Joined: 19 Jul 2008 Posts: 14 Location: New Mexico
Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:46 pm Post subject:
All of these ideas are so wonderful! I wish I had seen the vanilla extract idea two months ago...maybe I can still make some for my immediate family and tell them not to take the jars out until January. Hehe.
I have requested an immersion blender (something I did not know existed until I lived in Spain) so I can make salmorejo, ajo blanco, and gazpacho during the summer, as well as all of the wonderful blended soups I read about here.
I have also requested knives (I'm a poor college student who has 2 knives, but somehow I turn out incredible meals)
Thirdly, I have asked for some beautiful Terra Cotta bakeware.
The glass dome idea is wonderful...maybe that will be added as well.
Joined: 11 Nov 2007 Posts: 235 Location: Madison, WI
Posted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 9:14 pm Post subject:
This thread is an example of why I love Chocolate and Zucchini! Of course I like Clotilde's recipes too!
I make my own vanilla extract with nice cognac. It never occurred to give it as a gift. What I do make every year is home made jam. Either I use a combination of dried fruits and nuts with holiday-themed spices, or I use seasonal fruits-- whatever is abundant in the grocery store in December. One jam I make often in September is pear jam from my own tree. I make it with Pomona's pectin which allows me to go low sugar, and I flavor it with vanilla-- not too overpowering, as it is important to let the pear flavor through. The raccoons got most of our pears this year before we did, so I am short on both the jam, and the pear-flavored cognac, which you can get by cutting pears into small pieces and soaking them in cognac for two months. If you want pear liqueur instead, you can sweeten the cognac. I may make both of these with store-bought pears if I can find good ones for a reasonable price. For anyone who is not making jam at home, because of fears about processing, it is the easiest thing you can do. Buy self-sealing canning jars and boil them covered in water for 1/2 hour. When they are cool enough to touch, check the seal by trying gently to pry the lid off. If it sticks you are safe and ready to go. YOu can even do this while reading or watching TV.
Other things I am thinking of making:
Custom spice blends. I found some good ideas in a book called Adriana's Spice Caravan, although I have not yet tried any.
A booklet of favorite recipes-- both ones I have invented and ones I like and cook often. I just read a book about how cooks in the 19th century used to make their own personal cookbooks which were passed down through the family. I figure with a computer I would be able to make a similar collection but for the whole family. I could even add siblings' favorite recipes.
Several of my siblings are quite wealthy. I decided to go to endless graduate school and become a low-paid assistant professor with student loans instead, so I do not have the budget they do to buy expensive presents and "stocking stuffers" as well, as one of my brothers does. However, I can give something I made myself, and help keep within a budget.
P.S. Something interesting I got for my birthday was an Alaskan "ulu" knife which is sort of similar to an Italian mezza luna, I think. It is a wooden handle above a crescent-shaped blade. I thought it was too weird for me to deal with, especially when I heard a rumor that Sarah Palin uses one. I didn't even try it for 6 weeks. However, when I tried it I found it works well for me for chopping herbs and nuts, and for cutting up things like hard squash where you need a lot of strength (since you are pressing downwards, you can put your weight behind the chopping job without getting your fingers in the way). I even cut up a head of cauliflower with mine yesterday for roasting with olive oil and cumin, as it works great for separating the florets. I am one of those people who cooks mainly with a small knife, as I have poor skills with large knives. The ulu is the first large and heavy knife I have felt comfortable with, after years of using my big butcher knife with trepidation and clumsiness, and substituting a small knife when reasonably possible. For those who are curious, as I would be because the knife is so strange:
Joined: 21 Aug 2007 Posts: 552 Location: Central Kentucky
Posted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 3:30 am Post subject:
You don't have to process jams that long. Start with sterilized jars (I just let them stand in the boiling water that will be used to process them. But if you have a dishwasher, that works, too). Pour in the hot jam. Adjust two-piece lids. Process in boiling water for five minutes.
Five minute processing is now recommended in the U.S. as a replacement for sealing with parafin wax.
Jams and other soft spreads are sugar-preserved. The spoilage mechanism for them is mold, rather than bacteria. If it should come to pass that a jar doesn't seal properly, you'll know it from the mold, and can discard it. But that's a very rare occurance, nowadays.
As to do it yourself cookbooks. What you refer to is a hold-over from the 18th century cookery manuscripts that every little girl kept. These worked from two directions, towards the middle. The front was "a book of cookery" and the back was "a book of sweetmeats." Each section was arranged and indexed. Through the years, of course, things got out of order as new recipes were added to what was a bound notebook.
What happened is that a young girl would start with her mother's book. She'd reindex it, so that everything was in order, and copy it into a new book. That would go with her when she started her own household. And her daughters, in turn, would do the same.
In the 19th century, published cookbooks became both more prevalent and more affordible, and the practice of making one's own cookery manuscript became unpopular. But many girls still did it, even into the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Much of what we know about 16-18 century cooking in America comes from these manuscripts. The most famous of them is Martha Washington's Book of Cookery, first reprinted in the 1930s, and in several editions since. However, by the time Martha Washington had it it actually was a family heirloom, having been originally produced by one of her ancesters about 1645.
Joined: 11 Nov 2007 Posts: 235 Location: Madison, WI
Posted: Wed Dec 03, 2008 11:10 pm Post subject:
Actually you can't give me too much information about culinary history or history in general.
Thank you too. I probably am processing my jams too long, but then I go very low on sugar so I want to make sure they are sterile. I sometimes even use a pressure cooker that gets the heat way up.
MY mother, who otherwise didn't cook, but used to make jam used parafin, which I always found unsanitary and sort of disgusting. The job of cleaning the pan the parafin had been heated in was the WORST! The jam was always tasty though, if too sweet for my current tastes.
Joined: 21 Aug 2007 Posts: 552 Location: Central Kentucky
Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2008 12:27 am Post subject:
The U.S., in fact, is the only country that recommends against the use of parafin. That's because the U.S.D.A always over-reacts on the side of caution. Doesn't much matter whether the threats are real or not. We'll just cry "safety" and that's that!
The problem with wax the ease with which the seal integrity can degrade. it can leak. And few people take the time to do it correctly. But, as I said above, the spoilage mechanism with soft spreads is mold. So, if a jar has gone bad, it's very obvious.
As to your sterility. Keep in mind that soft spreads at the boil are considerably hotter than boiling water. And sterility is achieved at only 180 degrees. So you really don't have to worry if you've poured the hot jam into a jar and then processed it for 5 minutes.
It's only when you get involved with canning low acid foods that problems can arise. But there, too, if you use a pressure canner (not a pressure cooker---they are not the same thing) at the recommended time & pressure, you'll be just fine.
I didn't realize how many folks here are interested in food history. Maybe I'll start new threads on that subject, if anyone wants me to.
I have the Japanese spiral slicer provided in the Erin's link. It was a gadget I just couldn't resist. I never really made much use of it, though, and now it rests at the back of a cabinet. Once in a long while we'll haul it out for fun. I found that the veggies have to be large enough, but not too large, for the thing to work properly. Whenever we've tried to use it, the veggies didn't fit properly (carrots, zucchini, etc.)
Maybe I should try again - it is a clever looking thing after all!
Joined: 22 Oct 2006 Posts: 296 Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:43 am Post subject:
This year I'm several thousand miles away from most of the people I'm giving gifts to, so what I give has to travel well. I'm doing three different types of biscuits (Biscuits Tres Chocolat from The Book, crumiri and mixed dried fruit cantuccini) and sending everyone some of each. Last year when I spent Christmas with my cousins I gave them green olive tapenade, hazelnut-thyme matchsticks, pain d'epices and lemon biscuits (all homemade) and they were very well received!
Oddly, I always seem to get food-related gifts for my birthday rather than for Christmas. Some I've particularly liked: my first proper knife, silicone madeleine moulds, a recipe journal, and various cookbooks. And speaking of cookbooks and homemade recipe books, that's fascinating information, KYH - I'm a bit of culinary history junkie myself, so yes please, more threads on the subject!
Joined: 24 Sep 2004 Posts: 443 Location: Paris, France
Posted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:01 pm Post subject:
Just a note to say I have taken the liberty of posting Ruth's request re: cast-iron vs. clay pot as its own new thread -- the advice she'll get can more easily benefit others that way.
Joined: 11 Jan 2008 Posts: 10 Location: New Orleans, LA
Posted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 5:00 am Post subject:
I've been on a pastry/bread/jam thing of late and the wife has requested jars of jam and mini-loaves of bread for her fellow teachers and assistants. I think next year will be more handmade gifts - spice blends, worcestershire sauce (I'll NEVER buy it again), jam, etc. As to stuff I like to get...small kitchen accessories - I've asked for a salt pig/cellar, a rolling pin in an exotic wood, some cookbooks (I love new ideas), etc.
My favorite gift from last year was a Ratatouille wind up timer for the kitchen (woefully inaccurate, but fun).
Wow!!! I can't believe the fantastic ideas here. I'm in love with the vanilla extract idea!
In the past I have made jars of antipasta from a recipe a girlfriend shared with me, as well as rosemary-apple cider jelly. I've moved away from food gifts since I moved to Australia (maybe because it gets too hot to cook), but I'm inspired again by all of these wonderful gift ideas. And just in a year when I was feeling a bit detached from Christmas. Thanks to all of you.
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