Next month, I’m participating in my first food swap. What the heck is that, you ask? I didn’t know either – after a little research, I discovered it’s the new “cottage food” thing to do. Food swapping provides urban gardeners and home canners with a platform for sharing their wares. Local “food crafters” share homemade, homegrown, or foraged foods with each other through one of these swaps. Trades of goods take place between attendees – my canned peaches for your homemade lemoncello.
Why do it? It’s a challenge for me. I like the idea of getting my food crafts out in the public – and it’s a nice way to meet people in the local foodie community (for an unsocial butterfly). I asked my sister if she wanted to participate – and I received the typical sisterly response:
“What if I don’t like anything that others brought? What if my food it better? What if I just want to swap with you? Why would I want to do it? What if I don’t want to trade? I remember when mom made baked goods for the bake sales that hers were always better than the other moms’ treats…
I’m not sure what I’m going to bring yet. I just checked the canned jellies and jam pantry from my recent jamming sessions and there’s not much available – two nectarine-vanilla, three strawberry-black pepper and four Moroccan kumquat. I’m considering baking a few batches of my walnut orange cookies that I created during culinary school. I’ve also thought about canning my preserved lemons (picked from my garden, of course) and salted caramel sauce. I made a chutney for lunch after my mom’s service that I’ve always wanted to recreate. I also want to play around with chocolates and fresh pasta (I just got a pasta roller attachment for my Kitchenaid – and chocolate molds when I was in Italy).
It’s a little nerve wracking (what if no one likes my stuff) and a little exciting at the same time.
Moroccan kumquat marmalade with fruit from my own, tiny tree.
830 grams of kumquats (weighed after being cleaned and sliced thinly)
415 grams of white sugar
415 grams of tupelo honey
1cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
Juice from 1/2 lemon
5 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
3 T orange blossom water
Rinse kumquats. Cut the green tip and slice the kumquat lengthwise then quarter it. Cut and discard the white membrane in the center and remove the seeds. Thinly slice the kumquats crosswise.
Weigh the kumquats once you prepare them. You will want up to the same weight of honey and sugar (or you can reduce it if you prefer your marmalade to be less sweet).
Mix the sugar, honey, kumquats, orange juice and lemon juice together. Add spices. Cover your bowl, and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
Sterilize jars. Place kumquat mixture in a pan and cook, uncovered, on medium-high heat. Once the kumquat mixture starts foaming and boiling, reduce the heat to medium and use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture occasionally. Cook the kumquat mixture until the liquid evaporates and becomes syrupy. This will take around 45 minutes to an hour for this amount of kumquats. Test marmalade to ensure it has set.
Remove from heat and at 3-5 tablespoons of orange blossom water. Fill jars with marmalade – make sure that both the jars and the marmalade are hot when filling them. Seal jars in a water bath. Let the marmalade jars rest on your kitchen counter overnight without moving.
While picking through the ruins of our relationship after the tornado hit, I discovered a little jewel of realization within the rubble. I sat in my home, day after day, feeling lost with nothing to do and nowhere to go, wondering what happened to the life I had BEFORE him. What happened to my hobbies? What happened to my interests and my passions?
What I discovered was that my hobbies and interests had become merely habits and, when I was presented with something new and interesting, I easily pushed the yoga and the gardening to the side to follow his hobbies and interests. Now, with this new hunk of time on my hands, I’m attempting to discover what my passions are now. It’s going to take some experimentation and some trial and error – and some big strides outside of my comfort zone.
Over the past few months, I’ve fallen back into my love of cooking, but with a twist of focusing on gelato and canning. I’ve also started attending a ceramics wheel-throwing class, something I have never done before. I’m trying not to get too tied up in the results, but enjoying the process (of getting very messy and learning something new).
So, with my newly found ceramics “skills” (using that term loosely), here is my very first bowl from my very first ceramics class:
Boil all ingredients in a heavy bottom pot until mixture has cooked down (approximately 20 minutes). Test gel with the “plate test”. Once it is the correct consistency, add to jars, seal and process in a water bath for 5 minutes. This yielded 5 ½ pint jars with a little extra for sampling.