Category Archives: canning & preserving

Hail to Watermelon and Its Rind


‘I know how a prize watermelon looks when it is sunning its fat rotundity among pumpkin vines and “simblins”; I know how to tell when it is ripe without “plugging” it; I know how inviting it looks when it is cooling itself in a tub of water under the bed, waiting; I know how it looks when it lies on the table in the sheltered great floor space between house and kitchen, and the children gathered for the sacrifice and their mouths watering; I know the crackling sound it makes when the carving knife enters its end, and I can see the split fly along in front if the blade as the knife cleaves its way to the other end; I can see its halves fall apart and display the rich red meat and the black seeds, and the heart standing up, a luxury fit for the elect; I know how a boy looks behind a yard-long slice of that melon, and I know how he feels; for I have been there. I know the taste of the watermelon which has been honestly come by, and I know the taste of the watermelon which has been acquired by art. Both taste good, but the experienced know which tastes best.’- Mark Twain

What can I say? For such a poetic admiration and knowledge of citrullus lanatus, I’d like Mark Twain’s spirit to guide me through my next watermelon picking, ‘cause those knocking tips never work for me. Which is why I liked the idea to make some watermelon pickles. I didn’t have to make a lot of research – the Bon Appétitmagazine has already hooked me on it last summer.

There were some red flags about the recipe including only 3 stars reviews, copious amount of sugar, zero water added, etc. You can find the recipe here.

Despite the flags, my loyalty to Bon Appétit has won. I enthusiastically worked the watermelon rinds  into the wonderful pickles while taking these pictures.

They smelled wonderful and turned out to be exactly like the ones on the BA images. I was anxious to try them next day.

The day after I took the first bite. Hmm. How should I describe it? You know those exotic chutneys you sometimes buy on liquidation that inevitably end up in the garbage after sitting in the fridge for 6 months? It was worse. The watermelon rind juicy freshness was completely gone – buried in sugar, salt and spice like a mummy. I can almost guarantee this listless thing could last in a jar for a century. Well, I still gave it a chance with a few more days in the fridge and a small tapas party. People would take a bite, but it would be the last one. It followed the destiny of the exotic chutney. Fortunately, I cut the recipe in half, so I had only two jars to throw out. I did made a note though about adding the ginger and anise star, because both sounded refreshing in the pickle recipe.

I started looking for the real authentic recipe of a watermelon pickle: the one that would put a smile on those faces surviving the great depression a century ago. I found a great one (with good reviews this time) in the “Root to Stalk Cooking – The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable” book by Tara Duggan (recipe follows).  I could finally get what was the fuss about the old-fashion treat (with much less sugar and prominent lemon flavor). Sorry, no pictures for obvious reason (I wasn’t sure it would work). People at the next tapas party had it with much more enthusiasm. I started adding it to salads and cold soups.

Still, as good as a classic watermelon rind pickle can be, as a great connoisseur of kosher pickles I insisted on finding some other trick that would keep that feeling of freshness of a watermelon and all its vital nutriments intact without boiling the rind.   

I came up with geniusly simple solution: chop the peeled watermelon rind (along with the chunks of watermelon) (2 cups); sprinkle it with quality salt (1/4 tablespoon); add a few slices of ginger and the anise star. Mix a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with the same amount of honey (preferably spiced) and add the liquid to the watermelon rind mix. Cool in the fridge for just 10-15 minutes and off you go (discard the anise star)! Incredibly fresh, youthful and invigorating! I use it now almost daily added to de-puffing shakes, soups, salads, salsas and relishes. I just love this simple healing mix.


Finally, my favorite, watermelon gazpacho with macerated rind: I call it ‘hangover shots’ (huge party pleaser (before or after). The watermelon and honey-cider macerated rind add delectable sweetness and balance to tomatoes. The apple cider vinegar works magic with the glycemic index making it very good for health (if you are into these things) while lifting the umami of the tomatoes and watermelon. This soup is hydrating, rejuvenating and healing. By virtue of having the watermelon and tomatoes together, it doubles the amount of lycopene thus hugely boosting the immune system. Did I say it tastes amazing? The mint gives that pick-me-up finish to help bring you back to life along with the soup itself whether it from the heat, exhaustion or hangover. Gosh, it’s incredible how easy it is at times to make yourself happy.
Enjoy!
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LEMONY WATERMELON RIND PICKLES
Yields: 2 to 3 pints
Ingredients:
Rind from 3 pounds seedless watermelon
7 cups water, divided
5 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
Zest (in large strips) and juice from 1 large lemon
Instructions:
Cut the rind into 1-inch cubes to make around 4 cups.
Combine6 cups of the water and 3 tablespoons of the salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer to dissolve the salt, then add the watermelon rind and cook until fork tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the watermelon rind and divide among the pint jars.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup water with the remaining 2 tablespoons salt, the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and cloves. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
Stir the lemon zest and juice into the pickle brine. Pour the brine over the watermelon rind, distributing the spices and lemon zest evenly among the jars. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving. (The pickles will taste very salty at first, but the flavor mellows overnight.)
Note: You will need two to three pint jars and canning lids and rings, cleaned well in soapy water. Because this doesn’t make a huge amount, you can store the finished product in the refrigerator for one to two months rather than canning it. You may have some extra brine, so feel free to add more rind if you have it.
Adapted from: “Root to Stalk Cooking – The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable” book by Tara Duggan, 13/08/2013
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MACERATED WATERMELON RIND CONCENTRATE
3 cups water
1 tablespoon quality sea salt (Maldon, fleur de sel, etc.)
1 cup honey (quickly made spice infused honey is the best for this recipe)
2 anise stars
1 knob of ginger, thinly sliced
Few lemon peels (optional)
6 cups peeled watermelon rind, half and half pink and white parts, coarsely chopped
1 cup cider vinegar
Instructions:
Bring the water and the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add the honey and stir to dissolve. Add anise star, ginger and lemon peel to the honey water and stir. Pour the honey-water over the watermelon rind in a large ceramic bowl. Let cool to room temperature. Add apple cider vinegar and mix. Steep the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or up to overnight. When ready, use the macerated watermelon chunks and the liquid in salads/dressings, cold soups, smoothies, tonic drinks, etc. The mixture can be store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
***
MACERATED WATERMELON RIND SUMMER TONIC
Strain the amount of liquid required from the macerated watermelon rind mixture. Pour 1/4 cup of the concentrate into a glass over ice and dilute with 3/4 cup water. Garnish with the cubes of watermelon, cucumber, and mint. 

***


WATERMELON GAZPACHO WITH MACERATED RIND
Yields: 2 to 4 portions
Ingredients:
1 pound tomatoes, diced
1 pound seeded and cubed watermelon
½ cup macerated watermelon rind with liquid (see the recipe in the post above), OR 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 small to medium size cucumber, diced (peeled and de-seeded if necessary)
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher, Maldon, fleur de sel, or any other quality salt (add more according to your taste)
Feta cheese, crumbled
5 to 10 spearmint leaves for garnish
Instructions:
Combine tomatoes, watermelon, rind, cucumber and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Give it a few pulses until chunky-smooth, but not too smooth. Let cool in the fridge if necessary. Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped mint. Enjoy!

Sweet Meets Heat: How to Make Chilies Infused Honey


Homemade chili-infused honey DIY © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Contrary to what I used to think about the process of making spice infused honey (special room, special temperature, special honey, number of days), it takes only a few minutes to infuse the honey of your choice with chilies, leaving you with a wonderful jar of gold you can drizzle on pizzas, cakes, cheeses or add to salads, soups and stews or your next mojito for a touch of character.  It is not overly spicy (with the amount of chilies used in the recipe below): the chilies infused honey will still keep all the flavor nuances of the terroir the honey came from (if it wasn’t pasteurized) with just a bit of warming lingering spice finish. It totally satisfies my latest indie-influenced take on all things organic.
Honey: from bumblebee to the toast © http://www.letsheatit.com/
While honey continues ‘hitting its sweet spot’ as a flavor of the year 2015 (according to the Swiss company Firmenich specialized in flavors and fragrances), the interest in it expands beyond the tea-time companionship worldwide. Honey is surely set to add some extra charm and wit to the menus helping chefs to bliss out the clientele with all kinds of innovative dressings, glaze, BBQ sauces and marinade combinations. Honey is being added to the ‘glass with class’ by mixologists (from Mead cocktails to Honey vodka and Honey Bee-jito (mojito drink where honey replaces sugar) to Honey Lemonade and Kombucha Smoothies, etc. The honey producers are coming up with numerous amazing products, such as these incredible creamy strawberry honey and raspberry honey jelly we found at Miel pur delice inc. during our last trip to Coaticook, QC.
Miel pur delice inc. creamy strawberry honey and raspberry honey jelly © http://www.letsheatit.com/
I might be a fickle friend with ice cream and milk chocolate, but when it comes to the real honey (raw, naturally,) I’m Ted 1, Ted 2 and whatever other Teds you can imagine. I eat honey every day, all my life and, practically, I can‘t imagine living without it… which is probably normal since I am of the Ukrainian origin. In short: we are planning to raise honeybees when retired and I hope nothing will change this agenda.
Ukrainian postal stamps © via Wikimedia
See the typical Ukrainian honey layered cake below made by one of my best friends recently (don’t ask for the recipe though – it takes a whole day to make it – no one can do that bravery anymore). 
Nata’s Honey Layered Cake © http://www.letsheatit.com/
In the meantime, here are the three places in Quebec we‘ve visited recently that are not to miss:
1. Miels d’Anicet  Api Culture Hautes-Laurentides inc.111, Rand 2 Gravel, Ferme-Neuve, Quebec
Canada, J0W 1C0 (one of the top-rated and the most popular honey used by Quebec chefs; read more about it here). Tel: (819) 587-4825

2. Miel des Ruisseaux 2 924, Route du Lac Ouest, Alma (Québec)
G8B 5V2 Tel: (418) 668-7734 (famous blueberry honey producer: read more about here and here).

Miel des Ruisseaux Blueberry Honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/

3. Miel pur delice inc. 815 route 141, Coaticook (Québec) J1A 2S5, Tel:(819) 849-9994 (see some of their products featured above)

Many others are on our bucket list and will show up in this space eventually.

For my own experiment, I used the honey coming from the land of blueberries: Saguenay – Lac Saint Jean wild blueberry blossom honey from Miel des ruisseaux (fyi: the blueberries are being harvested there as I write this post), which recently became the proud member of ÉCONOMUSÉE network.
Wild blueberries in Saguenay – Lac Saint Jean © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Infusing the honey with chilis in a hot water bath (bain marie) doesn’t alter the taste of the honey: it just warms up and accentuates the blueberry notes (or any other notes of the honey you choose to make spicy) and the heat is very subtle.
DIY steps to make chili infused honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
The chilies infused honey make an excellent alternative to some expensive commercial chilies infused honeys as well as the welcome condiment in the fridge to help you build some extraordinary flavors.
For some extremely haute cuisine take, lace it over fine brie or blue cheese finish on top of the raspberry almond tea cake – OUCH! Sooo decadent!
Spiced honey drizzled brie on top of the raspberry tea cake © http://www.letsheatit.com/
Or, have on a flaky breakfast pan-fried blistered breakfast bread – simply out of this world!
Flaky pan fried breakfast bread drizzled with spiced honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
I hope you will enjoy this simple alchemy trick.
Chilies infused blueberry honey © http://www.letsheatit.com/
All the best dear readers.
***
***
ADOBE CHILIES INFUSED HONEY*
Ingredients:
1 cup honey
Two medium-size dried adobe chili peppers, cut in pieces, OR 1 teaspoon dried crushed chili flakes
1 sterilized jar + lid
1 cheese cloth or fine mesh, to strain
Instructions:
Pour the honey into a ceramic heat proof bowl and stir the chili peppers in. Place the bowl into the hot water bath, bring the water to simmer and heat from 3-5 minutes (for less spicy honey) to 15 minutes (for the spicier version). Remove from heat and cool to the room temperature. Strain the honey through the cheese cloth or the fine mesh into the sterilized jar. Refrigerate overnight and store in the fridge for up to a month. Bring the spiced honey to the room temperature before serving or using in dessings, glaze or sauce.
*Feel free to experiment with any other dried or fresh spicy capsicums, including: jalapeno, scotch bonnet peppers, etc.

Brewing Your Own Specialty Vinegars


There are million ways to capture the essence of season. Home making herb flower or berry vinegar at the end of summer is my favorite. Not only it’s dumb-easy and fast to make, it can be a child’s play. You can enjoy the results as soon as within 3 days. Use it in variety of stews, dressings, sauces and gravies in upcoming fall and winter and they will always remind of the beautiful and warm summer afternoon you were making them. Give it as a surprise hostess gift to your guests, decorated with tag and nice ribbon and they will always remember you.  Add it to your home spa and it will relax and sooth you beyond imaginable.  Rinse your hair with nettle infused vinegar/water solution and it will shine better than after any L’Oreal professional product. And the list of benefits goes on. Sounds convincing? Great!
First though, a brief digression for fun and to challenge some fellow Montrealers.
This Sunday, August 24th foodie enthusiasts will have a chance to attend the International Gourmet Fair at Cosmodôme in Laval, where they can sample all kind of gourmet foods from local producers  or from around the globe, from Australia to Brazil, Europe to Africa, Mexico to Alaska.  Note: you can save a few bucks on specialty vinegars after this post, because from now on you’ll be able to make them yourself – ta-dah!
Another event (which is quite unusual) designed for singles with dogs is ambiguously called ’Finally, Speed Dating with Your Dog! . For only $5.00 participation fee it can lend you with a perfect match provided you have a dog and are ready to speed-date. That’s if your dog is a well-trained ice-breaker who makes strangers say: ‘God, he’s so cute!’ and wears no muzzle. In this case, I assume you can easily approach a similarly-looking dog’s owner who appeals to you saying: ‘Hey, do I know your dog?’ If the person responds: ‘Yes, it’s the same breed’ it’s a sign he-she is interested. You can now proceed to the ice-breaking topic on how to remove the fleas or make the coat shiny with home-made nettle vinegar and fatty acids  and see where it goes with his/her/dog’s reaction and body language… But if you don’t find your ‘Gerard Butler’ at this event, don’t despair, keep in mind that sometimes ‘a coatrack with a leather jacket on it’ (Tina Fey’s excerpt quote) can be a safer speed-dating option.
All right, enough with entertainment, let’s take a closer look at the infused vinegars. The infused vinegars take the taste and blush of the herbs/flowers/berries along with the part of their nutritional value.  

They can be made with practically any edible herb, flower or berry. Use the herbs you grow in your garden, balcony or you just bough at the farmers market, they are all good as long as you know they are fresh and organic.

Simple how-to: fill the glass container half-way with herbs/flowers/berries (wash them only if see necessary, otherwise use them as is). Pour the vinegar of your choice (from regular white to wine to rice to apple cider to champagne vinegar) to the top. Cover and store in a cool dark place for three days. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discard the herbs/blossoms and pour vinegar back into the bottle. Cover tightly with non-reactive plastic or cork. Store the infused vinegar in a cool dark place for up to two months.
Tips for the stronger and better quality infusion: warm the vinegar up to the hot, but not boiling point before pouring over the packed herbs/blossoms. Let cool, cover tightly with the cork or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 weeks, shaking from time to time to blend the flavors. Equally, you can skip warming up the vinegar and store it for brewing in the sun on the window seal, however, expect the color of the vinegar to fade a little in this case. Final tip from the folk magic: collect your herbs, berries and flowers either in the morning or later in the afternoon to attain the best flavor results.
Below I am giving three recipes for herbal, flour and berry infused vinegars, respectively.
I selected the stinging nettle for herbs because of its versatility. Not only it makes a great, nutty tasting, refreshing component of the salad, stew or soup dressing, it is an amazing skin and hair product for the anti-bites of the insects, soothing baths or the hair rinse (50/50 mix with water). For centuries stinging nettle has been known to add life and vibrancy to weak, distressed and dull hair and help the skull dryness issues as well as the hair loss. Use organic or homemade apple cider vinegar for an extra goodness. And don,t forget the doggie’s coat if you really love your pet!
The rose petals vinegar of an amazing fragrance and lovely magenta color has properties similar to nettle vinegar, except of course you would not add it to the soup (well, a cold almond gazpacho maybe?)  It adds a wonderful floral touch to baking goods, pancakes (try blueberry pancakes with it), fruit salads. It has a cooling and anti-inflammatory effect on insect bites (anti-itch), sunburns, small cuts and even rosacea (mix of 3 parts witch hazel water and 1 part rose petal vinegar). It can be successfully used as a rub to bring down the fever. As for the home-made spa soaks and baths I would only compare it with the luscious lavender vinegar.
Finally, the mix of herbs and berries in vinegars is also an outstanding way to bring the best out of both. My current favorites are: currants & mint (recipe below); juniper berries and sage; blackberries, lemon balm mint and lemon peel.
Good luck brewing your own herbal vinegars!
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One Year Ago: Grilled Sardines 
 
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STINGING NETTLE INFUSED VINEGAR
Ingredients:
2 cups fresh stinging nettle leaves
2 cups white or apple cider vinegar
Glass jar with wide mouth
Instructions:
Pack the glass jar with the stinging nettle leaves wearing the gloves. Warm up the vinegar in the non-reactive container in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, or on the stove up to the hot, but not boiling point. Pour over the packed leaves. Mix well gently.  Let cool, cover tightly with the cork or plastic wrap and refrigerate or keep in the cool dark place for 2-3 weeks, shaking from time to time to blend the flavors. Use in salads, baths, or as a hair rinse (mixed 50/50 with water).
ROSE PETALS INFUSED VINEGAR
Ingredients:
2 cups fresh organic rustic rose petals
2 cups white or apple cider vinegar
Glass jar with wide mouth
Instructions:
Pack the glass jar with the rose petals. Warm up the vinegar in the non-reactive container in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, or on the stove up to the hot, but not boiling point. Pour over the packed leaves. Mix well gently.  Let cool, cover tightly with the cork or plastic wrap and refrigerate or keep in the cool dark place for 2-3 weeks, shaking from time to time to blend the flavors.
BERRY MINT VINEGAR
Ingredients:
1/4 cup fresh and clean mint leaves
2 cups white wine or rice vinegar
1 ½ cups raspberries, blueberries, currants or blackberries
Glass jar with wide mouth
Instructions:
Chop or slightly rub the mint leaves between your palms. Pack half of the leaves into the jar, add berries, then the rest of mint. Place vinegar in the ceramic or glass container and warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds. Pour hot vinegar over the berries and mint, gently stir to combine. Set aside to cool. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-4 weeks. The longer the vinegar stands, the stronger the flavors will be. Gently stir the vinegar every few days to blend the flavors.
The last recipe was adapted from: William Sonoma

My Little New York Cheesecake Diary

You might think that summer is too hot to have a piece of cheesecake, but for us, Northerners, a piece of this unctuous treat with a cup of tea, a glass of cider or low-alcohol slightly effervescent young wine is just what the doctor ordered on a cutting-the-grass chilly afternoon like today.

For many the New York style cheesecake may sound like a cliché, but I have my own special connection with it. It began with the first bite of the world’s most fabulous cheesecake at Junior’s Cheesecake and Desserts in New York City (NYC) years ago. The taste of the suave white cheese and the clean citrus tang lingered in my mouth for hours. That night I decided that, whenever possible, I would start taking notes of the cheesecake recipes from different eateries in New York whenever I’d try it, as long as it would be same impressive.

 

I started a little diary and called it ‘My New York Cheesecake diary’. I’ve collected over a dozen recipes of the variations of the New York style cheesecake, including the immortal Lindy’s, Reuben’s and of course, the Junior’s one.

Lower right image is a postcard photo of Lindy’s Restaurant at Broadway and 52st Street in New York City in ‘60s

Of course, there are countless diners in NYC to have a fabulous piece of NY style cheesecake. The Junior’s remain to be my preferred one, and any time I’m in NYC, I’m trying to block out an afternoon to get that piece of cheesecake and take a subway ride from Manhattan to Coney Island or Brighton Beach to watch the cityscape like a local (since I’m way passed the Empire State Building or Central Park phases)… to have a cake on the beach for a much deeper connection with the great Metropolis and its sounds, colors and tastes. 

That for me is the latest ultimate luxury of an experience as well as the way to culminate into that city-that-never-sleepsfinal vibe, which feels like in that realtor’s quote:“We give you the chance to stay in someone’s place while they’re out of town. Live their life for a few days and nights. Act like you own the place. Because, for a few days, you do.”

And that’s also the reason why I got hooked on one of the final episode of Girls’ so much: when Hannah is sitting in the sand of Coney Island, eating the cake she previously saved at the wedding for her boyfriend, and reflecting. Of course it’s is also because of the genius combination of the sounds of the ocean, the seagulls, the cake-smacking and that uber-engaging instrumental that I can’t find anywhere, but mostly because this experience is almost personal and leaves me hungry for more of the NYC gastronomic experiences.
Photo © Girls via Indiewire.com
When experimenting with NY style cheesecake at home, I figured over the years that my favorite one is the Three Citrus Cheesecake, which I glazed this time with my own candied Meyer lemon and it was simply out of this world…  That is the reason I’m sharing the recipe with you today. Enjoy it!

PS: Please note that two major ingredients of New York cheesecake are Philadelphia cream cheese and Graham crumbs crust. Feel free to use the ready-made Graham crust to save time and effort.  For other than Graham crumbs crust, please see the recipe below.

***
One year ago: Thai Chicken Burger
***
THREE CITRUS NEW YORK STYLE CHEESECAKE WITH CANDIED MEYER LEMON
Yields: 12 portions
Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups Graham crumbs* (see the substitutes below if necessary)
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 pkg. (250g each) Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp each grated lemon, lime and orange peel zest
1 tbsp each lemon, lime and orange juice
Thinly sliced citrus or candied Meyer lemon for garnish
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Unless using a ready-made crust, mix crumbs and butter and press firmly onto 9-inch springform pan. Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and mix until blended. Stir in zested peel and juices and pour into the crust.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Garnish with candied Meyer lemon slices if available or lemon, lime and orange slices, or fresh fruit.
*For Gluten free Graham crust:
Mix the following ingredients and spread evenly but lightly in 9-inch diameter springform pan:
1 ½ cups commercial gluten-free flour*
½ cup unsalted butter (melted)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup minced chopped nuts
* Note: You can make your own GF flour by mixing 6 cups sweet rice flour; 2 cups tapioca flour and 1 cup potato starch flour
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Stir until well crumbled, return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more until evenly golden brown.
** For the Flour Made crust Lyndie’s Cheesecake style (for two cakes):
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp salt
1 egg yolk
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
Combine flour, butter, sugar, zest, salt, yolk and vanilla seeds in a bowl, work with fingers until dough forms. Form the dough in 2 rounds; wrap each in a plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour. Press 1 dough round into 9 –inch springform pan; pull off pieces from remaining dough and press around sides of pan. Set aside. Bake at 400F for 8-10 minutes until golden and proceed with the filling part above.

Candied Citrus Peel: Versatile Cooking Ingredient

One of my grandma’s signature preserves was a gooseberry jam with orange peel – a super delicious treat with a strong citrus identity you can never forget. ‘’Can we use orange peel with anything else?’’, I used to ask my mother repeatedly when a kid and she would say: ‘’I’m not sure, but it makes a good still life subject’’… My mother, folks… She was an artist and a kind of a cook who would think that an orangette is made of an apple slice soaked in Grand Marnier. However, her mantra was stuck in the back of my head; for years I’ve been buying a scentless commercial mixed peel the color of a landfill waste for my baking needs like zombie. Until one day I actually read the label, discovered that the major ingredient was not even a citrus peel but rutabaga + a bunch of chemicals… I found myself peeling oranges and slicing lemons in candied-citrus-peel frenzy. I was stunned how easy and inexpensive the method of making a candied peel was. Stupefied and aghast, I was looking at the results of my own fresh and zesty mixed peel wondering what took me so long to discover this treasure trick to do about the citrus waste.
Whoever made this discovery was a genius. For all I know now, people have been using candied citrus for a long-long time. It’s truly a four-season condiment, which is also extremely versatile in its applications. Who said the candied citrus peel is only for Christmas?
Easter is around the corner with candied fruit panettone, cross buns, kulich and tsoureki. But why waiting for it if you can have it right now in your lemon drizzle, chocolate or bundt cake, Eccles cakes (coming next and the actual reason I’m writing this post), raspberry bar cookies, granolas, and so many more… Not to mention the increasing array of cocktails and simple treats where this vivid essential comes to garnish vodka martini, citrus granita or lemon peel yogurt. Heck, I am even using it tonight to garnish the citrus roast chicken with mashed potatoes for my non-fasting party (we have another snow storm outside, so a citrus granita alone would not help much).
 And, of course, the famous Parisian dessert: les orangettes!
The orange peel candied in syrup infused with peppercorns, anise and vanilla pod and dipped in dark chocolate. Va-va-voom! So art deco and so Josephine Baker dance… 
A little recycling effort and here you are with a cup of coffee and a few of these decadent morsels transcending Canadian winter boundary straight into Paris in spring, somewhere between 6ème Saint-Germain-Des-Prés and La Maison du Chocolat. 
 
Finally, please don’t forget about the candied orange peel it when you make your next chocolate fondue…
As usually, I am saving some of my sweet teeth for the summer when I will have gooseberries back in my garden and will be canning them into my Grandma’s humble gooseberry jam along with these little orange shape-shifters for that one and only citrus kick. 
Not every citrus peel needs to be blanched three times. Below, I am giving you three different recipes for Candied Mixed Citrus Peel, the Orangettes and Candied Meyer Lemon Peel, respectively. Here are some general tips on making a candied citrus peel a success:
         * Boiling the peel and discarding the water 3 times is the key to remove bitterness from orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit peels.
         * Adding a bit of lemon juice to boiling syrup will help to prevent crystallization.
          * You can vary the texture of your future candied peel from soft (boiling for 10 minutes) to caramelized and chewy (additional 10 minutes of boiling).
         * Recycle the remnant citrus-infused syrup in cocktails, lemonade, fresh berries coulis, yogurts, etc.
          * The candied Meyer lemon preserve requires only one pre-boil, because the Meyer lemon’s skin is not as bitter as other citrus (especially when in season).
          * If you wish to make your orangettes version as close to the Parisian version as possible, please do use peppercorns, anise and vanilla pod in the boiling syrup and let your orange peels steep in it for at least few hours upon the end of boiling. As for the chocolate, please use the darkest you can find.
Enjoy your home-candying and I hope you will find this post helpful. À bientôt!

***
One year ago: Homemade Chicken Stock;

***
CANDIED MIXED PEEL
Ingredients:
2 small oranges, peeled
1 small grapefruit, peeled
1 lemon, peeled
1 lime, peeled
1 ¾   cups white sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups water for syrup, plus more for blanching
Instructions:
Peel citrus fruits with the peeler. Reserve the fruits for another use. Slice peels in ¼ inch pieces.  Cover citrus peels with water in a sauce pan, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat blanching for two more times to remove the citrus peel bitterness. Drain citrus peel and set aside.  Combine sugar and 2 cups of water in a sauce pan, bring to boil and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon juice. Stir in citrus peel and simmer for 1 hour. Let cool. Drain. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the peel pieces to dry.  Let dry for 20-24 hours. Store in airtight container. Will keep on the shelf for about a week and for about a month in the fridge. Freezes well for longer shelf life.
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LES ORANGETTES – FRENCH BISTRO STYLE CANDIED ORANGE PEEL
Ingredients:
6-7 oranges peeled
2 cups water + more for blanching
1 ½ cups white sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 peppercorns
1 piece star anise
1 small vanilla pod, pulp and bean
Instructions:
Cut oranges into quarters, peel and remove the pulp and save for another use. Slice the peel into thin strips. Remove the pith from the peels using paring knife.  Cover the peels with water in a sauce pan, bring to boil, simmer for 5 minutes, drain and put into an ice cold bath. Repeat blanching two more times. Place all the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add the thrice blanched peel and bring to boil and simmer for about an hour on a very low heat without the lid. Remove from heat and allow the mix to cool overnight steeping peels in the syrup. Next day, drain the peels, distribute on a cooling rack and let dry for at least 6-7 hours. Store in the airtight container.
To coat in chocolate, melt 100g of the dark bitter-sweet chocolate in bain-marie and using tongs or tweezers dip each peel, coating fully or partially and leave to set on a baking sheet.
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CANDIED MEYER LEMON
Ingredients:
3 Meyer lemons, thinly sliced
2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup sugar for sprinkling
Instructions:
Place sliced Meyer lemons in a saucepan and cover with 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Combine sugar and 1 cup of water, bring to boil and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon juice. Stir in sliced lemon and simmer for 45 minutes stirring from time to time. Let cool. Drain. Distribute on wire rack, sprinkle with sugar and let dry for 4-5 hours. Store in airtight container on the shelf for one week, or in the fridge for 2 weeks.