Candied Tangerine Peels

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Sunday, January, 18 2015 08:52:00 am   , 792 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 154105 views

 

tangerine tree
 
         Having access yet again to an abundance of tangerines (two trees have produced heavily now for the past five years or so), I decided to experiment and see what I could do with them besides eating them fresh from the trees or juicing them.  Tangerines, according to the online source Wikipedia (which cites the Oxford English Dictionary), are named such due to having been a citrus fruit commonly grown in the region of Tangiers. That article, besides listing key vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional constituents, cites research which identifies a flavanoid, called nobiletin, in tangerine peels "that not only prevents obesity in mice, but also offers protection against type 2 diabetes, and even atherosclerosis." Tangerine peel also contains a substance called Salvestrol Q40 which has been reported to kill "certain human cancer cells." Dried tangerine peels are popular ingredients in Sichuan cuisine. Another use for peels is as a confection, and so I have been making candied tangerine peels a lot lately.
 
tangerine peels prepared for making candy
 
        Candied tangerine peels are very easy to make. To do so, use the peels of about six large tangerines.  Because tangerines peel rather irregularly, you can simply use the "scraps."  (Large pieces of peels can be cut to 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips.)
        With tangerines you do not need to remove any or much of the white inner-peel (the pith). Blanching the peels in the first stage of preparation will get rid of any bitterness.  When one makes candied orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit peel, one needs to remove the pith to prevent bitterness. Here's how I make mine:
 
ingredients and utensils
 
Ingredients:
peels from about six tangerines
one cup sugar
water
 
blanching peels
 
        Place the tangerine peel pieces and strips in a sauce pan (I use a Corning Visions one-quart pan). Add water until it covers the peels. Bring the water to a boil and heat the peels for about twenty minutes. (You can turn down the heat as needed to prevent the pot boiling over, but keep a steady boil so that you can occasionally stir around the peels, so that all cook evenly and none stick to the bottom of the pan. They should start to have a translucent look at the end of twenty minutes.
 
cooling blanched peels
 
        Next, remove the pan from the burner and pour off (and discard) the water. Let the peels cool and dry. (This may help them to absorb the sugar water in the next step.)
 
making the sugar syrup
 
        Now, cover the peels with about a cup of granulated sugar (or an amount that equals the bulk of the peels). Add about the same amount of water. (Thus, one part peels, one part sugar, one part water.) Boil the resulting syrup until all the peels have a translucent appearance. (This may take up to about 15 minutes.)
 
cooking the peels in sugar syrup
 
the peels cooked and ready to be cooled and dried
 
dried cooked peels still warm, ready for sugar coat
 
peels on sugared pan, ready to be sprinkled
 
sprinkling the still warm peels
 
        Most orange-peel recipes online call for placing the peels on racks to dry out and be sprinkled with sugar, but because tangerines peel in small pieces, I've found the wire rack idea seems rather impractical. I've used a pizza pan and sprinkled it with sugar. I place the peels from the sauce pan onto the pizza pan individually (you can fork them out a few at a time and separate them so that the sugar adheres on their bottom surface). (If too much moisture, however, adheres to the peel, the sugar in the pan may just become a syrup. (It may help to lay them briefly onto a paper towel before placing them, still warm, onto the sugar. Cool ambient temperature makes the heat dissipate from the peel before they dry.) Now, sprinkle the tops of the peels with sugar and allow them to cool and dry and somewhat harden. (One batch I made on a cold day had to be put in a tray in the toaster oven and warmed at low heat in order to set up.)
 
tangerine peel, candied
 
        After the peels "set," you can remove them into a plastic or glass dish. (I use a Tupperware storage dish).
        Tips: I store peels in a bowl of water in the refrigerator until I have enough to make candied peels. (This may help remove any/some of the bitterness one may get from pith in making candied citrus peels). The boiling-blanching serves mainly this purpose. (Some recipes I've seen suggest blanching twice, but this is really not needed with tangerines.) While allowing the peels to cool and dry, you may find it helpful to turn the peels over and sprinkle a bit more before they finish cooling because peels do not lay perfectly flat in the pans. When you place the peels into a storage dish, add the loose sprinkled sugar from the cooling pan into the dish. Leave the lid off the dish (until totally cooled and set). As I said, I store mine in a tight-sealing plastic "tub" to seal out humidity.

Some Christmas Strangeness

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Friday, December, 26 2014 12:03:00 am   , 799 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 4382 views

 

 

 

        Over the centuries with the spread and practice of Christianity, Christmas (meaning "Christ's Mass," the celebration of the birth of Jesus) has come to be celebrated in some pretty strange ways, which have incorporated a hodgepodge of pagan, Christian, and secular themes, resulting in some really odd Christmas customs, traditions, and beliefs.

        In spreading the religion, pagan practices and beliefs were often accepted by the Christian Church but with, of course, a non-pagan spin or interpretation.  In doing so, natives of areas being newly converted could have their cake and eat it too by retaining old cherished customs now viewed in a new light as supportive of Christian ideals and beliefs.

        Many of the customs of Christmas practiced throughout the world today had their origins among the peoples of northern Europe and in their original state had no association or symbolism at all relating to Jesus or Christianity. The word "Yule," for example, is from the Old English term Geola which was the period of December and January over which important midwinter feasts were held. Following conversion, Geola came to be a reference to the Christmastide or twelve-day feast of the Nativity. The Yule log, a feature of the Christmas celebration of several European cultures may originally have been associated with the pagan winter solstice festival and is associated also with the Christmas Tide, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the Twelfth Night, as well as the English (Devon and Somerset) custom of the ashen faggot which is related likewise to the tradition of wassailing (or singing and drinking to the health of trees) during which celebrations a bundle composed of ash tree twigs and limbs is passed around before being placed on the fire.  In his 1864 Book of Days, Scottish author Robert Chambers wrote that "two popular observances belonging to Christmas are more especially derived from the worship of our pagan ancestors -- the hanging up of the mistletoe and the burning of the Yule log." Traditions such as focus on trees of the Yule celebrations syncretized with the gift-giving aspect from the Roman mid-December festival of Saturnalia to give us the current nature of the celebration of Christmas.

        Yet, some of the traditions which have developed over the centuries of observance of Christmastide seem peculiar and inconsistent with the current less raucous, more family-oriented focus of the season.  A couple particularly odd ways of celebrating Christ's Mass are the Catalonian customs of the Caganer ("the shitter" or "the crapper") and the Tió de Nadal ("the pooping log"). The Caganer is a figurine which depicts an individual in the act of defecation. Generally, these figurines which are placed into nativity scenes, but sometimes elsewhere, depict a peasant wearing the Catalan red cap (known as the "barretina), squatted, trousers down, in the act of...well, hmm....  In Catalonia and the rest of Spain, southern France and most of Italy, models of Bethlehem (similar to nativity scenes) were popular Christmas decorations. Thus, besides the figures contained in nativity scenes, other townsfolk figurines are featured. Among these are the Caganer. A Catalan tradition is to have children try to locate the figure.

        A variation of the Yule log celebration is found in the Catalonian tradition of the Tió de Nadal (meaning in English "Christmas Log").  The log is a character of Catalan mythology that brings small Christmas presents (larger gifts come from the Three Wise Men). Originally depicted as simply a dead log, in more recent times the Tió ("trunk" or "log") is featured as about a foot long (30 centimeters) having two or four stick legs and a painted, smiling face, and wearing a miniature Catalan barretina. Beginning at the December 8 Feast of the Immaculate Conception, children begin to care for the hollowed out log being sure to cover it with a small blanket and to feed it things like nuts and pieces of fruit, which mysteriously disappear when the children are not around. On Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, depending upon each family's own traditions, the family places the caga tió ("shitting log") with one end into the fireplace (not essential now that many homes lack fireplaces). The children hit the log with sticks to make it "defecate" presents while singing songs of Tió de Nadal. Before doing so, however, they must leave the room to pray, asking that the tió leave them lots of gifts. Their absence thus gives adults opportunity to place the gifts to be dropped when the log is hit as each child takes a turn to sing and hit the log. The various songs always begin with the imperative "Shit, log!"

        And so now a tree set up indoors, draped in lights and tinsel, and ornamented with colorful glass or plastic balls, just doesn't really seem all that unusual after all.

 

Photos: (Top) Photobucket (Middle and Bottom) Wikipedia.

Haint Blue: The Shades for the Shades

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Sunday, October, 19 2014 08:35:00 am   , 614 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 160016 views

 

          The autumnal equinox having passed and the length of the nights increasing, you are probably pondering the usual concern of this spooky time of year: keeping the ghosts at bay and thus protecting your abode from a haunting. (Of course you are! No use denying it!) Well, one sure-fire method, long a tradition through much of the South and to certain degrees in a few other areas, has not only reputedly effectively warded off the spooks but added to the aesthetics of homes ghosts just might covet.

          Some of the reasons given for the popularity of shades of blue for porch ceilings are that sky and water hues are simply a traditional standard, bring good luck to residents, or provide more light through reflection as the late day sun goes down. Victorian era homeowners especially preferred the colors of nature, and blues were popular to lend verandas the impression of clear sunny days even in the midst of stormy weather.

          Folklore has it that painting porches any of varying shades known, particularly in the South, as haint blue will keep an abode ghost free! The origins of this particular folklore has been attributed to different cultures but a tradition of Antebellum slaves is most often cited.  It is said that the Gullah (also called Geechee) slaves on the Low-Country (Tidewater) plantations of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida, held the belief that haints, being lost and wandering malevolent spirits caught between life and death, balk at the prospect of crossing bodies of water. Thus the colors of water confuse them and keep them from crossing verandas painted in such hues.  (So much for the various and sundry Lady of the Lake and La Llorona tales, one might scoff! But then those tales do not originate from African cultures.) Likewise the Gullah believed the heavenly color of sky blue was a certain deterent to these ill-disposed spirits, as the "up-lifting" shade would draw them up and away from the mortal denizens of the abode. Haint blue is not a specific shade. Rather, the term covers all color applications that historically were utilized to protect homes from restless spirits.

          Blues are averred not only to keep away unwanted guests of the bugbear sort but have been reputed to discourage the nuisance and unsightly housekeeping wrought by critters of the bug kind as well.  Eaves and porches act as magnets for spiders and insects, especially wasps and dirt daubers.  These small creatures find such havens as porches to be ideal locales for building their own abodes. Although there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that blue hues specifically repel bugs, it has been theorized that they were discouraged by the lime mixed with milk to make paints in earlier days.  Over time, especially after the decline in the use of milk paints, the idea gained currency that blue porch paints discourage bugs from nesting because they are fooled into thinking the porch blue is actually the sky.  (Of course, this notion does not take into consideration that bees and many other insects see light in the ultraviolet spectrum.)

          Will painting your porch ceilings haint blue chase away the ghosts? You'll just have to try it for yourself. But just in case, you might want to stock up on treats come October 31st. No telling what manner of determined critter might then just turn up on your veranda.

 
 
Pictures:
(Top) The historic George Fox home in Galveston, Texas, utilizing blue porch paint for ceilings and floors.  (The home has since undergone two different paint jobs, today also sporting the blue porch ceilings.)
(Bottom) "The Anchorage" in Beaufort County, South Carolina. Photo by Bill Fitzpatrick (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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