Archive for February, 2010

Oh the weather outside is frightful…

Posted in Fancy Food Show with tags on February 25, 2010 by massapeel

Soooo….  I have been neglectful of this blog.  I really did write some entries in the intervening weeks, I just never finished them, attached pictures, or posted.  And then there was the issue of my computer – more specifically Internet Explorer – mysteriously dying on me ($187 later:  either a virus or a Microsoft update that upset the balance and alignment of all systems…  if the latter, then I believe a lawsuit is in order!)  In any event, my sincere apologies for the delay, and here is the post that I wrote several weeks ago:

Well.  Given that here in Charlottesville, we are in the midst of Snowmegeddon, Snowpocalypse, Snowverkill, or whatever you want to call it, I have not been able to get to my jam-kitchen to do some cookin’.  Lots else has been accomplished – shoveling, the creation of a pretty incredible luge/skeleton run down the mountain and through the trees of our backyard, cleaning, more shoveling, carting kids to the doctor for ear infections, and, alas, more shoveling. 

So, what does one do when snowbound?  Other than shovel snow?  Drink some good wine!!!  And what if you don’t drink wine (or other alcoholic beverages, for that matter)???  Well, allow me to introduce you to a couple of interesting non-alcoholic options that I tasted during my recent trip to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

  1. Metromint Waters.

    Metromint waters

  2. Vignette Sodas.

Vignette sodas

First, Metromint (http://www.metromint.com/).  In retrospect, this seems to be an obvious beverage, but one which I have never seen, let alone tasted:  mint flavored waters.  Now, the market is inundated (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!) with flavored waters, but the majority of them are syrupy-sweet-fruit-flavored-water – if one can even call them water.  I am a traditionalist.  Give me plain water, or seltzer with essence of fruit – no sugar necessary.  So, I was intrigued by this minted water! 

refrigerator of minty goodness

According to the Metromint website, they use the pure essence of mint grown in Washington State’s Yakima Valley which, once extracted, is added to purified water, resulting in a truly refreshing beverage.  Not sweet at all, just purely refreshing and quenching…  I cannot imagine anything better on a hot summer’s day (although perhaps not the drink of choice in the Great Blizzard of 2010… unless using to make a minted hot cocoa).  

Metromint can be enjoyed in the following flavors: spearmint, peppermint, lemonmint, orangemint, chocolatemint and cherrymint.  True to my traditionalist form, I stuck to the basics – peppermint.  My mother, ever the chocolate fan, dared to try the chocolate mint.  Both were great.  Both were refreshing, clean and crisp.  Neither left a syrupy coating in our mouths, just minty delicious water.

On to Vignette (http://www.winecountrysoda.com).  This is a carbonated non-alcoholic beverage that is made from the juice of California varietal wine grapes and bottled like a soda.  Available flavors are chardonnay, pinot noir and rose, all of which are all-natural, caffeine free, contain 50% varietal juices, contain no added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, no added colors or preservatives.  Just 100% delicious.

When I was pregnant with my kids, I didn’t drink alcohol – not only because I didn’t want to affect my yet unborn kids

move over Fre - here's a better non-alcoholic "wine" drink

(although, truth be told, this was only a real concern in my first trimester – a belief supported by many OBs today, that a glass of wine here and there in moderation is fine) – but also because I frankly did not like the taste!  So, my mocktail of choice became fruit juices mixed in equal parts with seltzer…  basically a grown up soda…  think Fizzy Izzy…  Vignette Wine Country Sodas provide just the right mix of flavor to fizz, and is packaged in a classy, mature manner….  Grape Nehi for the adult palate.

it’s a lemon… it’s a tangerine… it’s a meyer lemon!!!

Posted in marmalades with tags , , , , , , on February 7, 2010 by massapeel

Buckle up folks, here goes my first attempt at a post about my actual purpose:  jam-making.  I do so love rambling on about food finds, but the objective of the blog was to document my efforts at making jam and taking it to market.  So, onward! 

juicy Meyer lemons

Wednesday evening saw me in the throes of a new kind of jam session  (technically marmalade, but that just doesn’t sound right – “marmalade session”)!  We’ve been at this now for several months, but seeing as this was to be my first jam-making-related post, I decided to try a new concoction from scratch:  lemon marmalade.  However, when I went to stock up on ingredients, I found not only lemons, but Meyer lemons….  hmmmm…..  I was not exactly sure what a Meyer lemon was, but something told me that it was a shi-shi version of the standard lemon, which fit the profile of Mass A’Peel perfectly.  Thus, I opted for the Meyer lemon! 

What IS a Meyer lemon, you ask?  It is generally thought to be an asian citrus fruit that is essentially a marriage of a lemon and a tangerine:  you have the tart lemon flavor accented by the fresh, sweet, aromatic zest reminiscent of a tangerine.  In appearance, the Meyer lemon looks much more like an orange than a lemon — but boy what a shock to the uninitiated palate!!!  while looking and smelling more orange/tangerine-like, the taste is definitively that of a lemon.  As my husband would say, it’ll make your pucker schmucker! 

the uncut version

The Meyer lemon was named after a USDA “agricultural explorer” (his mission was to collect samples of “new” plant species for the US government) named Frank Meyer, who brought what is now known as the Meyer lemon plant back to the United States from China in 1908.  While present in the US for over 100 years now, the Meyer lemon had a rocky start…  The Meyer lemon varietal that was initially introduced to the US was an asymptomatic carrier of a virus that kills or renders all types of citrus trees useless for fruit production.  In order to preserve the citrus industry as a whole, Meyer lemon trees were destroyed.  It was not until the 1970s that a new strain of the Meyer lemon tree was approved for use, thereby essentially re-introducing the Meyer lemon tree to the general population.  Not long thereafter, the Meyer lemon obtained more wide-spread recognition with the rise of “celebrity chefs” and their documented use of the fruit. 

ready to can

Back to the jam-session…  I cut, sliced and seeded, and yes, the Meyer lemons are amazingly fresh and fragrant!  I added some yummy side-notes — ginger, mint and lemongrass — and began to cook.  Now, for those of you who have never made jam, jelly, preserves, conserves, marmalade, etc…  there is a definite science to the process!!!  How hot to get the concoction?  How long to cook?  When to add sugar?  To pectin or not to pectin?  And if using, when?  I am a good cook, who is still learning all of this science (come on — this should come as no surprise!!!  I went to a liberal-arts college followed by law school…  not a lot of math or science going on there!).  And, to top it off, I forgot my thermometer.  I guesstimated on the times, was nervous that I was cooking the marmalade too hot, too long (this can cause the marmalade to become grainy and/or too thick – more like a paste), feared that I added too little water, etc…  but in the end, the result was amazing!  Perfect.  I am headed out to buy more Meyer lemons.  

Now, if I could only come up with a name for it…  (“Lemon Tree Very Pretty” or “Oh I Wish I Were A Meyer Lemon Marmalade“) — the names of my marmalades are all based on songs…  puns, plays on words, etc…  and one may not get the flavor just from the name, but will need to read the subtext, a la Ben & Jerry’s.  I mean, who would EVER know that Chubby Hubby is malt-flavored ice cream with peanut butter swirl and chocolate covered pretzels???  So, if anyone in the Blogosphere has a campy, creative Meyer lemon name, let’s hear it! 

finished product