Thursday, December 7, 2023

What and How to Eat Now

Here's a quick round-up of some seasonally appealing Gardenista pieces I have written. Follow the links to read: 

First up, Forest Toddies. On the cold-weather walks I lead, I sometimes make a hot toddy to warm frigid fingers. (It stays steaming in Thermos flasks.) It's alcohol-free but manages to taste grown up and complex. Everyone asks how it is made. My current hot toddy recipe is based on fresh apple cider, with the addition of citrus and herbs, a whisper of fir, and sometimes even a beneficial mushroom. 

When I've made the toddy and allowed all the flavors to infuse, it is strained and bottled, to live in the fridge. For the last month the Frenchman and I have been sipping a version of it (it welcomes improvisation) every evening, to see what life is like without a 6pm cocktail (no surprise, life goes on, without a hitch, but it's a useful experiment). But you can also drink it cold, shaken up with the hooch of your choice. I recommend bourbon. Good for parties.

Here is the Virgin Hot Toddy recipe.

It's yuzu season, and the aromatic, golden citrus are a highlight of my growing and eating year. Our own little tree had it's first proper crop this year (last year it produced three, I think), and it still has some plump fruit ripening on its branches. 

Yuzu are the essential ingredient for yubeshi, a cured, savory-sweet Japanese confection, intended to be sliced and nibbled with hot black tea. 

You can buy high-quality yuzu fruit online (they make a special gift) in the US from Flavors by Bhumi, New Jersey-based growers who also source unusual citrus fruit from other growers in the country. 

Are there still rosehips, where you live? They tend to become sweeter with cold. But sweet or astringent, here is my recipe for rosehip syrup. No boiling at all, just sugar, fruit, and time. The leftover hips make a very appealing candy-like snack, if they are large enough for the seeds to be scooped out easily.

What is the hardiest of citrus fruits? Clue: It is also the thorniest. Trifoliate orange, also called hardy orange, and more lemon than orange (very sour), and more yuzu than either (its skin is very fragrant). 

It makes a very good fermented syrup or cheong - transliterated Korean for marmalade, except the marmalade is is not cooked, and is traditionally stirred into boiling water for a therapeutic tea. The best-known cheong may be made with yuzu, but I use hardy orange in exactly the same way. 

Finally, dark afternoons, long nights, cold weather? We need bright colors and beneficial microbes to sustain us through winter. It's time to make fermented red cabbage (aka sauerkraut) with fresh juniper (Juniperus virginiana, but yes, you can use store-bought). 

The tangy kraut is good to eat as soon as five or six days (above) after the process has begun, and is then still very crunchy. I like it best around the three-week mark, by which time it has moved to the fridge...

Happy reading, and bon appétit!  


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  1. Christine (jardindemontagne)December 8, 2023 at 8:30 AM

    These are all lovely ideas, I wish I could make everything... I hold you responsible for starting my citrus collection: I am the proud owner of a makrut lime. No flowers yet, but it grew lustily outside during the summer and now new leaves appearing indoors. A good sign I'm sure. Next on my list is a poncirus trifoliata. And when I have practiced my citrus parenting skills a bit more I will add a yuzu. See what you have done? Then I have a question about drying persimmons: would my indoor conditions be appropriate - in winter my house is quite cold in parts (10 to 15C) but dry (35% humidity). I also have warm/hot and dry spots around/above the wood burners. Your expert advice would be gratefully received!

    1. Hi Christine - silly Blogger isn't letting me sign in as me. Anyway! I am glad your makrut is doing well. Mine have put out some new growth and flowers, fingers crossed. I wonder if a yuzu (Citrus junos) might be hardy enough for your to keep outdoors? Persimmons and hoshigaki - I think dry is good, although not sure about hot! The only issue for me in the past has been higher humidity and possible lack of airflow, which is why I keep a little fan below mine - they hang high and so are closer to warmer air. Traditionally they are made en masse outdoors, with cool nights. I think they are pretty adaptable.


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