in particular may need extra conditioning time, so I need to keep that in mind if I want to keep playing with meads and melomels in the future.
I have a bread maker that’s been sitting idle for a good long while. It’s time to bring it out of retirement and start making fresh bread regularly. If I am really brave, I’d like to try my hand at sourdough again. I’ve also been looking at some cheese recipes that I find interesting. Some types of cheese, like mozzarella, are both easy to make and are used quite frequently around here. Expect to see some of both these kinds of projects this year.