Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Putting Food By

Insomniac. Parasomniac. Just-don’t-care-about-football heretic. Call me what you might, but after my Fighting Black Bears of the University of Maine football team (yes.... Maine has a football team.... a pretty good one this year) won Saturday (and all those other local favorites lost spectacularly), I called it a day early and slept through all the angst and unhappiness. Sometimes the oblivion of a cozy bed is better than football (ha!).

One consequence of falling asleep before the sun goes down is waking up the next morning before the sun comes up.  The sun and moon and stars and I have a tortured relationship:  I love them all, and won't try to prove which I love more, because I don't.  Like my kids (they don't get this either).  I can't pull that equal-time-for-each-side-of-the-family gymnastics off for either my kids or my companions in the heavens. 

My biological clock seems to know when it's time to rest and when it's time to get on with making something of the bountiful life we have.

Restlessness and tossing around make for an unhappy spouse (woe to she who adds sleep interruption to disappointing football results). Since my racing mind was circling the clean-out-the-perishables track at an Indy 500 pace, I headed for the kitchen, my refuge.  There’s always something to do in the kitchen. My studio is also a refuge, but since it’s attached to the bedroom, it’s not a good choice when respecting DH’s sleep needs.

I'm planning to make a traditional Swedish sugar sweet for our upcoming office cookie exchange, although it calls for a few "exotic" ingredients (those sorts of things you can't just pick up at the local southwest Virginia grocery).  One is golden syrup, which Substitution Queen here has all taken care of (more about our syrup stash another day).  Another is vanilla sugar.  Trawling about the internet brought the simplest of recipes from one of my favorite food nerds, Alton Brown.  I had vanilla beans in the freezer and sugar in the pantry.  Score.

Vanilla sugar is just that simple: slice the vanilla beans open and scrape out the insides.  Add to sugar.  The ratio is approximately one vanilla bean to 2c. sugar.  The entire mixture takes up about one quart canning jar (if you tamp it down some).  Since my sugar tends to be lumpy, I ran it through the sifter first, then mixed it up and stuck it in the canning jars.  Made two batches.  They're "getting happy" infusing merrily on the shelf until I need some next week.

I still had about eight full vanilla beans left over.  A little more trawling on the internet found a vanilla syrup recipe which is only slightly more complicated:  an added ingredient (water) and process (cooking until the sugar melts into solution).  I added a "shelf stabilization" process as well, opting to "can" the syrup (process in hot water bath for about 10 minutes) in pint and half-pint jars.  Voila!  Homemade holiday gifts!  Beautiful, too.  Score 1 for the freezer, now down the vanilla beans from who-knows-when-but-they-came-from-Maine-so-it-must-have-been-a-while. 

Vanilla beans = extra-special love.

On a roll (or a rolling boil!)...  also preserved (most of) the rest of the fresh cranberries and some apples, together with some of my Swedish-heritage stash of fresh cardamom to make our own version of jellied cranberry sauce/jam.  I made this is thinking ahead a little to the pork loin I'm planning to stuff for Christmas and the fact that preserved jam will keep on the shelf for, well, almost ever.  The cranberries were beginning to look a little peaked, so into the pot they went, with sugar and apples and cardamom, then into jelly jars and then the canning pot.  So, so pretty.  One of the jars may be another holiday gift!

CranApple Cardamom Jam

Vanilla Syrup

Vanilla Sugar


Jennifer S said...

What would you suggest using Vanilla syrup for????

Accidental Artisan said...

Coffee sweetener. Substitute for honey or maple syrup or (ugh!) corn syrup (not that I make much calling for corn syrup). Drizzle it over baked goods. Use it in place of liqueur.