April 29, 2012

Tequila ~ Key Lime Tarts with Tequila Caviar

Tequila~Key Lime Tarts with Tequila Caviar
This recipe is for the more advanced chef and combines two of my favorite things; Tequila as an ingredient and a bit of  Molecular Gastronomy as a method that you can do at home. You can simply make the Tarts and leave it at that, but for you more adventurous chefs, I've included the recipe for the Tequila Caviar as well. Good Luck!

Graham Crust
1 lb. graham cracker crumbs
8 oz sugar
4 oz pastry flour
8 oz melted butter
Sugar dough
2 lb butter
12 oz sugar
1/4 oz salt
9 oz eggs
3 lb pastry flour

Graham crust: Mix well and set aside.
Sugar dough: Mix the butter, sugar and salt at low speed, add eggs, flour and mix just until evenly blended. Chill for a few hours before using.

14 oz sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
3 oz key lime juice
1 oz tequila
Mix well and refrigerate

To Assemble
First, decide if you are going to use a sugar dough base or a graham base. If you choose sugar dough you will need to roll out the dough after it has chilled and form it in to your tart pan or pie pan. If you opt for graham, form the graham into the mold by simply pressing it in. Both shells need to be par baked for 12-15 minutes. While the tarts are baking prepare the filling. Fill the molds with key lime filling and bake for about 15 minutes or until filling is set. Let cool and remove from pan. Decorate and serve.

For you adventurous chefs, here is how to make the Tequila Caviar.

Tequila Caviar

3 oz simple syrup
3 oz key lime juice
3 oz tequila
.8% agar agar
.2 % locust bean gum
Frozen vegetable oil

One day prior to assembly put oil in the freezer. The day you are making the caviar, remove the oil from freezer 1 hour before using. Allow the oil to defrost, but keep it cold. Mix juice, tequila, agar agar and locust bean gum using a hand held mixer for about 1 minute. Let mix sit for a few hours to allow some of the bubbles to disappear. Bring caviar mix to a boil and strain.

When the caviar mix is ready, it needs to be warm and the oil needs to be cold. Pour the hot mix into a piping bag. Cut a very tiny hole in the bag, so small that you have to squeeze a bit to get the drips out. Above the oil, start squeezing out the mix in small drops using a circular motion. You can adjust the size of the caviar by adjusting your height above the oil. Further away makes smaller balls, closer makes larger balls. The caviar will sink to the bottom of the bowl as the mix gets warmer. Once the mix is done,  strain the oil and the caviar will remain in the sieve. Delicately rinse the caviar in cold water and use as decoration.

I hope you the recipe for the Caviar for yourselves and don't worry if your first attempt doesn't come out quite right. It took me three tries to get the Caviar method down, so don't be discouraged. As with everything, practice make perfect and remember; the plating here was done specifically for presentation and publishing purposes. Just get creative with your plating and enjoy the wonderful flavors that will wow your friends and family.

Bon Appetit


April 27, 2012

The At Home Cook Series Installment #6: Cooking with Umami... The Fifth Flavor

Welcome to the sixth installment of my At Home Cook Series. In  the first five installments, we delved into the basics of being in the kitchen with proper techniques. So far we have covered, Mise en Place, Knife Skills, Searing and Sauteing and Mother Sauces and Grilling Perfect Steaks.

Today is all about taste and what's known as "The Fifth Flavor," Umami. Huh, you say? You've heard of Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter, but….Umami? While many of you may not be familiar with the phrase, but accomplished chefs around the world, more and more, make Umami the focus of their cuisine. Many specialists now understand that taste is actually more complicated, with the taste buds being helped along by sense of smell, by the feel of substances in the mouth and even by the noise that food makes when we chew it. This newly found taste for a while was almost unexplainable and a bit of a mystery. But in the early 1900s, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo
Dr. Kikunae Ikeda
Imperial University, identified this taste when studying the flavors in seaweed broth. Ikeda isolated monosodium glutamate as the chemical responsible and with the help of the Ajinomoto company, began commercial distribution of MSG products.

Photo: Mimi Oka and Doug Fitch
So what is it, and how do I cook with it? It is actually not a physical ingredient, but more of a natural occurring amino acid that gives off a pleasant savory taste. They are found in many meats, vegetables, seafood and dairy. The word Umami is a Japanese word which means tasty, delicious, or yummy. It has also been associated with other words including meaty, brothy and savory. Not everyone can differentiate the taste from the common four, but its popularity has become more widespread in recent years. For example, there is now a Umami Food and Art Festival in NY that is dedicated to educating culinary professionals and artists about this mysterious taste. Kikkoman’s Soy Sauce has begun an advertising campaign with top chefs from around the world using Umami as part of their slogan, to raise awareness of the uses of their soy sauce products to enhance the Umami experience.

For the professional chef, it is very important to create the full dining experience through the arousal of the senses. One of the largest contributors to that is taste and the foundation of taste relies on the combination of flavors and ultimate balance. There are a few rules to balancing tastes, most of which are emotional, and all of which involve complete awareness of the ingredients at hand. Ingredients are never constant, they are always changing. Today a tomato may have more water in it than it will tomorrow and the fresh basil just picked out of the garden may become a bit dull overnight. To fully balance a dish, we need to understand the tastes, temperatures and textures that go into it. Balancing hot and cold, or sweet and spicy, or acidic and salty all involve a great deal of knowledge and awareness. But all of this can be learned by the at home cook through practice and opening up your true senses.

Taste and flavor are commonly associated as one in the same, but there is a definite distinction between the two. It is said that taste is the sensation caused in the mouth by contact with a substance, while flavor is the mixed sensation of both smell and taste. To simplify this research, it would be safe to say that the formula of taste + smell = flavor. Umami as an ingredient, becomes a flavor enhancer, bringing depth to your food without covering any flavors or subtle tastes. It is found in more mature foods such as an older Parmesan cheese, aged wine, or soy sauce.

Umami rich foods are very satisfying and can actually be a healthier way to cook as well. They tend to make salt taste saltier, which means we can lower the amount of sodium in a dish when using Umami rich ingredients. It also creates a sensation that most chefs call "mouth feel," which is normally associated with the mouth sensation we get when we eat foods high in fat. Thus, we may lower the amount of fat in a dish, and let the richness of the Umami do the trick.

Here is a starter list of a few ingredients that are very Umami rich, and would lend a great deal of taste and flavor to any home cooked meal.

 Seafood: fish sauce, anchovies, kombu, nori, dried bonito flakes, makeral, seabream, tuna, cod, prawns, squid, oysters, shellfish.


Meat: beef, pork and chicken.

 Vegetables: dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms, corn, truffles, soy beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Chinese cabbage, carrots and tomatoes.

Other Foods: Parmesan cheese and Green Tea.

In conclusion, the ability to experience this so called,  fifth taste, is totally dependent on one’s self awareness. Umami is a very powerful taste and one that I'm sure will be researched and analyzed for years to come and I encourage you to do your own experiments and research. My friends, even though we were all taught otherwise, since the time when we were children, it is time to put aside your mom's admonitions. The only way to become a better cook and be more aware is to play with your food, so get to the store, buy some Umami rich ingredients and start playing and cooking for yourselves!

Bon Appetit!

Sources: www.barmixmaster.com , www.glutamate.org , www.stratfordbar.com , www.burtfamilybutchers.co.uk

April 26, 2012

Ice Wines; A Comprehensive Look...

I adore dessert wines. I don't know where this love came from but as of late, I can't get my fill. Having gone through ports, muscats, and then lingering for a bit on a personal favorite of mine, Vin Santo Chianti Classico Reserva, I have now discovered ice wines. Though some of you wine connoisseurs may be familiar with these wonderful dessert aperitifs, more and more occasional wine enthusiasts are now discovering these exceptional wines.

Ice wine, or Eiswein, originated in Franconia, Germany in 1794. Grapes were left on the vines until the first deep frost, and the freeze/thaw cycles that occurred concentrated both the sugars and flavors of the grapes. The process was refined and now ice wines are highly prized produced in Germany, Austria and Canada. The Niagara region of Ontario, Canada is currently the most widely respected producer of ice wines in the world.

Franconia, Germany
Ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes which results in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. With ice wines, the freezing happens before the fermentation, not afterwards. Unlike the grapes from which other dessert wines, such as Sauternes, Tokaji, or Trockenbeerenauslese, are made, ice wine grapes should not be affected by Botrytis cinerea or noble rot, at least not to any great degree. Only healthy grapes keep in good shape until the opportunity arises for an ice wine harvest, which in extreme cases can occur after the New Year, on a northern hemisphere calendar. This gives ice wine its characteristic refreshing sweetness balanced by high acidity. When the grapes are free of Botrytis, they are said to come in "clean." Due to the labor-intense and risky production process resulting in relatively small amounts of wine, ice wines are generally quite expensive. This chart shows how sugar varies with the temperature:

Temperature ~ Sugar Content
  • -6°C     29%
  • -7°C     33%
  • -8°C     36%
  • -9°C     39%
  • -10°C    43%
  • -11°C    46%
  • -12°C    49%
  • -13°C    52%
  • -14°C    56%
As in all harvests, the exact moment of harvest is extremely important for ice wine. Ideally, the temperature should get to -10°C to -13°C before picking. By waiting till this perfect moment, the grape achieves the optimum level of sugar and flavor. They are then carefully picked by hand. Grapes in this condition have a very low yield; often an entire vine only makes a single bottle and this is typically why ice wine can be so expensive, often sold in half-bottles only.

Ice wine is typically made of Vidal and Riesling grapes. After this long harvest process, the grapes go through weeks of fermentation, followed by a few months of barrel aging. The wine ends up a golden color, or a deep, rich amber and has a very sweet taste. The flavor is a combination of apricot, peach, mango, melon or other sweet fruits with a nutty aroma. It is usually enjoyed as a dessert wine, chilled for one or two hours and served in small cordial glasses.

Ice Wine History
There are indications that frozen grapes were used to make wine as early as Roman times. Pliny the Elder (AD 23 - 79) wrote about certain grape varieties that they were not harvested before frost had occurred. The poet Martial (AD 40 - 102) recommended that grapes should be left on the vine until November or until they were stiff with frost.

Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Details as to the wine-making and description of these wines are unknown. It can not be completely ruled out that the descriptions refer to dried grape wines, a common style of wine in Roman times, where the raisin-like grapes were harvested late enough for the first frost to have fallen. In either case, the method seems later to have been forgotten.

It is believed that the first post-Roman ice wine was made in Franconia in Germany in 1794. Better documentation exists for an ice wine harvest in Dromersheim close to Bingen in Rheinhessen on February 11, 1830. The grapes were of the 1829 vintage. That winter was harsh and some wine-growers had the idea to leave grapes hanging on the vine for use as animal fodder. When it was noticed that these grapes yielded very sweet must, they were pressed and an ice wine was produced. It should be noted that sweet wines produced from late harvested grapes were well-established as the most valued German wine style by the early 19th century, following the discovery of Spätlese at Schloss Johannisberg in Rheingau in 1775, and the subsequent introduction of the Auslese designation. These wines would usually be produced from grapes affected by noble rot. Thus, Eiswein is a more recent German wine style than the botrytised wines.

Schloss Johannisberg
Throughout the 19th century and until 1960, Eiswein harvests were a rare occurrence in Germany. Only six 19th century vintages with Eiswein harvests have been documented, including 1858, the first Eiswein at Schloss Johannisberg. There seems to have been little effort to systematically produce these wines during this period, and their production was probably the rare result of freak weather conditions. It was the invention of the pneumatic bladder press which made the production of ice wine practical and led to a substantial increase in the frequency and Schloss Johannisberg quantities of production. 1961 saw the production of a number of German ice wines and the wine increased in popularity in the following years. The production has also been assisted by other technological inventions in the form of electrical lighting driven by portable generators (to assist harvest in the cold hours of morning darkness, before the grapes thaw) and plastic films that are used for "packaging" the vines in order to protect the ripe grapes from being eaten by birds while the wine-grower waits for frost.

Karl Kaiser
The pioneer status of the winery Inniskillin in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario led to their first ice wine, produced in 1984 under the direction of the winery's Austrian-born co-owner Karl Kaiser, often being mentioned as Canada's first ice wine. However, ice wine was produced in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia by German immigrant Walter Hainle in 1972. This ice wine was the result of an early and unexpected frost and yielded 40 litres of wine, which Hainle originally did not intend to sell, although he did so in 1978. In 1983, Karl Kaiser and Inniskillin's German neighbor Ewald Reif, as well as two wineries with Austrian winemakers located in another part of Ontario, Hillebrand and Pelee Island, all left grapes on their vines in order to try to produce ice wine. Inniskillin and Reif lost their entire crop to hungry birds, while Hillebrand and Pelee Island were able to harvest a minuscule amount of frozen grapes. In 1984, Kaiser used nets to protect his vines and was able to produce Inniskillin's first ice wine. This wine was made from Vidal grapes and was in fact labelled "Eiswein".

After the ice wine production was set on commercial footing, Canadian ice wine quickly became popular with domestic consumers and reviewers and many other Canadian producers picked up the idea, since the harsh Canadian winters lend themselves well to the large-scale production. The international breakthrough of Canadian ice wine came in 1991, when Inniskillin's 1989 Vidal ice wine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo. The Canadian trend towards increased cultivation of Vitis vinifera (European) grape varieties in the 1990s expanded the palette of varieties available to be bitten by frost. By the early 2000s, Canada was established as the largest producer of ice wine in the world.

In Germany in the early 2000s, good ice wine vintages have been more rare than throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Many wine-growers cite climate change as a cause and this received support from a study by the Geisenheim Institute.

Ice Wine Grapes
Typical grapes used for ice wine production are Riesling, considered to be the most noble variety by German winemakers; Vidal, highly popular in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada; and, interestingly, the red grape Cabernet Franc. Many vintners, especially from the New World, are experimenting with making ice wine from other varieties: whites such as Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Kerner, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and Ehrenfelser; or reds such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, and even Cabernet Sauvignon. Pillitteri Estates Winery from the Niagara-on-the-Lake region of Ontario claim to be the first winery in the world producing Shiraz (Syrah) ice wine with the 2004 vintage. Ice wines from white varieties tend to be pale
yellow or light gold in color when they are young and can maderise (acquiring a deep amber-golden color) as they age. The red varieties tend to have a light burgundy or even pink color like that of rosé wines.Some vintners in Canada have taken a step forward in experimenting with sparkling ice wine. Sparkling ice wines have texture similar to other sparkling wines, such as champagne or Asti, but with fuller body, and a significantly higher sugar level balanced with high acidity.

Ice Wine Production
Natural ice wines require a hard freeze (by law in Canada 17 °F or colder, and in Germany 19 °F or colder), to occur sometime after the grapes are ripe, which means that the grapes may hang on the vine for several months following the normal harvest. If a freeze does not come quickly enough, the grapes may rot and the crop will be lost. If the freeze is too severe, no juice can be extracted. Vineland Winery in Ontario once broke their pneumatic press in the 1990s while pressing the frozen grapes because they were too hard. The longer the harvest is delayed, the more fruit will be lost to wild animals and dropped fruit. Since the fruit must be pressed while it is still frozen, pickers often must work at night or very early in the morning, harvesting thegrapes within a few hours, while cellar workers must work in unheated spaces.

In Austria, Germany, and Canada, the grapes must freeze naturally to be called ice wine. In other countries, some winemakers use cryoextraction (that is, mechanical freezing) to simulate the effect of a frost and typically do not leave the grapes to hang for extended periods as is done with natural ice wines. These non-traditional ice wines are sometimes referred to as "icebox wines". An example is Bonny Doon's Vin de Glacière. The high sugar level in the must leads to a slower-than-normal fermentation. It may take months to complete the fermentation (compared to days or weeks for regular wines) and special strains of yeasts should be used.

My Selections
Egon Muller, Riesling, Eiswein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Scharzhofberger, 1996:  Deep golden colored, this full bodied Eiswine has a nearly ideal combination between hyper-sweetness and refreshing acidity, along with lemon-lime, citrus peel and minerals. A long spicy finish that cannot help but enchant. One meant for early drinking or medium term cellaring, the wine should cellar comfortably until 2020.  

Krebs-Grode, Eiswein, Auxerrois, Eiswein Rheinhessen, 1998:  Medium bodied, with abundant spices on a deliciously sweet background of pineapples, lime and apricots and with generous hints of sweet cream and minerals, this superbly balanced and remarkably elegant wine has flavors that linger seemingly without end. Best drinking now - 2012.


Inniskillin, Ice Wine, 2001:  Traditional ice wine, easily comparable to the best of Germany, this deeply sweet, but remarkably well balanced and elegant wine almost attacks you with luxurious flavors of peaches, lychees, pears in the way of fruits and then honey, cinnamon and candied fruits on the long finish. Full bodied, with just the right amount of natural acidity, the wine is drinking nicely even now.

Inniskillin, Ice Wine, Vidal, 1999:  This full bodied, bronzed orange wine is showing smooth and rich with honey and apple sweetness, together with aromas and flavors of dried apricots, yellow peaches and mangoes, Which overlay comfortably by light cinnamon-ginger flavors. Long and mouth-filling, the wine is drinking beautifully now and promises to cellar well until 2010 - 2012.

Columbia Crest, Semillon Ice Wine, Reserve, 1998: Full bodied, with intense honeyed sweetness and with delicious fig and summer fruits matched nicely by mocha and spiced roasted nut flavors and aromas. Excellent balance between fruits, sweetness and acidity and a very long finish add enormously to the charm of the wine. Drink 2002 - 2012 or longer.

Even though it is normal for residual sugar content in ice wine to run from 180 g/L up to as high as 320 g/L, ice wine is very refreshing (as opposed to cloying) due to high acidity. Ice wine usually has a medium to full body, with a long lingering finish. The nose is usually reminiscent of peach, pear, dried apricot, honey, citrus, figs, caramel, green apple, etc., depending on the varietal. The aroma of tropical and exotic fruits such as pineapple, mango, or lychee is quite common, especially on white varietals.

Ice wine usually has a slightly lower alcohol content than regular table wine with some  Riesling ice wines from Germany having an alcohol content as low as 6%. Ice wines produced in Canada usually have higher alcohol content, between eight and 13 percent. In most years, ice wines from Canada generally have higher brix degree (must weight) compared to those from Germany. This is largely due to the more consistent winters in Canada. Must with insufficient brix level cannot be made into ice wine, and is thus often sold as "special select late harvest" or "select late harvest" at a fraction of the price that true ice wine commands.

Connoisseurs argue about whether ice wine improves with age or is meant to be drunk young. Those who support aging claim that ice wine's very high sugar level (which is often much higher than that of Sauternes) and high acidity preserve the content for many years after bottling. Those who disagree contend that as ice wine ages, it loses its distinctive acidity, fruitiness, aroma, and freshness.

Since I'm just a simple lover of ice wines, I'll concentrate on the drinking and leave the arguing to the so called 'experts.' What I am hopeful of is that once you try a quality ice wine, especially if it's after reading this article,  you raise a toast to me.

Bon Appetit!


edenwine.co.uk, longviewwinery.com, trentobike.org, spicetrader.net, Wolfgang Shultz, inniskillin, gvstudios.com, wineandpassionaccessories.com, lancette-arts.journal.ca, cookinglight.com, wikipedia.org

April 24, 2012

Oranges....Vitamin C to go, whether in your pocket, purse or Porsche.

I love oranges...the smell, the taste, the packaging. For those that question Nature's marketing prowess,' I'd suggest thinking again. Perfectly healthy, nice color, great taste and completely portable. Vitamin C to go if you will. What more could you ask for? It comes in a little self enclosed carrying case that you can take anywhere, whether in your pocket, purse or Porsche. When recently introduced to a variety I had never heard of before, Calamondin, I was forced to ask myself, "What do I really know about oranges?" I know, I know, only a 'foodie' would even entertain such a thought, let alone act on it, but that's why you count on me... to ask the important questions!

Let's take a look at the orange in all its juicy goodness...

Origins of the orange... (like the wordplay there?)
It is still not universally agreed to be a distinct species, C. sinensis Osbeck, but it is usually treated as though it were. One of its first recorded regional names was the Persian narang, from which were derived the Spanish name, naranja, and the Portuguese, laranja. In some Caribbean and Latin American areas, the fruit is called naranja de China, China dulce, or simply China (pronounced cheena).

Most would be surprised that the orange we know today is not a natural, wild species, at least I know I was. It is assumed to have come from southern China, northeastern India, and perhaps southeastern Asia (formerly Indochina). In my research, I discovered that there is no one answer to, "Where do oranges come from?" Italians, ever the usurpers and perfectors of all things 'orient' are supposed to have brought it back to the Mediterranean after 1450, but history tells us it could also have been the Portuguese navigators around 1500. At that time period of history, all citrus fruits were valued by Europeans mainly for medicinal purposes, but the orange was quickly adopted as a luscious fruit and wealthy persons grew it in private conservatories, called orangeries. By 1646 it had been much publicized and was well known.
It's a common belief that the Spaniards most probably were responsible for the introduction of the sweet orange into South America and Mexico in the mid 1500s, and the French brought it to Louisiana. It was from New Orleans that seeds were obtained and distributed in Florida about 1872 and many orange groves were established by grafting the sweet orange onto sour orange root-stocks. Arizona received the orange tree with the founding of missions between 1707 and 1710. The orange was brought to San Diego, California, by those who built the first mission there in 1769. An orchard was planted at the San Gabriel Mission around 1804 and a commercial orchard was established in 1841 on a site that is now a part of Los Angeles. In 1781, a surgeon and naturalist on the ship Discovery, collected orange seeds in South Africa, grew seedlings on board and presented them to tribal chiefs in the Hawaiian Islands on arrival in 1792.

How popular are oranges? Well, the fact that the orange has become the most commonly grown fruit tree in the world might be some indication. It is an important crop in the Far East, the Union of South Africa, Australia, throughout the Mediterranean area, and subtropical areas of South America and the Caribbean. The United States leads in world production, with Florida, alone, having an annual yield of more than 200 million boxes. California, Texas and Arizona follow in that order, with much lower production in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Orange Varieties

The Washington Navel
(Formerly known as Bahia) originated, perhaps as a mutant in Bahia, Brazil, before 1820. It was introduced into Florida in 1835 and several other times prior to 1870. In 1873, budded trees reached California where the fruit matures at the Christmas season. Ease of peeling and separation of segments makes this the most popular orange in the world.

A non-navel seedling raised in 1914-1915 at the Citrus Experiment Station in California and released in 1935, is milder in flavor and has fewer seeds, but may be earlier in season, and it has been considered promising in hot, dry regions unsuitable for the Washington Navel. There are several other named variations such as Robertson Navel, Summer Navel, Texas Navel, and the externally attractive Thompson Navel which was grown in California for a time but dropped because of its poor quality.

Valencia or Valencia Late
This orange is the most important cultivar in California, Texas and South Africa. It has been the leader in Florida until recently. In 1984, 40% of the oranges being planted in Florida were Valencia, 60% were Hamlin. The Valencia may have originated in China and it was presumably taken to Europe by Portuguese or Spanish voyagers. The well-known English nurseryman, Thomas Rivers, supplied plants from the Azores to Florida in 1870 and to California in 1876.

Lue Gim Gong
This variety was claimed to be a hybrid of Valencia and Mediterranean Sweet made by a Chinese grower in 1886. Lue Gim Gong was awarded the Wilder Silver Medal by the American Pomological Society in 1911 but, later on, his hybrid was judged to be a nucellar seedling of Valencia. Propagated and distributed by Glen St. Mary Nurseries in 1912, this cultivar closely resembles Valencia, matures and is marketed with its parent without distinction. It is best cited as the Lue Gim Gong Strain of Valencia. Mediterranean Sweet was introduced into Florida from Europe in 1875, was briefly popular, but is no longer grown.

Note**Certain strains of Valencia are classed as summer oranges because the fruits can be left on the trees longer without dehydrating. One is known as Pope, Pope Summer, or Glen Summer. It was found in a grove of Pineapple oranges near Lakeland about 1916, was propagated in 1935, and trademarked in 1938. On sour orange or sweet orange root stocks in hammock soils, the fruit matures in April but is still in good condition on the tree in July and August.

Rhode Red Valencia
This orange variety was discovered in 1955 in a grove near Sebring, Florida, by Paul Rhode, Sr., of Winter Haven. Some budwood was put on sour orange stock which caused dwarfing and some on rough lemon which produced large, vigorous, productive trees. In 1974, five trees were accepted into the Citrus Budwood Registration Program but there was no budwood free of exocortis and xyloporosis viruses. The fruit equals Valencia insoluble solids, excels Valencia in volume of juice, is less acid, has slightly less ascorbic acid, but has a far more colorful juice due to its high content of cryptoxanthin, a precursor of vitamin A which remains nearly stable during processing.

Discovered in 1879 near Glenwood, Florida, in a grove later owned by A.G. Hamlin, is small, smooth, not highly colored, seedless and juicy but the juice is pale. The fruit is of poor-to-medium quality but the tree is high-yielding and cold-tolerant. The fruit is harvested from October to December and this cultivar is now the leading early orange in Florida. On pine-land and hammock soil it is budded on sour orange which gives a high solids content. On sand, it does best on rough lemon rootstock.

A selected Florida seedling named in 1877, is of rich orange color, of medium size, and excellent flavor, It was formerly one of the most valued midseason oranges in Florida but was too seedy to maintain that position. It is no longer planted except perhaps in Texas and Louisiana.

(Jaffa, Khalili, Khalili White) originated as a limb sport on a Beledi tree near Jaffa, Israel, in 1844; introduced into Florida about 1883; oval, medium-large; peel entirely orange when ripe; leathery, thick, easy to remove; pulp very juicy, of good quality. It constitutes 75% of the Lebanese and Israeli crops and is one of the 2 main cultivars in Syria, but it is no longer planted in the United States.

Parson Brown
This variety was discovered in a grove owned by Parson Brown in Wester, Florida and was purchased, propagated and distributed by J.L. Carney between 1870 and 1878. It is rough-skinned, with pale juice; moderately seedy; of low-to-medium quality. It was formerly popular in Florida because of its earliness and long season (October through December), but has been largely replaced by Hamlin. It is grown in Texas, Arizona and Louisiana but is not profitable in California where it matures at the same time as Washington Navel. It does not develop acceptable quality in the tropics.

A seedling found in a grove near Citra, Florida, it was propagated in 1876 or 1877 under the name of Hickory. It is pineapple-scented, smooth, highly colored, especially after cold spells; of rich, appealing flavor, and medium-seedy. It is the favorite midseason orange in Florida, its tendency to preharvest drop having been overcome by nutrition and spray programs. It is grown to some extent in Texas, rarely in California; succeeds on sour orange rootstock in low hammock land, on rough lemon in light sand. Seedless mutants of Pineapple have been produced by seed irradiation. This cultivar does fairly well in tropical climates though not as well as Valencia.

This is a seedling of unknown origin which was found in a grove near Bartow, Florida. Because it survived the freeze of 1894-95, it was propagated in 1900 under the name King which was later changed to Queen. It is much like Pineapple, has fewer seeds, higher soluble solids, persists on the tree better in dry spells; is high-yielding and somewhat more cold-tolerant than Pineapple.

Blood Oranges
These are commonly cultivated in the Mediterranean area, especially in Italy (Sicilian Blood Oranges are prized the world over), and also in Pakistan. They are grown very little in Florida where the red coloration rarely develops except during periods of cold weather. In California they are grown only as novelties. Among the well-known cultivars in this group are Egyptian, which tends to develop a small navel; Maltese, Ruby, and St. Michael.

Orange products
The orange, its oils and properties have long been cultivated into numerous products that we use in our everyday households. The following is a brief list of some.

Orange juice
Orange juice is one of the commodities traded on the New York Board of Trade. Brazil is the largest producer of orange juice in the world, followed by the United States. It is made by squeezing the fruit on a special instrument called a "juicer" or a "squeezer."

Orange oil
Essential oil is a by-product of the juice industry produced by pressing the peel. It is used as a flavoring of food and drink and for its fragrance in perfume and aromatherapy. Orange oil consists of about 90 percent d-Limonene, a solvent used in various household chemicals, such as to condition wooden furniture, and along with other citrus oils in grease removal and as a hand-cleansing agent. It is an efficient cleaning agent, which is environmentally friendly, and much less toxic than petroleum distillates. It also smells more pleasant than other cleaning agents.

Orange blossoms
The orange blossom is traditionally associated with good fortune, and was popular in bridal bouquets and head wreaths for weddings for some time. The petals of orange blossom can also be made into a delicately citrus-scented version of rosewater. Orange blossom water is a common part of Middle Eastern cuisine. The orange blossom gives its touristic nickname to the Costa del Azahar ("Orange-blossom coast"), the Valencia seaboard.

In Spain, fallen blossoms are dried and then used to make tea.

Orange blossom honey
Orange blossom honey, or actually citrus honey, is produced by putting beehives in the citrus groves during bloom; where the bee ollinates seeded citrus varieties. Orange blossom honey is highly prized, and tastes much like an orange.

Marmalade is a conserve usually made with bitter or sour oranges, which are too sour and astringent to eat raw. All parts of the orange are used to make marmalade: the pith and pips are separated, and typically placed in a muslin bag where they are boiled in the juice (and sliced peel) to extract their pectin, aiding the setting process.

Orange peel
Orange peel is used by gardeners as a slug repellent.

The unripe fruit called narthangai is commonly used in Southern Indian food, especially in Tamil cuisine. The unripe fruit is pickled by cutting it into spirals and stuffing it with salt. The pickle is usually consumed with thayir sadam (curd rice).

The whole package....
Such is the versatility of the orange, that virtually every part of this friut from seedlings, to flowers and blossoms to the bark of the tree is utilized in some way or another.

In addition to its food uses, orange peel oil is a prized scent in perfume and soaps. Because of its 90-95% limonene content, it has a lethal effect on houseflies, fleas and fireants. Its potential as an insecticide is under investigation. It is being used in engine cleaners and in waterless hand-cleaners in heavy machinery repair shops. It is commercially produced mainly in California and Florida, followed distantly by Italy, Israel, Jamaica, South Africa, Brazil and Greece, in that order. Terpenes extracted from the outer layer of the peel are important in resins and in formulating paints for ships. Australians have reported that a shipment of platypuses sent to the United States in the 1950s was fed mass-produced worms raised on orange peel.

Oil derived from orange and other citrus seeds is employed as a cooking oil and in soap and plastics. The high-protein seed residue is suitable for human food and an ingredient in cattlefeed, and the hulls enter into fertilizer mixtures.

Flowers and foliage
The essential oils distilled from orange flowers and foliage are important in perfume manufacturing. Some Petitgrain oil is distilled from the leaves, flowers, twigs, and small, whole, unripe fruits.

The nectar flow is more abundant than that from any other source in the United States and is actually a nuisance to grove workers in California, more moderate in Florida. It is eagerly sought by honeybees and the delicious, light-colored honey is widely favored, though it darkens and granulates within a few months. Citrus honey constitutes 25% of all honey produced in California each year. There are efforts to time pest-control spraying to avoid adverse effects on honeybees during the period of nectar-gathering.

The wood is yellowish, close-grained and hard but prone to attack by drywood termites. It has been valued for furniture, cabinetwork, turnery and engraver's blocks. Branches are fashioned into walking-sticks. Orange wood is the source of orange sticks used by manicurists to push back the cuticle.

Medicinal Uses
Oranges are eaten to allay fever and catarrh. The roasted pulp is prepared as a poultice for skin diseases. The fresh peel is rubbed on acne. In the mid-1950s, the health benefits of eating peeled, whole oranges was much publicized because of its protopectin, bioflavonoids and inositol (related to vitamin B). The orange contains a significant amount of the vitamin-like glucoside, hesperidin, 75-80% of it in the albedo, rag and pulp. This principle, also rutin, and other bioflavonoids were for a while much advocated for treating capillary fragility, hemorrhages and other physiological problems, but they are no longer approved for such use in the United States.

Orange flower water, made in Italy and France as a cologne, is bitter and considered antispasmodic and sedative. A decoction of the dried leaves and flowers is given in Italy as an antispasmodic, cardiac sedative, antiemetic, digestive and remedy for flatulence. The inner bark, macerated and infused in wine, is taken as a tonic and carminative. A vinous decoction of husked orange seeds is prescribed for urinary ailments in China and the juice of fresh orange leaves or a decoction of the dried leaves may be taken as a carminative or emmenagogue or applied on sores and ulcers. An orange seed extract is given as a treatment for malaria in Ecuador but it is known to cause respiratory depression and a strong contraction of the spleen.

Well there you have it. Most of us simply go to the market, pick the items we want, take them home and enjoy our little delights without ever giving a second thought as to the origin of what it is we put in our bodies. We like the taste, the look, or the feeling it gives us. (That last part is really about my addiction to chocolate, but we'll leave that discussion for another feature and another day). I hope you learned a bit. I know I did.

Bon Appetit!


Sources: www.hort.purdue.edu, www.orange.com, www.ikipedia.org, www.budgetermite.com, www.static.howstuffworks.com www.affordablehomeandgardenstore.com, www.naturehills.com, www.ridgeislandgroves.com, www.justfoodnow.com, www.aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu,, www.cookinglight.com, www.mydish.co.uk., www.dpi.nsw.gov.au, www.aromatherapywellness.com

April 21, 2012

Rachael Ray's Late Night Bacon Recipe & Life's Other Gastronomic Conundrum Solved For You!

(Parody) If you are a regular reader of mine for any length of time, you know of my love for the awesome recipes coming out of foodnetwork's test kitchens. I am not usually one to write about them, but when this complex recipe from Rachael Ray was brought to my attention, I realized that there was a real need to bring to you my, readers, explanations of this as well as some of the other recipes you may be wanting to make, but are too intimidated to try.

First, with all due credit to the foodnetwork and Rachael Ray, I will reprint her awesome recipe here for your enjoyment along with my comments and a link to it on foodnetwork.com, in case you get a bit confused.

Rachael Ray's "Late Night Bacon" Recipe
see it here on foodnetwork's site to verify!

8 slices of bacon. (Now here's where it gets complicated; Can we substitute turkey bacon? Should it be center cut, thick cut, maple flavored? Is there any particular brand? So many questions left unanswered....)

Place 2 sheets of paper towel on a microwave safe plate. Lay the bacon out on the paper towel not overlapping the slices. Place 2 more sheets of paper towel on top. Place in the microwave on high for 4 to 6 minutes. Serve.
(Whoa... wait a minute, u can't just leave me hanging like this; I looked but couldn't find the place on my plate that told me if it was microwave safe. Should I call the manufacturer, or can I get that info from foodnetwork support? What kind of paper towels? Does the design on the paper towel matter? Can I substitute toilet paper for paper towels? What happens if I accidentally overlap the bacon and should I use a face mask to protect myself just in case? Lastly, can I only make this at night, or do I have to modify the recipe if I want to make this say.. in the morning...for breakfast?)
If you have any trouble with this, my email is always open to you. please be careful.

So now that we have covered bacon, the following is a recipe that I have toiled over in the GGM test kitchens, in order to make sure you can enjoy this gourmet delight at home. Feel free to improvise and substitute, but only if you've had some training and are if you are feeling very, very adventurous.

Lou's Bleached Flour Bread Slices w/Peanut Mash & Grape Gelee
(can be eaten anytime)

For the bread
2 slices White bread*
(*for the more advanced cook, you can substitute the white bread with bread that has little little bit's of grain and seeds, sometimes called whole grain)

For the Peanut Mash
(Store bought 'peanut butter' is a perfectly acceptable substitute and there is no need to feel guilty for making the recipe more convenient and easy. No one would blame you. Cooking from scratch is hard.)

For the Grape Gelee
(Again, store pre-prepared jelly is perfectly acceptable to use. It even comes in different flavors, such as orange, strawberry, etc., but don't get too adventurous here. Stick with jelly as most of your guests may not be ready for marmalade*)
*I'll cover marmalade in another post. It's too complicated to explain here.

Now here's where things get tricky, so pay attention. Carefully place one slice of the bread in the center of a plate. Leave one aside to finish presentation. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the peanut mash mixture onto the bread. I like to microwave my peanut mash prior to serving and actually pour it onto the bread instead of trying to spread it out in order to prevent the bread from balling or tearing and ruining the presentation. I am no Sandra Lee and am afraid to try spreading it without training. Carefully insert a teaspoon into the grape gelee or jelly and put some on the spoon. Now ever so gently, place atop the peanut mash and carefully spread til it covers all the mash. Next, carefully place the remaining white bread slice we set aside atop the gelee, being careful to line up all sides evenly. Serve with a glass of milk.

Should you have any questions feel free to email me and I'll walk you though it. Next week we'll cover a very intimidating topic; "How to make perfect Toaster Waffles.' But bring your A game and possibly have a friend assist you, to help avoid burns or serious injury. Enjoy.

As always, Bon Appetit!