Saturday, October 20, 2012


It's a taste treat that I believe is originally from Spain - in fact, I can find it at the local grocery where my friend Pat shops each time I'm in Catalunya. I had about 14 lbs of quince, a few from my garden and many from the orchard, that needed to be metamorphosed. Check it out!
Here are the recipes I followed:

What's the difference?  
Know how truly lazy I can be?
I hunted for recipes until I found one that didn't require me to PEEL ten pounds of quince.

This is good stuff. A subtle, sweet, tad apple-y, complex flavor. But I don't overcook mine. I'm SO familiar with how well quince sets up, I'm sure not going to overcook it. I might try covering it in chocolate like Alejandra:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Question Authority

I trust pharmacists. They went to a lot of school to do what they do, and in general they know the latest. They LIKE what they do. Many of them do what they do because they didn't want to be in an office dealing with sick people all day - they wanted to become experts in drugs.

But today I asked one if there was anything over the counter that would help fade the spots that I spent my formative years embedding in my skin. She pointed me at scar fade cream.

But that's for scars, I said. I just need something for sun spots.

There's nothing for that, except the prescription medications, she said. You need hydroquinone.


I know for a fact that her very small tube of prescription hydroquinone is $150 on my medical plan, because I've asked a doctor about this before. $150 happens to be an amount that is hard for me to conscience for a little tube of fade cream. Pharmacists don't get kickbacks from the pharmas for recommending their drugs, right? Well, is that right?

So I walked across the Walgreen's and asked the lady in the cosmetics department if she had anything that helped sun spots to fade. She pointed me at six different products, one of them brand new and goes on sale on Sunday, and gave me advice on each. She had even used some. I picked up the cheapest one (less than $5 for 2 ounces) and walked back over to the pharmacist.

I pointed at the ingredients list. This is what you meant, right? I asked.

She was stunned. Could have knocked her over with a feather. That's right, she said (how could they have slipped this into the store without my knowledge? was her expression).

There's at least five different kinds over there, I said. But I'm guessing your prescription stuff has a stronger concentration of it, right?

She went back in her stacks of drugs and found some. Yes, this is 4% strength, she said. And I don't know how much these over the counter ones cost, she said. Five bucks, I said.

2% - $4.89, 4% - $150. I'll take my chances.

Question authority. Don't ever forget - all authorities are human. And, no matter how smart you are, it's hard to keep up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Beginning

I was thinking about beginnings this morning as I cast on my new Mini Mochi Fair Isle hat (it's lovely, but not ideal because the yarn is a single ply. If you don't know what that means, don't worry about it).

I like casting on. It's a beginning, like meeting a new friend.

At the same time, I am beginning to design my home. I've done a lot of legwork already, and today I even spoke to a solar guy.

Bad news: I won't be able to put photovoltaic solar on or around my new house to generate electricity for me.

Good news: It's because I'm a very low consumer of electricity. The startup costs are too high and I would never realize a breakeven point on that investment. Even though I romanticize the idea of never being beholdin' to PG&E, I am definitely financially circumspect.

That's OK. I can heat water for showers using solar, and that is probably much more practical.

It's a start. I have two very workable floor plans I can commit to, have spoken with one architect, and hope to speak with another this weekend. I have a lender who is willing to finance the venture. All good stuff.

Hi, new home. I'm Lisa. Nice to meet you!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Marmalades

Yes, there are other things in my life, but I have this urge to show you how PRETTY all of the citrus is after I've transformed it into preserves. I love citrusy colors in the first place - it's like playing with a sunshine palette.

Left to right, our marmalade candidates for Most Beautiful preserves of February 2012 are:
Sanguinelli (blood orange), Sarawak (pummelo), Bergamot (sour orange, where they obtain the perfumed flavor of Earl Grey tea), Bouquetier de Nice (sour orange), and Seville (VERY traditional sour orange for English marmalade).

I put up a total of 46 cups of marmalade this month. Hoo-ah.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bergamots are Done

I have fought the good fight. The bergamots are done.

The two bergamot trees that I picked on the third Saturday in January have yielded:

  • Two batches of curd - one with brown sugar, one white;

  • Two batches of marmalade - one with wekiwa as the "lemon" juice, one with Kaffir lime;

  • One quart of frozen yogurt, containing peel and juice;

  • Four frozen cups of bergamot juice;

  • Two quarts of infused sugar - one with grated peel, one with strips;

  • One frozen bag of ground peel (over a cup);

  • Two boxes of fruit that went to Allie in Texas;

  • Several golden orbs that went with Tod to his 6-day cookfest last week;

  • And last but not least (I will try it tomorrow) one quart of black tea infused with flavor from all of the white bits that are left after I zested the peel and removed the juice.

Whew. I am now sporting a blister on my right hand from using the potato peeler on 18 bergamots today. I am completely out of wide-mouthed jars, and had to grab a large box of 42 plastic containers and lids from Costco earlier this week.

My house smells like a bergamot festival!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Now, I don't want the DEA after me, so let's be clear here: I make crack out of SUGAR. Good ol' C12H22O11. I candy citrus peel (or, last month, fresh ginger, which made WONDERFUL crack) and then boil the syrup until it's at a crack stage. Gently empty the contents of the pan onto a cookie rack, with the Silpat underneath. Store the candied peel (usually in metal tins) and take the hardened sugar (rock candy, really) and break it into bits. Use it in hot drinks or whatever needs that particular flavor.

Here are photos of my most recent crack production - the peels were various orange citrus, which included tangelos, blood oranges and tangors.

Oh, yeah, the candied peel is lovely, too. In this case, it ended up brittle, so I can break it into little candied peel bits.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Boozy Story

These are citrus peels steeping in straight vodka.

Everclear isn't legally purchased in this state, and I have friends in fruity, vegetable-y, nutty and meaty places, but apparently not in underground grain alcoholic places. But the vodka is nice.

All you do is strip as much of the white pith off the peel as possible, then infuse it in vodka for about a month (Hand of Buddha has no bitterness, so it just gets chopped up). Strain and add simple syrup. Allow to steep another month. Put in pretty bottles and give it away as presents, or use it in your cooking or summery drinks.

Left to right: Sarawak, Melogold/Yuzu Papeda, Hand of Buddha and Limonero Fino (Limoncello in the making). Hooo-ah.

Citrus Madness 2012

So here it is, most of the varieties from the annual trip to "Mecca", the UC Lindcove Experimental orchard past Fresno, California.

Featured in this photo are, large back left to right: Sarawak, Melogold, Oro Blanco, Chandler; bright orange are tangelos, then a Moro; two kinds of lemons, one small Michal mandarin, all flanked by Allie's favorites, the Bergamots. Total fruit picked and brought home was probably around 80lbs.

Who didn't show up for the photo? Yuzu Papeda and Hand of Buddha, who have all been processed, and the Wekiwas, Sevilles and Bouquetier de Nice were avoiding the camera.

So, what do you do with this much fruit? How do I love thee... let me count the ways:

  • I do eat them. I put them in the kids' lunches. But for the first week I couldn't eat any because of my recent oral surgery, so I started processing right away.

  • Lots of juice. I have actually drunk plenty of mixed fruit juice the past few days.

  • Champagne sorbet with Limonero Fino lemon juice (more, with Oro Blanco, on the list).

  • Candied citrus peel - Hand of Buddha and Yuzu. More coming. Must candy some Bergamot.

  • Curd: Bergamot (2 batches - one with brown sugar and one with white - this is Best in Class so far this year), blood orange, Chandler, and Limonero Fino

  • Frozen yogurt: Yuzu so far. Lemon tomorrow.

  • Booze: Limoncello using Limonero Fino, Sarawak, Yuzu/Melogold, and Hand of Buddha. Still on the list: Bergamot and Grand Marnier. And I might just toss a bunch more lemon zest into the big Limoncello jar and double it. Who can have too much Limoncello?

  • Marmalade: mixed blood orange and Limonero Fino. Lots more on my list.

  • What I'm calling "crack". When I candy the peel, I save the sugar water that's left, and if it has reached the crack stage, it becomes brittle little infused pieces of goodness that go into my chai in the morning.

  • Dried finely ground peel: Lemon, Pommelo and Orange.

  • Dried peel from eating fresh fruit: I just toss this into my chai when it's simmering. Yum.

Some fruit has wended its way to Allie (YuminTum, who makes fabulous recipes and it's the least I can do for someone whose heart is in cooking while her head is in college textbooks), and some has gone to Tod, who is a fabulous chef who cooks at my annual knitting retreat in Ben Lomond each year. He picked his up personally, and was thus able to taste a bunch of the booze I made last year with the Mecca haul. He got half the Yuzus, because they're very loved by chefs, especially for Asian food. I had never picked the Yuzus before, and they began to rot rapidly. So you never know, maybe Yuzus will become one of my new favorites - the flavor certainly is distinctive.

Allie has lots of ideas, and I'll probably follow some of them. I have about another week of processing to go. Wish me luck...