Christmas time is approaching the inspiration to decorate is growing.
Looking at beautiful cakes and sweet I found I need almond paste to make my experiments. The almond paste from the shop near my house sells delicious almond paste which is perfect for baking but not really for modeling. New project: an almond paste deer!
The easiest and best solution was preparing this myself: no oil adding better only egg white as this will dry and my creations will keep their shape easily and it’s not sticky to our hands!
Recently I got a batch of fresh organic lemons from the garden of friends and I really could not resist trying the preparation of a refreshing marmalade.
I googled here and there to get enough knowledge in order to prepare something I knew everybody would love and something I could prepare as a gift for friends especially for my Christmas baskets.
My Greek lemons were quite huge, around 250-300 each, thick zest and not so many seeds. The smell was so intense and delicate at the same time that I had to try to preserve it in a jar for next months!
This recipe does not need additional pectin as the seed and the filaments are the source of the jelly. Well, as I supposed, my lemons did not have a lot seeds, so I needed to cook the marmalade a bit longer (not 20 minutes as “usually”), but it worked and the result is amazing. With 4 lemons I got 4 small jars of about 200 ml.
The quantity is easy: same amount in weight of lemons, water and sugar. Be aware that the amount of water will be reduced while cooking and I did not add more water.
You don’t need to use exactly 1000 g lemons and so on, adjust the quantities of water and sugar according the weight of the lemons.
Wash well your lemons and scrub to remove the impurities if any.
Place some metal spoon into the freezer for the jelly test.
Measure the weight of the lemons and place them into a pot with the same amount of water. Bring to boil.
Boil until you feel that the zest is soft. This takes about 30-40 minutes.
Remove the lemons from the water to cool down for about 15 minutes or until they are not too hot for you. Don’t discard the water. If necessary sieve the water and clean up the borders of the pot.
Halve the lemons with a knife and with a spoon out the flesh with the seed and give this over a sieve placed over a bowl. Remove also the stem and filaments; place them into the sieve as well.
Cut the zest into strips and slice it. Put the sliced zest back into the water as well as liquid dropped from the sieve and the sugar.
Bring slowly to boil, in the meantime work the remaining into the sieve with the back of the spoon in order to press out as much as possible. Place the leftovers into a small cheese cloth and hang it into the pot. Note: I used a stainless steel tea ball.
While boiling you will see that the zest will turn translucent and the liquid clearer. When you feel that the jelly begins to form, drop a few drops into a frozen spoon and you will see if turn hard enough: push your finger through the drops and you will see the marmalade’s surface will wrinkle if it is set. My lemon did not have a lot of seeds which are the source of pectin so I had to boil for about 40 minutes!
Fill your sterilized jars if possible with a jar funnel close them immediately and place them upside down on a safe working place. After 10 minutes invert them again and let them cool down completely to set.
Rinse and dry lemons; trim tips of stem ends, starting at blossom end, cut each lemon lengthwise in quarters to within 1/2 inch of stem end, leaving all 4 pieces attached if you have big jars; if not separate the quarters.
Distribute half the remaining sea salt onto the cut flesh.
Distribute the remaining salt on the bottom of the jars.
Pack the lemons in and add the bay leaf as well as the spices around the lemon pieces.
Top with the remaining sea salt and press down the lemon pieces to release some juice.
Fill the space with the lemon juice.
Cover and shake gently.
Store in chill and dark place (shake form time to time during the first week) for at least 6 weeks or up to 1 year.
Spoon sweet are very popular in Greece. Amalia gave me this recipe and explained me that to make this frigs preserve (Γλυκό του κουταλιού Σύκο) it’s necessary to pic the figs until they are still green and unripe at the beginning of May. Only in this way they will maintain their shape after cooking and will not turn mash. For a bright green color she suggested to use copper sulfate in the first water, I simply skipped this as the green color was not a priority for me.
10 cloves (optional), alternative lemon zest (to be removed before filling)
Wash and trim the stems of the figs.
Place them in a large pot, cover with the boiling water, bring to boil and let them sit for 15 minutes.
Drain and rinse with hot water. Clean the pot to remove the sticky latex.
Pour figs again into the pan, cover again with boiling water, boil for other 5-15 minutes and repeat 2-3 times until the figs begins to turn tender. At this point the figs will turn yellow brown unless you place 1/2 teaspoon copper sulfate (I don’t recommend this!) in the first boiling water (see step 2).
Drain the figs one last time and spread out on a big cutting board to dry and poke a hole in each fig with a thick nail.
Bring the sugar with 600 ml of water, lemon juice, vanilla and cloves slowly to boil, add figs and simmer at low heat for about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and let soak overnight.
Remove figs from syrup, place figs in jars and bring syrup to boil until thick.
Check the syrup before filling. Syrup test: drip a little boiling syrup onto a cold plate, if the drops do not spread, the syrup is ready (temperature 105°C/220°F). If the syrup did not pass the test, cook again (without figs) until the test is OK.
Pour boiling syrup over the figs in the jars, close immediately and place “head-down” to cool down. Alternative: fill figs with syrup into jars, seal and sterilize in boiling water for 30 minutes.
Store in a dark cool place for at least 2 month before enjoying them!
Our yellow and aromatic quinces are ready to be transformed into jelly and quince paste (in Spanish called dulce de membrillo).
It’s possible to combine both recipe and this works is really worth!
We got really have a lot of membrillo and I’m trying different ways to use it.
First of all the Spanish way: try it with cheese. We served this as side dish to raclette!
That’s not all, but I used it as rolls filling, as side to corned beef or small sweets (fiiling hot membrillo in toffe molds and coating with white chocolate).
I prepared juice (for the jelly) using a steam-juicer, but I will give you the instruction for “regular” pots as well.
1 lemon, juice only (for every 2 kg quinces)
Collection juice and pulp:
Wash, peel (optional) and core the quince reserving the cores and peels. For this step I slice the fruits tangentially (see photo) the quinces without cutting through the core as this very hard. Wrap firmly cores and peels (both have a high content of pectin) in cheesecloth forming a bag. If you don’t peel the quinces wrap only the cores.
To get the juice you can use the steam-juicer (according product instructions) or place the quinces in a pot add the cheesecloth bag and add water until almost covered. Drizzle with lemon juice.
Cook at low temperature until very soft (this takes about one hour depending on the quince variety).
Place a metal strainer over a pan and line with cheesecloth. Mash the pulp and ladle the pulp into the strainer and leave to drain for 3-4 hours or better overnight until all the juice has drained out.
With the steam-juicer I can simply switch off the heat and collect juice the day after. If you have a big quantity of quinces, you will have to collect from time to time the juice from the steamer and set it aside. Remove cheesecloth bag.
Now you have the juice for the jelly and the pulp for the quince paste/membrillo.
Procedure for the jelly:
Measure the amount of juice you have and add 500g of sugar for each 600 ml of juice.
Bring the juice and sugar to a boil. Stir the mixture constantly until the sugar is dissolved.
Skim the foam from time to time and reserve the foam for the membrillo.
Check if the jelly is ready: poor a half teaspoon of the juice onto a chilled (best from the freezer) plate. It is ready when it’s wrinkling when pushed with your finger.
Fill the jelly into sterilized jars using a ladle. The cooked jelly is very hot, so be careful as you lower it into the jars. Fill each one to about 1 cm below the rim. For this step I use a large funnel.
Turn the jars upside down for a few minutes and invert them again. This is my way to sterilize the jars, you can do it as you are used to do!
Allow them to cool completely. Sometimes the jelly jells as it cools, but sometimes it sets only during storage.
Procedure for the dulce de membrillo:
Measure the amount of pulp you have, place it in a big pot and add the same quantity of sugar. Add foam collected during the jelly preparation.
Cook at low heat stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook stirring frequently for about for about 1 ½ hours until it becomes very thick and reddish. Draw the wooden spoon along the bottom of the saucepan: it should leave a trail and the quince mixture will stick to the spoon. Remove from the heat and eventually use a blender to make it smoother.
If it is very dry and it sets immediately when you poor a half spoon on a chilled plate you can fill it in molds (wrapped with foil).
If it is not firm enough you can preheat the oven to 80°C, line a pan with parchment paper and lightly grease this with butter. Pour the paste into the prepared pan, smoothing the top and then cook for about 2-3 hours with the lid of the oven slightly open. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely.
Wrap the paste in fresh baking parchment, then over-wrap in foil and store in the fridge.