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Preserved lemons

Preserving lemons is one of the most simple and fun ways to start home preserving.

Only organic lemons have skins that are guaranteed free of waxes and preservatives, so making them out of organic fruit is essential. With the final preserved lemons, only the soft and delectable skins are eaten, so it’s absolutely essential your little tart treats are totally safe and healthy and not covered in nasty pesticides or gunk. Preserving home-grown lemons is a perfect thing to do if you live in Southern California like me. The lemon varieties that thrive here are similar to the varieties that grow in the Mediterranean, so the finished preserved lemon flavors are more authentically Moroccan-style. But any lemons, homegrown or store-bought, are delicious when they’re preserved in this time-honored method. Just as long as they’re organic.

This is the most delicious and indispensable everyday ingredient that you’ve yet to taste. Once you have made preserved lemons from scratch, you won’t know how you ever made delicious things without them. Salty, citrusy, strongly-flavored and tart, they’re a central ingredient in Moroccan cuisine and also show up now and then in South East Asian foods.

Maximum taste to preparation time benefits ratio… Here’s the process:

1. Carefully boil a big glass canning jar to sterilize it, then leave it to air-dry upside down on a clean cloth.

2. Wash and dry five big juicy lemons.

3. On a chopping board, cut each lemon into quarters lengthwise, from the stem to the pointed end… But, leave them attached at the stem end so that the quarters hold together.

4. Using your fingers, stuff each lemon with about one tablespoon of sea salt or kosher salt. Don’t use regular table salt, as it has added iodine so won’t pickle the lemons properly.

5. Squash all the cut, salted lemons inside the jar, pressing them down.

6. Close the jar, and leave in a dark, cool cupboard for 3-4 days, depending on the time of year and heat in the cupboard.

7. When you open the jar, the lemons will be softer, so you will be able to squash them down more, squeezing juice out of them as you do so.

8. Add the juice of about 5-6 more lemons so that all the lemons in the jar are covered.

9. If needed, add a weight of some kind, such as a saucer, to keep any bits of lemon from bobbing above the surface. They need to be fully immersed in the salted juice.

10. Back into the cupboard for at least a month and up to one year. Pull off quarter segments as needed, using a knife and fork to keep your fingers out of the liquid.

The liquid gets better and better over time. Little clumps of white stuff arrive after a while, but it’s completely harmless, like the dusty white stuff on the outside of grapes or the bloom on cheese. Feel free to throw more lemon peels into the juice for up to a year. Just remember somehow which peels are new to the pickle jar, and which ones have been in there for a month or more.

To use your preserved lemons, discard the pulp. Then rinse the peel with fresh cold water if you want to remove the brine for a less salty taste, or leave them unwashed if you want more punch. Either way, mince the peels finely, or try them thinly sliced. You can add the peels to sauces, condiments, pastes, sandwiches, salads or any recipes that would taste great with a salty, pickled peel.

Think of them like olives, capers or anchovies. Preserved lemons are great minced and added to fish dishes, smeared onto meats that are being roasted, or added to fresh pesto, baba ganoush or humus. Pretend it’s a pickle and – sliced finely – it adds zest to a massive range of sandwiches, from smoked salmon and cream cheese to an un-classic Reuben.

Add them to vinaigrette, or just roughly chop and throw in a salad to replace olives as a spin on a tuna nicoise. Try a sliver in a martini, or stuff a little into a date and bake wrapped in bacon.

You get the idea… go wild, get zesty!

Homemade sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is the easiest thing in the world to make, last forever, is much healthier for you than the ingredients it’s made from, and is super-good when served on the side with sausages and mashed potatoes! All you need is a big glass mason jar with a rubber seal lid, a potato masher, a big plastic bowl, a knife and board, one organic cabbage, and a tablespoon of salt.

Firstly, boil your mason jar to sterilize it, then set aside.

Remove any outer leaves that you don’t like the look of and rinse the cabbage. Cut it in half lengthwise, then slice along its perimeter into half-moon strips that are roughly 1/4″ to 1/2″ wide.

Put a quarter of the shredded cabbage into your bowl, add all of the salt, and pound hard with the potato masher. The idea is to bruise the leaves to hard that they wilt and release their juice. After about 5 minutes, empty the contents of the bowl into the clean mason jar.

Refill the bowl with more cabbage and repeat the same process of pounding it.

Repeat this step until all of the cabbage has been processed and is in the jar.

Press the cabbage down in the jar so that the juices are at least an inch above the cabbage. Seal the jar with its lid, and put in a cool dark cupboard for a week. Every few days, remove the jar and open the sealed lid to allow fermented gases to escape, then re-seal and put it back in the cupboard.

After about a week, transfer the sauerkraut to you fridge, when it will keep indefinitely.

Eat cold, or gently heat so you don’t destroy the beneficial cultures that are in there, which are just like the good stuff in yogurt.

Can “hothouse” food be organic?

Question:

“When a grocery store advertises “hot house” red or yellow peppers, are they considered organic?”

from,
Susan Dillard

Answer:

The only way you can be sure something is grown organically is if it is labeled “Organic”

“Hot-house” means they have been grown indoors, perhaps under a plastic polytunnel, or perhaps under glass. Organic farmers can for sure grow food in a hothouse without using pesticides and fertilizers. Non-organic farmers can also for sure grow food in a hothouse while using nasty chemicals to help kill bugs. So, if something is labeled “Organic” and also labeled “Hot-House”, then it’s organic food grown in a hothouse. But if something is labeled “Hot-House” with no additional labels, it’s definitely not organic.

Ysanne

India hates Genetically Modified food

“We shouldn’t be a part of a system that will destroy traditional seeds and crops and allow multinational corporations to infringe on the agriculture sector.”

Indian Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, saying Genetically Modified food would lead to the ‘colonization’ of the food sector.

The Guardian UK, 9 February 2010.

Orange and Almond Cake

You’ve been asking me to post some of my wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free dessert recipes, so here’s a recipe I adore that’s free of anything like that. I’ve adapted it from a James Beard recipe, and he adapted it from a Claudia Roden recipe, and she got the idea from an ancient Middle Eastern classic cake recipe. This is my own take on it, and I promise it will work a treat in your own home kitchen.

And it’s a showcase recipe for organic ingredients. especially for the organic oranges. Not only are they more strongly flavored than many non-organic oranges, but they are the only type of orange I would consider using because this recipe includes the peel. Non-organic oranges are routinely covered with wax that contains pesticides, wherease organic oranges are safe to use skin and all.

2 large Navel oranges
6 medium eggs
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
Light oil (such as safflower or sunflower) for the cake tin

Wash and then boil the whole oranges in a big pot of water for half an hour. Leave them to cool, cut into quarters, and remove any seeds. Process in a food processor until the oranges have become a pulp with tiny bits of peel still visible.

Set your oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9″ non-stick loose-bottom spring cake tin. Set the cake tin on top of a cookie sheet to catch any drips that might seep through the bottom.

Once the oven is at the right temperature, in a bowl or stand mixer, beat the eggs until they’re thick. Add the orange, ground almonds, sweetener, baking powder, cinnamon and almond essence and fold in with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, then immediately put it into the center of the oven.

Bake for one hour at 400 degrees (check with an oven thermometer if you can). It’s possible you may need a few minutes more baking time, depending on the amount of juice in your oranges. To check if it’s done, push the center of the cake with your finger, and see if it springs back.

I like to serve this cake with chocolate sauce and a little garnish of orange zest. You can buy coconut sugar online in the US here. Unlike regular sugar, or its very close cousin ‘evaporate cane juice’, coconut sugar doesn’t have the “crash and burn” effect of refined sweeteners.

It seems it’s acceptable for some people to use evaporated cane juice in their recipes and call it sugar-free, but for me, it’s too close for comfort. Plus coconut sugar has such a delicious caramel flavor, it’s too good an opportunity to miss out!

Of course, the main sweetness is from the fruit, nature’s wonderful wholefood sweeteners. The coconut sugar just bumps it up a notch and adds delicious toffee notes.

How much money farmers get

Out of every dollar we spend at a store, only 8 cents makes it back to the farmer.

Organic food isn’t posh

“The paradox is there’s this view that organic is elitist, it’s expensive, it’s a lifestyle choice for people who can afford it. As far as I’m concerned it’s not elitist to believe everyone should have the right to high-quality, nutritious food from sustainable farming systems. What’s elitist is that a handful of corporations have got a vice-like grip on the farming systems and food.”

Patrick Holden, Soil Association director, rejecting claims that organic is expensive and elitist.

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