December 4, 2013

Let’s Get Started

Good gawd! It’s rather horrifying to realize that Christmas is just three short weeks away! So all of those cooking projects I’ve got lined up need to begin. Pronto!

The first one to begin is Orangecello, which is a take-off on the traditional Italian drink, Lemoncello. It needs to sit for about a month to mellow, so I need to get going right this instant!image

7 medium navel oranges, preferably organic
1 (750ml) bottle vodka
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the oranges in long strips (reserve the oranges for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the orange peels; discard the pith. Put the orange peels in a 2-quart pitcher or large glass bowl. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the orange peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool, about 20 minutes. Pour the syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the orangecello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the orangecello to bottles. Seal the bottles up to 1 month, chill and drink.

If you can find some nice bottles, especially those with the swing tops, it makes a nice presentation.

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Another food present to give, or just have on hand is spiced nuts.image I know that there’s a pecan shortage this year, and they’re super expensive, but I am sure your friends are worth it! There are a million recipes for these, but I like the simplicity of tossing the nuts in a little melted butter and then sprinkling them with sea salt, and then putting them in the oven until you can just smell them.

This recipe is a little more complicated, but not much.


1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
3 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. In a small bowl beat the egg white with the water. Stir in the pecans, mixing until well moistened.
3. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Sprinkle over the moistened nuts. Spread nuts on prepared pan.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Be careful not to overcook and burn the nuts.

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Because citrus is so plentiful at this time of year, I also make Lemon Curd! It’s just lemon, sugar, eggs and butter, cooked lightly over a low heat. image

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 3/4 sticks (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

DIRECTIONS: Whisk together zest, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Add butter all at once and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 10 minutes. Immediately pour curd through a fine sieve into jars and cover immediately. It will keep in the fridge for a week after it’s opened.

I put it into my favourite Weck jars, which adds a little value to the present!

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Of course, Caramels are on the list of things to make. I am thinking of adding a splash of Crème de Menthe to the next batch I make. I didn’t think you could taste the Cointreau I used for the last batch. My friend Chad and I went through his liquor cabinet and figured out which liquors would work with caramels. We thought about Kahlua and Rum as two which would be good. I also figured out that putting the salt on the top of the caramels just doesn’t work, so I put a little salt on the waxed paper and then put the caramel on top and wrap it all together.

I’d love to expand my repertoire, so feel free to share any Christmas goodies that you make!


  1. I made several varieties of salted caramels last year and didn't have trouble with the salt sticking. I used a fairly large grain pink Hawaiian salt. I wouldn't think the salt would stick to the caramel during wrapping. What might work is putting the salt on the liner in the pan before pouring the hot caramel on top.

  2. Why do rum balls start with vanilla wafers? Would not any cookie suffice? I decided to pulverize chocolate covered walnuts for a batch. Or was it pecans...hmmmm. Anyway, If a reader suggests a great recipe for rum/bourbon balls please, share one for the holidays.

    1. They're called 'NIlla wafers now, because they don't have any vanilla in them. How sad.

  3. I make champagne mustard (will have to look up the recipe) + going to try to make the lemon curd..happy wednesday.

  4. Thumbs up for Spiced Pecans! Any combination of assorted nuts can be used and this is a treat that never disappoints.

    best, teaorwine

    1. You're right - I just always think of them with pecans.

  5. Wow, you're industrious! I'm too lazy for all this. I have relatives in Italy who make a phenomenal limoncello.


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