Thursday, January 26, 2012

something new - and something old

Buddha hand (a type of citron) is in season currently. I've always wanted to play with these things. They look so amazing and they smell wonderful. After doing a bit of digging, I also learned that Americans used to have a tradition of curing them as a pickle! In fact, did you know that watermelon rind pickles used to be made with the rind of something called a "citron melon"? And that pickled citron melon rind was called "American citron"?

Based on the recipes I could find for preserved citron (mostly from the 1800s), it seemed like I could just use the old watermelon rind pickle process and cure up some buddha hand. So! I salt cured it overnight...
then I brined it, but made some changes to the watermelon's vinegar pickle. This time, I used a mixture of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and distilled white vinegar, and for spices I used a bit of powdered ginger, along with cardamon pods, a few whole cloves, coriander and black mustard seed, and pink and black peppercorns - plus a touch of tumeric for that pretty yellow colour.
and voila! It actually looks a good deal like the watermelon rind pickles, doesn't it? Only these have a powerful lemony flavour.

What to do with preserved buddha hand? In about 10 months, I think I might commit to making my first real fruitcakes, with this citron, dried white turkish figs and apricots in them, wrapped in cheesecloth and fed with brandy and aged for a month before giving at the holidays.

I know, I know. Fruitcake has such a maligned place in American culture. We always loved it in our family - getting a fruitcake from my grandfather (or failing that, from one of the Oregon monasteries) was a highlight of the holiday. But then again, I grew up with the real stuff - no weird green artificial "citron" here, our fruitcakes were stuffed with real, recognizable fruits. Still, even with friends who (I think?) trust my baking chops, I don't think I'll be able to justify making more than just a few of these fruitcakes. I don't want to spend a month pouring brandy into something that might be thrown out before it is even tasted, you know?

What's your feeling on fruitcake? I know, we're kind of past the holidays now - but any other fruitcake lovers out there? Ever had an aged one? What did you think?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

handmade holidays: jokes among nerdy friends

Good guesses, Jen - it's actually David Garrick, the most famous of 18th Century English actors, renowned for his performances of Shakespeare (Garrick helped bring Shakespeare back *into* fashion after he had fallen out of vogue). The little card includes the portrait on which the monkey's outfit is based. Sent to a friend who just finished her phd (well done, your ladyship C!!), with a dissertation on theatre in 18th century England. I still owe her a pack of trading cards of Great Moustaches (spawned by our observation in a theory course we took together that all the great theorists and philosophers we were reading had really *unique* facial hair).

So. It's mid-January. And it's snowing here in Seattle. The U was closed for MLK Day yesterday; but I have no classes on Tuesdays, so it's officially a 4-day weekend for me. Which is nice; I've been feeling a bit sick after the MLA, as if all that stress and worry were finally expressing itself in the most drawn-out process of getting-sick that I've ever had. So I'm sitting here, watching the snow fall, hoping we do get those 5-10 (preferably 10!) inches that were a possibility in the forecast this morning, as I'd love to sleep in again tomorrow and sit here and drink another liter of hot tea and just rest. While Cass is at work, I'm listening to Christmas carols and stitching my first-ever alabama chanin reverse applique corset top (I have wanted one of these since high school, when I first learned about project alabama!) by hand. It's really nice. I think it counts as "resting" (for the sick) and it's doing wonders for my state of mind. I needed this. I really needed a good stretch of days (I find that four days of any particular activity/location/work is what it takes to kind of "reset" my brain) to actually be still, be worry-free, be nightmare-free, sleep in, contemplate the sky. Perhaps the snow is just the icing on the cake, but somehow, I feel like I needed it, too. It didn't feel much like the holidays around here this year, and I was willing to accept that and move on - but this weekend has actually gone a long way toward satisfying what I crave from the "holiday season."

Well. Back to it. Happy Tuesday, all. Back with pictures - hopefully soon - of the corset top. I've already done all the reverse applique. Now I'm adding embroidered "eyelets," to use Chanin's term, to the pieces before I sew it up. Two of eight panels done already. Hoping to have finished five by the end of today - though I suppose I have to get to some real work today as well. So long as it keeps snowing, I won't mind. =)