preserves

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preserves

it’s lemons, it’s a pufferfish, it’s hitler’s head

I was a bit sad to find that the Flannery O’Connor facebook fan site’s nicely quoted punchline (“Joyce who?”) from her short story The Enduring Chill had been spoiled by a few holy joes trying to find the tale of redemption in it all – stamping on the funny in the process. You can only be lectured so long by a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, who believes that death, offering the hope of resurrection, is no bad thing and was once a paramedic. It’s not surprising, comedy and organised religion have never been equal partners. They fight over the same epistemological turf [sex, death, walking into bars] and in the end humour needs serious people more than serious people need humour. Eco covered this well in Name of the Rose, with the heretical book [spoiler alert] being a book of gags by Aristotle. While the book was about a deductive proto-Holmes unravelling superstition, there was enough slack in the mystery to force the reader into interpretation and interpretation based on context. As he says in KANT and the Platypus

I would not say we can have any real knowledge; if anything, I would maintain that we have an excess of real knowledge. Some are prepared to object that there is no difference between saying there is no truth and saying there are many truths. But we might likewise object that this excess of truth is transitory; it is an effect of our groping our way along , between trial and error; it indicates a limit beyond which these different perspectives (all partly true) could one day be combined in a [jar].

The relatively simple tale of preserving lemons in salt in a jar suffers from an excess of knowledge on the internets and is widely open for interpretation by both readers and writers on the internets. There are at least three different cutting techniques, at least one glaring omission of a hygiene step and differing values placed on perceived taste over cretinism.

This is what I can tell you:

- obtain lemons from your tree or a neighbourhood tree. Don’t buy them, I thinks it better if you just face up to your lack of social connections and your eventual stabbing – Kitty Genovese style – to indifferent neighbours

- don’t bother being too choosy, the ugly ones can be put to good use later.

- give the lemons a scrub and then lop the last few eights of an inch off the ends of the lemons.

- the lemon is then cut into quartered claw; an x made at one end that continues through to all but the last centimetre. The lemon is then stuffed with a tablespoon or so of salt and the salt gets to work on the freshly exposed lemon innards.

- somewhere it’s argued that commercial salt has a metallic taste and that their many mattresses have a pea underneath. Elsewhere it’s said that the added iodine is no bad thing when compared to the goitered life of a Catskills cretin. I used sea salt, if only for the reason that the coarse size allows for a good fill of the lemon, where a finer salt would smother.

- sterilise your jar. Food safety is something you don’t want too much vagary for. In the fridge or a cool dark space? I’m assuming there was a time of preserved lemons before the refrigerator and went for a cool dark space

- in the pantry, behind the booze. One suggestion I followed, and didn’t see elsewhere, was to top the jar up with a sealing layer of a 1/4 cup of olive oil. It seems sound advice.

- most of the action happens over three days. The lemons release their juices and soften. This means that extra lemons can be added to get a nice snug fit and you will need to fill with extra lemon juice to cover the lemons (from the uglies)

- cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander seeds, cloves and peppercorns can all be added in their twos or threes or tablespoon or so.

- from here you’ve got about a month long wait. I’m planning on holding out until christmas, when it’ll be distributed up into gifts and hopefully put to good use. I’m freshening up tagines with mine and they also make for a lovely citric seafood pasta sauce.

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And this post is my yellow contribution to LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow 2009 – once again organised by the inestimable Barbara of winosandfoodies. The events is part of the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s efforts to raise cancer issues worldwide. I’d be surprised if you haven’t got your own experiences. Even in my own fortunate life I’ve got a grandfather I never met, a friend who scared the shit out of us last year, and a colleague who’s on the mend. Keep an eye out for the round-up on the 3rd of October.

UPDATE: it’s up and it’s awesome.

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Captain Jim's Rhubarb Chutney

Bought this eye-catching locally made chutney in a fruit and veg shop in Toodyay over the weekend and I’m ashamed to say it was a kitsch purchase. Marketing has made Captain Jim’s as feasible as Captain Pete’s Arrr Me Hearties Fish Bits. I’m actually so jaded these days that I’d be suspicious of Jeff of Product Development’s Cheaply Flavoured Leftover Carb Bits or Mamma Maria Not Only Has Never Worked Here She’s Got Nothing To Do With This Pasta Sauce Pasta Sauce as some kind of reverse marketing ploy. Can’t even do aspirant any more and the less said about the British Raj range of overpriced curry pastes the better. I think I’m down to Hey! Spunky Guy Have You been Working Out? Organic Sound of Cowbell Goose Fat in the all that could appeal to me stakes.

Joy. Captain Jim is real. The site is here, have a look at the Background and you’ll see him about 50 years on. It’s a delight. The chutney is really good too. Not at all like the rhubarb in desserts, softly piquant. Just went on a chicken and sweet potato yoghurt and tomato curry. Sadly, good luck finding it in supermarkets.

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One of the more unique features of Japanese is their love of onomatopoeia. Usually a two syllabled word repeated such as nuru nuru, bashi bashiand pika pika. The last one, for example, translates as “twinkle twinkle” and I would thank old ladies that said this to me as I gave my bike its weekly wax and polish. You can find a few more that feature in manga here.

My favourite is kari kari which is what you use to describe something crunchy, in this case my ideal pickle. They’re not hard to make and here’s how it’s done:

First

Take one large daikon and peel it, slice down the middle, and then slice into 5mm rounds.

Salting.

One of the main reasons for this is to draw out moisture. A fair assumption is that if the moisture comes out then the pickling flavour can go in. Place the daikon in a bowl, sprinkle with two tablespoons of sea salt. The more salt, the longer it’ll keep – this amount will keep it for a week or two. Rub the salt in and place a plate on top with a weight on it. The bowl must not be metal or it will taint the flavour. Leave for half an hour and then drain.

Pickling Liquid

1/4 cup of vinegar; 1/2 tsp salt; 1tsp of sugar; 1/2 cup of water Place the daikon flatly in a pickling jar, adding two small chopped chillies and 8cm of konbu (for that mysterious MSG flavour of umami). Fill with the liquid, topping up with a little water to cover.

Left it for four days and it’s nice and sharp and kari kari,

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Octopodes

Beasts. Of all the creatures there are few less like us than but even fewer that are our betters. More than just extra limbed or different skinned they are our lean-running adaptable betters – heads with limbs, bisexual, and cannibalistic. Our competitors for food, with exquisite taste in seafood, they plunder crayfish pots. Masters of unspeakable acts, they are, according to Hokusai, after our women [ not worksafe ].

Only one choice for our species, pickle the brute. You don’t have to thank me.

Unsure of how to go about this I went to here and here .

You may want to save yourself the grief and buy pre-boiled octopus. Mine was fresh and headless and weighed a kilo. Put it into a large pot of simmering water and left it there for a little over an hour, when the tentacle could be pierced effortlessly with a skewer. I then went about the nasty work sloughing off the skin and chopping the tentacles into small pieces.

Marinade half a cup of olive oil; half a cup of white wine vinegar; 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar; 4 cloves of garlic; about 20cm of fresh thyme; salt and pepper

Put the octopus into a jar, putting the thyme somewhere half way, and then pouring in the marinade, giving it a stir, and leaving it in the fridge. Three days later, it could still settle a bit more, but nicely tender, might have it tomorrow.

Invaluable was Pharyngula with Octopus Sex and Octopuses and, amusingly, The Cephalopod Page – FAQ

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Ignore the jar filled with marmalade for a second and look at the plant behind it. It’s a Kangaroo Paw. I’ve been spending the past week going to work and wondering if today was the day it was going to shine for me. Those used to flowers that open like popcorn should remember that this is a slow and ancient continent (possibly close to 12,000 years!).

Jams are the preserve of those with an abundance of time and fruit. I had 12 grapefruit given to me and told I should make jam with it and so I did.

The Women’s Weekly Cookbook was my first stop but I got to the part where they suggested using kerosene for testing and thought I was falling into home made amphetamine territory. Anyway went for an easier approach.

In

10 smallish grapefruit, 1 lemon, 2mandarins, 4 cumquats*, 1 kilo of sugar, 150gm palm sugar**, 2 .5 liters of water.

*It’s a very small tree. **Didn’t have any brown sugar so made do.

First job is to slice the grapefruit thinly (peel and all) making sure to keep the pips out. Ditto for the cumquats and the mandarins. The lemon gets halved and the juice without the seeds goes in as do the halves.

Into a large pot they went with the water, brought to a boil, simmered, for thirty minutes, lidded and left for a day and a half.

Then heated up, the sugar added, stirred and then boiled until it reached it’s right jamminess. This took a couple of hours (maybe too much water) but I wasn’t too worried as grapefruit has high levels of pectin allowing a large margin of error. I’d check every now and then by pouring some onto a cold spoon (ow!). When I was happy with it, into oven sterilised jars it went. The lemon halves were left. The jars were sterilised by washing, then leaving them in a 150C oven for 15 minutes – mind your fingers

It’s nice and sour and the amazing thing is how soft the peel becomes. The recipe made heaps though – friends, relatives and a pork marinade maybe.

Glaring Omission Thank you Gail for the grapefruit and kickstarting this, jar waiting for you if you’re quick.

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