Posts Tagged With: Carolyn Niethammer

When Drought Led to Famine, What Did People Eat?

Here in the Southwest, we’re heading into our second year of severe drought after a few years of normal drought. Because we humans live in the Twenty-First Century, we can live on food grown and imported from rainier regions or grown with water pumped from deep in the earth. But what about the indigenous people who lived here centuries ago, how did they cope with drought? What did they eat when the rains didn’t come or were spotty?

It’s Carolyn here today, and I began to look for some answers in the new book Famine Foods: Plants We Eat to Survive (University of Arizona Press, 2021) by Paul E. Minnis, an archaeologist/ethnobotanist. Dr. Minnis writes: “Food shortages of various kinds and severities have been a part of humanity for as long as humans have existed.” Later, he writes, “Out of these experiences, humans have developed a range of responses to deal with these problems including the use of famine foods.”

Although Minnis looks at how people respond to food shortages world-wide, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the Southwest. Because famines only occurred every so often, there was the chance that plants that weren’t eaten regularly, but could be eaten might be forgotten. The Zuni of New Mexico embedded ethnobotanical knowledge by making plants integral parts of ritual paraphernalia so people had to remember where to gather them and they also included knowledge of plants in ritual liturgy. So even if someone had not actually eaten a plant, they had heard of it.

People facing food shortages also changed their minds about what they considered proper food. During the Second Century in Greece, peasants facing food shortages would eat acorns they had stored to feed their pigs. However on the California Coast, centuries later, Native Americans subsisted to a great part on acorns and considered them a fine and preferred source of food.

Here are some wild foods that sustained desert dwellers in Southern Arizona for millenia even in droughtrs: saguaro, mesquite, barrel cactus, and both prickly pear pads and fruits (pictured above). My colleagues and I have written about all of these numerous times over the years, not as famine foods, but as ways to bring the desert into your life.

This years saguaros are blooming further down on the arms. Botanists believe this may be related to the drought. More fruit means more opportunity for baby saguaros. (Photo by Doug Kreutz)

Another way Native Americans faced food shortages is what Minnis calls “social banking.” In 1939, the town chief of Acoma, a New Mexico Pueblo said, “The people of Zuni are coming. They have no crops. They are coming to work for us. Some day we might have to go to them when our crops are small.” The Tohono O’odham when facing food shortages would sometimes go visit their cousins the Akimel O’odham who had an easier time growing crops with the Gila River water. Because there were no draft animals, it was easier to move the people to the food rather than try to transport large quantities of food.

To learn more about how people all over the world have survived food shortages and famine, get a copy of Famine Foods and learn about human resilience.

Want to know more about history of food in the Southwest? My new award-winning book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage covers more than 4,000 years of food history, from the hunter-gatherers, to the Early Agriculturalists to today’s farmers.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Coriander: Herb Gives Depth to Southwest Spice Blends

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Dried balls of coriander from my garden.

First, I’d like to welcome all of our 401 followers. The three of us-Tia Marta, Amy and, me, Carolyn Niethammer–realize that we write about quirky subjects and we will never attract the numbers of readers as do bloggers who concentrate on such things as chocolate and whipped cream. Here you’ll most likely find foods that hide their goodness beneath spines, spices that tingle on the tongue,  plants that have fed humans for thousands of years. We love having you as a community of cooks who love trying wild foods and getting creative with Southwest flavors. We come to you every 10 days with something seasonal and delicious.

It’s getting very warm in our Southwestern desert city and garden plants that don’t like hot weather are giving up. This includes cilantro that has been such a lovely addition to so many foods all winter. But it doesn’t go away entirely. First it flowers, then it leaves tiny balls that when dried we call coriander. Some people call both the fresh herb and the dried coriander, but each of them has a distinct flavor so giving them each their own name seems fair.  

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Fresh cilantro likes cooler weather in the garden.

 

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After the cilantro leaves dry up, the flowers produce these tiny balls that we call coriander.

Coriander combines beautifully with other Southwestern herbs, giving them a twang, a tiny bit of sweetness, and a depth of flavor that works to meld the other flavors. It is widely used in East Indian dishes.  Below is a beginning recipe, but you should feel free to customize it to your own taste. Then you can use it as a rub for pork or chicken, you can add it to sauces that need a little something,  use it while stir-frying veggies, and even just use it as a dipping spice for pita bread or fat flour tortillas.

Southwestern Spice Rub

Go very light on the salt or it can overwhelm the other flavors. Taste the blend without the salt first; you may decide you don’t need it. 

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon chile powder of choice

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed (optional)

pinch of salt (optional) 

Combine all herbs and flavorings. Taste and adjust. Use as a rub or a dipping spice.

Put a small puddle of good olive oil on a plate, dip your pita in the oil and then your coriander spice mix. Delicious!


Why was Tucson named the first US UNESCO City of Gastronomy? How about 8,000 years of food history, the first agriculture in what we now call the United States, the first irrigation, and the fact that people in the Santa Cruz Valley still eat some of the same foods that the Native population enjoyed all those years ago. You can read the whole fascinating story in my new book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage.” And find recipes for these foods in “Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.”

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, herbs, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Grapefruit and Poppy Seeds: Cooking from Neighborhood Abundance

Spring finds Southern Arizona desert communities deep in citrus of all kinds. Our grapefruit tree died but I never lack for grapefruit because there are so many productive trees in Tucson owned by people who either don’t like grapefruit or have way more than they can use. This recipe also uses poppy seeds that I grow in my garden. I planted some years ago and do harvest the seeds carefully, but once again, there are so many seeds some drop to the ground and carefully wait out the summer heat to reappear the next winter.

Grapefruits are abundant now in desert communities.

The desert Southwest is awash in citrus every spring. This includes oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and little fruits such as calamondins. Many folks who have a grapefruit tree in their yard find they have way too many, either because they don’t like them or the trees have produced way more than they care to eat. Iskashitaa, a nonprofit that organizes refugees and local citizens into harvest groups, gathers the unwanted fruit and distributes it to those in need or those willing to pay for it. This year has seen a really bountiful harvest. 

Zeru, from Eritrea, an Iskashitaa volunteer, is thrilled with this one-day harvest of grapefruit and lemons.

Our grapefruit tree died and our replacement tree hasn’t gotten organized yet to produce fruit, but the two grapefruit lovers in our household have been blessed by gifts from our neighbor and the Iskashitaa bounty.

This recipe for Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread gets a little crunch from tiny poppy seeds. I grow my own in my garden. I don’t even have to sow them anymore. Plenty of seeds spill when we’re harvesting them and by January they are coming up in the lettuce garden. They destroy the tidy look of the lettuce in rows, but I can’t bear to pull them out, so by now the garden is messy with poppies, nasturtiums, and lettuce somewhere down under everything. 

Oriental poppies produce thousands of tiny seeds and self-sow easily. Those round objects are the seed pods and when they dry, it is easy to shake out the seeds. Always some fall to the ground and nestle there until they decide to grow the following winter.

This Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread has a sweet fruity flavor but it’s hard to detect that it is actually grapefruit. So if you aren’t that keen on grapefruit, this might be a good way to use up some fruit.

Some tips before we get to the recipe. I always line my pans with parchment baking paper or foil to help get the loaves out in one piece. This particular bread seems very tender when it first comes out so the lining is important. 

Here’s a picture of poking the bread with a skewer to let the syrup penetrate the bread easier.

Use a skewer, a toothpick, or even a fork to make holes to allow the glaze to penetrate.

And the beautiful finished bread. This is what you are aiming for. 

Finished grapefruit bread with drizzled glaze

Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread

1 cup butter, softened

1-2/3 cups sugar, divided

3 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup yogurt

3 tablespoons poppy seeds

¼ cup grated grapefruit zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup grapefruit juice

Glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

1 tablespoon grapefruit zest

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1-1/3 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yogurt, poppy seeds, grapefruit zest and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture.

Transfer to a greased 9×5-in. loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl microsafe bowl, mix grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest, and remaining sugar. Microwave for 1 minute to make a simple syrup. Set aside.

Remove bread from oven. Immediately poke holes in bread with a fork; slowly pour juice mixture over bread. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. The bread is very tender at this point. The cooling in the pan is a necessary step.

In a small bowl, mix glaze ingredients. Carefully remove bread from pan and set on a wire rack and continue to cool; drizzle glaze over bread.

A few pieces of grapefruit bread make a lovely breakfast or a treat when hunger gnaws in the afternoon.

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I’m thrilled to announce that my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has won two awards. It was named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year list and also won a PubWest award for design. The latter was particularly satisfying because it honored Leigh McDonald and Sara Thaxton who did the extremely complex layout that makes the book so visually stunning. It was as if they entered my brain and executed exactly what I had been hoping for.  Order your copy from your local book store, from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or on-line.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Broccoli Leaves Make Chips, Not Compost

Crispy, salty broccoli chips are low calorie, and high nutrition and satisfaction.

For my winter garden, I always buy broccoli plants rather than growing my own from seed. This year, my little four-pack included a strange variety. One was a typical broccoli plant and the others were odd but fun variants, including a Romanesco.

The variants have huge leaves. I was going to chop them up for compost or give them to a friend with chickens, but then I decided having committed inputs like water and fertilizers, I should get some benefit. A quick internet scan introduced me to broccoli chips. 

First step is to tear them into chip-sized pieces, put them in a bowl and drizzle just a tiny bit of olive oil on them. Just a tiny bit and rub it all over.

 

Then lay the pieces on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt or seasoning. Go for a Southwest flavor with red chile, chipotle, or cumin with the salt but use a light hand.  The spoon is there to give you an idea of the size. I lined my pan with foil because the pans are new and I don’t want them stained like my old pans. 

 

Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. They need to be absolutely dry and crisp or you’ll end up with a mouth full of fiber when you eat them.

 

Put them out as snacks. They go fast.  Every chip comes with lots of fiber and Vitamin A. 

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I’m thrilled to announce that since my last post my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has won two awards. It was named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year list and also won a PubWest award for design. The latter was particularly satisfying because it honored Leigh McDonald and Sara Thaxton who did the extremely complex layout that makes the book so visually stunning. It was as if they entered my brain and executed exactly what I had been hoping for.  Order your copy from your local book store, from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or on-line.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Mesquite Apple Cake: Easy Treat for Valentine’s Day

Mesquite Apple Cake is good for breakfast or a healthy dessert. Add dried cranberries for a bit of red for Valentine’s Day. 

In my new book A Desert Feast, I write that one of the reasons Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is our long food history–we are eating some of the things people in our desert valley ate thousands of years ago. That includes mesquite pods. We aren’t chewing on the beans or pounding them in a bed rock mortar, but we are using the ground meal in delicious treats. Mesquite pairs well with apples and the warm spices like cinnamon.

This is an easy recipe that comes together quickly and is a good introduction to the mesquite flavor. It works well for a dessert or a sweet breakfast treat. Today I added dried cranberries to give a little bit of red for Valentine’s Day.  It’s worth the time to line your baking pan with foil or parchment paper. The bread is fragile when it comes out of the oven but will firm up as it cools. Without the paper you risk it falling apart when you take it out of the oven.

Lining your baking pan with parchment paper or foil helps ease the tender cake out of the pan.

 

By sprinkling the dry ingredients evenly over the wet batter, you can avoid the step of sifting the dry ingredients together.

Mesquite Apple Bread

 1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cardamom (optional)

2/3 cup white sugar

½  cup butter, softened (1 stick)

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup mesquite meal

1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup milk

2 apples, chopped (any kind)

½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

 ½ cup powdered sugar

 2 tablespoons milk or cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan or line with foil or parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray to get out easily for slicing.
  2. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  4. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
  5. Sprinkle flour, mesquite meal, and baking powder over the butter and sugar mixture and lightly combine with a fork. Then stir into the mixture until almost blended. Add milk and stir until all are combined. Stir in dried cranberries if using.
  6. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apple mixture, then half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Wet a tablespoon and use the back of it to push the apple mixture into the batter.
  7. Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apple mixture, then the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Again, push the apples into the batter.
  8. Using a table knife, swirl brown sugar mixture through apples.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 50-60 minutes. Make sure you check the center of the loaf as this is a dense cake and the ends are done before the middle. 
  10. To make glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed. Let cool cake for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.

The spikey thing next to the flower is a screwbean mesquite cluster. It is too cute to grind up for meal.

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A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has been named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year compilation.  Order through your favorite bookstore or here from Native Seeds/SEARCH

“Just received this absolute treasure! The wonderful stories and foodways accounts, not to mention local producers, make this an instant heirloom and everyday delight. Every food lover and food historian must get a copy of this marvel!”  — John F Swenson

Categories: Books, Cooking, Mesquite, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Flavorful Crispy Crackers with Barrel Cactus, Blue Corn and Herbs

Homemade crackers with lots of flavor are good for a snack plate or alongside soup or a salad.

I’ve spent the fall working on publicizing my new book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, so I when I tied my apron on this morning, I was looking forward to once again working up a new recipe. It’s something I’ve done many times previously for my five cookbooks, but I always feel the thrill of anticipation as I get out the bowls and measuring spoons. My experiments don’t always turn out great the first time, but this morning everything went smoothly.

Barrel cactus fruits are ready for harvest in the winter. With no spines, they are easy to gather.

I wanted to make crackers with barrel cactus seeds because that is one of the only wild foods available in the desert winter. Crackers are always a good accompaniment to the soups we eat in the winter and they also go great with the salads that I make for lunch from greens harvested from my garden.

Halve barrel cactus fruit and set in sun to dry. Seeds will then be easy to remove.

The most delicious homemade crackers I’ve had were made by caterer Kristine Jensen of Gallery of Food here in Tucson, so I called and asked her for some tips. Kristine talked about the importance of adding lots of flavor to the crackers and that certainly is a reason for making your own. To get that flavor, she uses a variety of flours and adds lots of herbs and spices. Her new curry-flavored crackers are very popular. She also said it is important to roll the dough very thin, spray the top of the rolled dough with olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse-ground salt.

With Kristine’s tips in mind and after looking over a few published recipes, I decided to use blue corn and low-gluten Sonoran White Wheat for a good base flavor, barrel cactus seeds for crunch, and coriander and dried rosemary (of which I had lots in my garden) for an extra punch of flavor. I rolled the cracker dough out on parchment baking paper because the dough is very fragile and not having to transfer the unbaked crackers separately to the baking pan meant fewer disasters.

Rolling the cracker dough very thin with ensure a crisp cracker. Here the dough is 1/16 inch thick.

Cut rolled out dough with a sharp knife and carefully separate pieces on paper before transferring on the parchment paper to a baking sheet.

Blue Corn Crackers with Barrel Cactus Seeds

1/2 cup Sonoran white wheat or all-purpose flour

1/2 cup blue corn meal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon fine salt

2 tablespoons melted butter

2tablespoons olive oil

5 tablespoons water

Coarse salt

2-3 tablespoons barrel cactus seeds

2-3 tablespoons crushed dried herbs

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the dough until well combined, then knead a little to even out the texture. Divide in half. Roll out on parchment baking paper. Brush or spray lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle salt, seeds and dried herbs on top and roll again to press into the dough. Cut into squares and gently separate. Transfer paper to a baking sheet. Bake in heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes, you don’t want them to burn. They should be lightly brown on the bottom. They may be a little soft but will crisp up as they cool.

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A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage tells the history of how residents of the Santa Cruz Valley have fed themselves over thousands of years, why they are still eating some of the same foods over that time, and how that led to Tucson’s designation of the first American city to earn the coveted UNESCO City of Gastronomy. You can order the book from your favorite bookstore, on-line, or from the Native Seeds/SEARCH bookstore.

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Cook Along Class of Desert Classics with Carolyn on Dec. 15

 

Here’s a fancied up presentation of the White Sonoran Wheat Salad we’ll make in the Flying Aprons Class.

Savor Sister Carolyn will be teaching a cook-along class for Flying Aprons on Dec. 15. We’ll make chicken breasts with prickly pear sauce (from The Prickly Pear Cookbook) , a Sonoran white wheat salad (from my new book A Desert Feast) , and an apple dessert with a mesquite crumble topping (from Cooking the Wild Southwest).  

If you cook along, you’ll have dinner ready at the end of the class. Or just watch and cook later. You can sign up for the class here.   Since this class is on Zoom (isn’t everything these days?) you can watch from anywhere. You can sign up on the Flying Aprons website here. 

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Still looking for a Christmas gift for your foodie friend? In my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History, you’ll read stories of how early residents existed on wild foods, how agriculture developed and the people built massive irrigation ditches with only wooden tools and baskets, and how the arrival of the Spanish changed everything. I also visit today’s farmers and talk about their challenges and how Tucsonans are learning to garden and grow their own food, starting with school and community gardens. You can order it from your local bookstore (they’ll love you for that) , from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or on-line sources.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: | 1 Comment

Watch The Savor Sisters Demo Wild Foods at Native Plants Christmas Party

 

The Tucson Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society has asked the Savor Sisters–Tia Marta, Amy, and me, Carolyn, to demonstrate cooking some virtual appetizers and “libations” for their on-line Christmas Party. You can join in on Thursday, December 10,  at 7 p.m. MST at a zoom meeting with this link. Amy’s making something with her delicious mole mix, Tia Marta is doing a wild rhubarb pudding, and I’m making a delicious goodie with a mixture of quinoa and popped amaranth seeds bound with agave syrup and coated with chocolate. This is a 21st century version of a treat previously made by the Aztecs. I’m also taking everyone on a field trip to a local craft brewery where the head brewer tells us about all the heritage ingredients that go in his beers.

My newest book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, is more a book of stories with just a few recipes to illustrate past and present food trends. So I went back to my previous cookbook, Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants to find the perfect recipe for this event.

Hank Rowe at Catalina Brewing adds desert flavors such as prickly pear and mesquite to his brews. Come along to hear Hank tell about his beers at the on-line Native Plant Society Party.

When you pour the amaranth into a hot wok, the golden seeds will pop and become like tiny kernels of popcorn. Work quickly and don’t let the seeds burn or they will be bitter.

 

Using two forks, dip each ball into the melted chocolate. They are fragile, so if any break, don’t panic or be upset. Just eat them immediately! Transfer coated balls to refrigerator to harden.

Aztec Delight

This recipe is from my book Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. In the video, you can watch the little amaranth seeds pop to a snowy cloud.

¼ cup chia seed

¼ cup amaranth seed

2-3 tablespoons agave syrup

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

            In a wok or heavy bottomed pan over medium heat parch the chia seed for just a minute or two, stirring constantly. Transfer to a coffee grinder or blender and grind to a powder. Put into a bowl.  Repeat with the amaranth grain.  It is possible the amaranth grain will pop while being parched, resulting in a light cloud, like very tiny popcorn kernels. If that happens, fine; if not, equally fine. Combine the ground chia and amaranth in a bowl and begin adding the agave syrup and stirring until you have a stiff dough that holds together.

            Form balls the size of a large olive. Put the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl and melt in the microwave or over hot water.  If using the microwave, heat for one minute, check, then continue heating in 30 second increments until melted. If too stiff, add a few drops of neutral oil, like grapeseed.

            Line a plate with waxed paper or plastic wrap.  Using the tines of a fork, roll each ball of the chia/amaranth dough in the chocolate. These balls are rather fragile so be careful. If one breaks apart, the best way to deal with that catastrophe is to eat it immediately.  Transfer the perfect ones to the plate.  Refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened.

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Still looking for a Christmas gift for your foodie friend? In my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History, you’ll read stories of how early residents existed on wild foods, how agriculture developed and the people built massive irrigation ditches with only wooden tools and baskets, and how the arrival of the Spanish changed everything. I also visit today’s farmers and talk about their challenges and how Tucsonans are learning to garden and grow their own food, starting with school and community gardens. You can order it from your local bookstore (they’ll love you for that) , from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or Amazon.

 

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holiday Citrus Treats and Zoom Invite

MEYER LEMONS and heirloom citrus fruits are ripening at Mission Garden orchard and in my own little desert oasis. Every part of this glorious fruit can add to festivities.  Read on to see how to even use citrus RIND in delectable confections!

Tia Marta here to share an easy and festive recipe my Great Aunt Rina used to make for the holidays when I was young–Citrus-Rind Candy.  With a combination of grapefruit, tangerine and orange–rare and special in early 1900s New England–she made sweet confections.  Now, in the Sonoran Desert where a diversity of citrus abounds thanks to introductions by early missionaries, I’m expanding on Aunt Rina’s inspiration.

Heirloom sweet lime is growing in profusion at Mission Garden. I can hardly wait to use its surprisingly sweet juice in a libation–then, to harness its unusually fragrant rind to make a confection.  It’s the ultimate “recycling” reward!

With citrus, nothing gets put in the compost except the seeds.  Check out two great posts for holiday libations with heirloom SWEET LIME and explore others thru the SavortheSouthwest Searchbox.

Meyer Lemon Rind Confection Step 1: After juicing lemon, cut rind into strips and put in saucepan.

RECIPE for MEYER LEMON-RIND CONFECTION:

Place 1 qt sliced lemon peel in saucepan.  Cover with 2 cups granulated sugar or 1 1/2 cups agave nectar.  (No water is needed as there is enough moisture in the rind’s white pulp to supply it.)  Mix well and simmer slowly until sugary liquid thickens, being careful not to scorch or caramelize.  Remove from pan and spread out slices on wax paper to cool, dry, and begin to crytallize.  Dust with powdered sugar.  If this candy remains pliable and sticky, you can dust again with powdered sugar.

A little bundle makes a fun old-fashioned stocking-stuffer, or, served on a buffet platter with other sweets it offers a “bitter-sweet” alternative.

Meyer lemon-rind confection is a welcome flavor surprise offering a pleasant bitter note with the sweet.

Processing (de-hulling) pine nuts from our native pinyon trees is an ordeal….

…but the rewards of our local pinyones (pine nutmeats) are a joy to the tastebuds! Our native pinyon pine nuts (Pinus cembroides and Pinus edulis) are bigger and tastier than Italian pignolas.

To add a local wild ingredient to your holiday confection, try adding some Southwest pinyones.  (New World pinyones is a local industry waiting to happen.  Thousands of years of Indigenous harvests of pinyon nuts should teach us what a treasure this desert tree gives!)

Of course you can cheat for this recipe and buy delicious Italian stone-pine nuts already de-hulled from Trader Joe’s.

The best “sticking ingredient” for attaching pinyon nutmeats to your citrus-peel confection is–tah dah you got it!!–our sublime western-hemisphere contribution to human bliss–chocolate! 

For the ultimate in Meyer lemon delicacies, try dipping your crystallized lemon-rind into melted chocolate, then while it is still hot and molten, imbed a sprinkle of pine nuts.  There’s no more decadent and delectable combo of flavors!

For more great ideas, you are cordially invited to join our Arizona Native Plant Society December Zoom meeting, Thursday, December 10, 2020, at 7pm for a delightful virtual pot luck — Native Plant Desserts and Libations!  Tia Marta will join Tucson’s culinary artists Carolyn Niethammer (author of the new book A Desert Feast) and Amy Valdes Schwemm (molera extraordinaire and creator of ManoyMetate mole mixes) with creative ideas and virtual “tastes” live.  To join the zoom go to www.aznps.com/chapters/tucson in early December for details, or send an email to NativePlantsTucson@gmail.com to request Zoom login.  The meeting will also be streamed on Facebook, starting at 7:00 pm Dec.10.

Happy holiday cooking with our local heirlooms!

Tia Marta’s heirloom products and Southwest foods artwork are available at www.flordemayoarts.com, www.nativeseeds.org, www.tohonochul.org, and in person over the holidays at Tucson’s Mission Garden.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Quince: Having Fun with an Old Fruit

Quinces come with a fuzz that must be washed off before cooking.

There are some people who like to cook, but want an explicit recipe to follow. Then there are others who dare to plunge in with new ingredients, new techniques, making it up as they go along. It’s Carolyn today and for all of my professional life, through five cookbooks, I’ve belonged to the later group. Most of my experimental cooking over the years has involved wild plants, but this week I began to make friends with an old-fashioned cultivar: the quince. There is plenty of advice for how to cook quinces, I’d just never done it before. And the advice isn’t foolproof. 

Quince is native to rocky slopes and woodland margins in Western Asia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and from northern Iran to Afghanistan. It was brought to the New World by the Spanish and is very popular in Sonora, Mexico. Several years ago, the Kino Fruit Tree Project propagated cuttings from quince trees in Sonora and many of those cuttings have grown into huge and prolific trees in the Mission Garden in Tucson. I write about these in my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History. Quinces aren’t as popular as apples, to which they are related, because they can’t be plucked from the tree and eaten. They are hard and astringent and they need to be cooked to be good. 

After looking through a number of recipes, I decided to take a risk and combine a couple of them. One bit of advice that ran through all the recipes was not to peel the quinces because that’s where much of the pectin (the jelling factor) lies. I decided to use half quince and half green apple and chose a technique of grating the fruit rather than chopping it. Then I mixed the sugar with the fruit, lemon juice, and water and cooked it. I kept having to add more water to get the fruit soft. Because I had added the sugar right away, the mixture jelled before it was adequately soft. 

Green apple on the left, quince on the right. Related but different.

This is a case of I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Quince, even when shredded is a hard fruit and takes a long time to cook. When I finally gave up, the resulting jam was rather chewy. 

Quince, when cooked with sugar, turns slightly pink.

In the middle of my experiment, I reached out to gardening and cooking expert Dena Cowan for advice. Maybe I should have done that first. Here is her response:  “For the past two years I have been making it in the crock pot! I cook the whole quinces first in a pot full of water for about 10 or 15 minutes, just to make it easier to cut them. (If you have a microwave, you can put the whole fruit in it for a minute). No need to peel. I cut around the core and wrap all the cores in cheesecloth. Then I dice the rest of the quince. I put the diced quince, the cores in the cheesecloth, and the cane sugar into the crock pot, stir it up, and leave it overnight. In the morning I mush the core and use what in Spain they call a “chino” (basically a strainer) to get the gelatin out of the cooked core. Then I mush all the quince with a masher and leave it a couple of hours more.”

Ultimately, I used my jam as filling for some turnovers. The texture is perfect for them. I have about a cup left. We can use it on toast or I might try it as an alternate filling in a recipe I have used for fig or date bars. 

Quince-Apple Preserves

2 quinces, unpeeled

2 green apples, unpeeled

¼ cup lemon juice

½ cup water (be prepared to add more)

2 cups sugar

Cut washed fruit in quarters and remove cores. Grate apples into a bowl; grate quince into heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add water to grated quince and cook over low heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add grated apple, lemon juice, sugar, and more water if necessary. Cook over medium heat, watching closely and adding more water as necessary, around another 15 minutes. The mixture is done when it turns pink. Makes about 1 pint.

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A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage tells the history of how residents of the Santa Cruz Valley have fed themselves over thousands of years, why they are still eating some of the same foods over that time, and how that led to Tucson’s designation of the first American city to earn the coveted UNESCO City of Gastronomy. You can order the book from your favorite bookstore, on-line, or from the Native Seeds/SEARCH bookstore.

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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