Archive for fruit

It all started with a kumquat…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 28, 2010 by massapeel


I need to take a break from the Fancy Food Faves…  this blog is totally all about food, and I have more stuff to share regarding the Fancy Food Show, however, that was not the purpose of starting this blog.  And by now, people may be wondering when I am going to get to that point…  So, without further ado, allow me to introduce myself…

I am a upper-30ish attorney (former corporate civil defense litigator, turned general counsel & compliance officer specializing in medical law) who has a passion for food.  I love to eat food.  I love to cook food.  I love to look at food, smell food.  The only thing I don’t do is grow food…  I have a self-diagnosed black thumb!  As my husband jokes, my family will be sitting at a meal, planning our next meal!  And, I don’t like just any food…  I like good food. 

This passion has existed as long as I can remember.  For example, I remember as a kid getting imported marinated artichoke hearts in my Easter basket — seriously.  I remember eating steamed artichokes when my 2 upper front teeth had fallen out, so every leaf that I scraped/ate had a strip of delicious earthy artichoke flesh left behind just waiting for my dad to finish off with some salty drawn butter.   Don’t get me wrong, I also remember the first time I had a Slurpee, and a Twinky, too (that should clue you in to the fact that those processed indulgences were so infrequent that actually DO I remember them).  But the lion’s share of food eaten in my family was freshly prepared, and relatively gourmet.

kumquat tree

So, having established that I love food, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I have always wanted to be involved in the food industry — some way, some how.  I had waitressed in my younger days, so I knew that I did not want to own a sit-down restaurant — way too consuming of nights and weekends (i.e., not conducive to having a family – my other passion).  So, that meant that I needed to make and sell food at retail.  However life takes over, time is consumed by existing obligations, children arrive on the scene, and needless to say, I never did anything to promote my food-related-aspirations.  Enter the kumquat.

It all started with a kumquat.  Really.  This past fall, my mother & partner in crime in this venture, commented to me that she had a potted kumquat tree that had produced fruit that she did not know what to do with.  Now, anyone who has ever had a kumquat knows that they are TART!!!  So, we decided to make marmalade out of it.  My dad is a marmalade fanatic, and this was going to be a Christmas present to him. 

We made the marmalade, and it turned out fabulously (Seville Orange, Apricot and Kumquat Marmalade).  For those

beneath the peel

of you marmalade afficianados out there, this was like true British marmalade in that it has a bite — it is bitter as well as sweet all rolled into one sticky yummy concoction.  And it was so seemingly simple, that we decided to make jam every week and eventually man a booth at the Charlottesville Farmer’s Market. 

The name:  “Mass A’Peel – jams with a twist”…  we decided that our schtick was the total embrace of citrus peel.  In other words, each of our products must have some citrus peel in it…  need not be a full out marmalade, per se, but they must have at a minimum some citrus zest.  Hence the name.  (by the way, I like puns!)

So, this blog will chronicle my mother’s and my adventures in making jam (and other food products) and in becoming entrepreneurs in the gourmet food industry, interspersed with general musings on food.  So, buckle up and enjoy this stream of consciousness culinary ride!


The “L List” – Day 2

Posted in Fancy Food Show with tags , , , , on January 21, 2010 by massapeel

Well, we’re back in Virginia after a full day of travel.  Dylan, my 7 month old, did fabulously on all 4 legs of travel (2 legs each way) — couldn’t have asked for a better traveller!  And, while slightly jet lagged, we’re sticking to our guns to get ourselves back on Eastern time (i.e., we all woke up at 7:30-8am this morning, despite the desire to snuggle down into the covers for several more hours!)  Didn’t help matters that the phenomenally gorgeous sunny & 65-degree weather left just as we returned, only to be replaced by the prospect of sleet. 

Anyhoo…  I am sure that you are all curious as to my second selection of cool and new (or new to me) finds from the Fancy Food Show.  Drumroll, please….. 

tasty little gems

Number 2.   Guesses, anyone???  Bueller?  

This is paneforte.  What is paneforte, you ask?  Well, panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, which some say resembles fruitcake.  I hate to even write those words, because “fruitcake” has such a negative association here in the States.  This delicacy is nothing like any fruitcake that I’ve ever had!  

So, here’s your history lesson for the day.  Paneforte  is hypothesized to have dated back to 13th century Sienna (Italy’s Tuscany region), based on documents which suggest that panforte was paid to the monks and nuns of a local monastery as a tax or tithe.  

Literally, panforte means “strong bread” which refers to the spicy flavour.  And, in fact, the original name of panforte was “panpepato” (peppered bread), due to the strong pepper used in the cake.  (I use the term “cake” loosely here…  really, depending on the recipe, it can range from a dense flourless cake to a paste – think quince paste that accompanies Manchego cheese).  And, in fact, because of its denseness and hearty ingredients, Crusaders are thought to have carried panforte with them on their quests, and used panforte in surviving sieges. 

California produced paneforte - secret family recipe

However, there are likely as many recipes for paneforte as there are shops selling the stuff!  The delicious concoction that I sampled at the Fancy Food Show was more in the vein of dense fruity paste as opposed to the spicy cake variety.  It was an apricot almond paneforte, made from an old family recipe by The Paneforte Company.  (The family producing it lives in California, so my romantic imagination envisions them hand-picking apricots and almonds from their local (if not personal) groves.  But, truth be told, I did not have the time to ask them that!)  

It was deliciously fresh, and simple – perfect blending of the apricot paste — not sticky, not hard, just perfect — and bursting with flavor.   It reminded me of the kind of dessert that my mother would have allowed me as a young tot in the early 70’s…  in her hippie-mom days that included Easter baskets full of carob (I did not taste a Peep until I was in my 30’s, and frankly, I don’t know why I did it then…  peer pressure!).  BUT, this is ohh so much better (not that there is anything wrong with carob!).  It would be an awesome accompaniment to cheeses, with coffee or dessert wines, with those sweet Carr’s wheat biscuits…  or, frankly, just plain!  (and for those runners, triatheletes, etc… out there – I think that a slice of this would be eminently better than sticky icky Goo!) 

Hopefully, you’ll all try this stuff.  It rocks, and you’d be supporting a family business.