Entries from December 16th, 2010

Snow Dusting, and Snowflake Cookies

6

16.12.10

I complained a lot about last winter.  I really did.
In retrospect, I would take it all back.  That’s not to say that it hasn’t been horribly cold for the past few days.  The cold bites.  It chills me to the bone, and I walk to and from work every day.  But I’d take this, any day, over a DC summer.  I am elated to not be sweating in front of my air conditioner amidst extreme humidity (for four, arguably five, months).  I revel in actually needing my down comforter.  And I’m wild about snow.
But for as much as I love and appreciate winter, I’ve never been a huge fan of what we know as the “Christmas spirit.”  I grew up in one of those neighborhoods that over-decorates, and is ridden with cars and teenagers selling hot chocolate on the street, with children hanging out of SUV windows in gridlock as they drove by my parents’ minimally decorated ranch-style home.  I’m actually not a fan of Christmas decorations, most holiday songs, or shopping.  I shudder at the thought of buying a Christmas tree as a young adult, for which my friends call me a Grinch.  But the holidays are worth so much more — spending time with the people you care about, and new beginnings.  Well, maybe the new beginnings aspect is unique from my perspective, considering it was around the holiday season last year when I began to feel settled in Washington.  The holidays are about what cold weather makes us want to do: stay warm, inside, with our friends and family.

While I was in college, my family decided to cut back on the presents aspect of Christmas.  For the young kids, it was okay to get gifts upon gifts, but for the adults, it was pointless and just too extravagant.  We set a $10 limit on Christmas presents, which basically turned the Gerrity Christmases into giant wine exchanges (fine by me).  Even with the little kids, the big presents never seemed to be their favorites; a couple of years ago, I bought my little brother, who is now six years old, a blinking red reindeer nose.  It cost me two dollars, and won the prize for best gift overall.  Kevin refused to take off the nose for days and days after Christmas, which keeps reminding me that gift-giving isn’t about getting what you want — it’s about finding ways to make the people around you feel loved.
Yesterday, we got a little bit of snow in Washington.  Nothing big, just a little dusting.  I was in my kitchen, of course, when I noticed it outside — the light pollution in my neighborhood gives the sky a seductive violet glow, and the falling snow just settles itself onto the balcony, the railing, and my bike.  With the clothes dryer and the oven going, our window panes fog up along the ceiling.  It was just charming. 

Since this is just my second winter, I stood in my kitchen and compared it to last winter.  And after I baked these snowflake cookies, I watched the snow fall outside my bedroom window as I read a book.  I felt at home.  Winter is finally here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Bacon… jam?

9

01.12.10

Types of jams in my life:

  • Traffic jams. Street or shopping-related.
  • Copier jams. Bane of my professional existence.
  • Jammin’. A cookie rager without Ke$ha or Cee Lo?  Blasphemous.
  • Jammed. As in my schedule. I don’t have time for anything these days…

And now, bacon jam. To tell the truth, I actually don’t even like bacon. Well, I only really enjoy bacon over French toast, doused in maple syrup… which I haven’t eaten in years. Years! But even then, I’d order turkey sausage over bacon any day. Hmm… just thinking about this makes me want to cook a French toast breakfast — a real one, where you soak thick slices of homemade brioche overnight in eggs and vanilla, and then, rather than ruin it with fake maple syrup, top it with confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, and strawberries. Gah! I’ve gotten so off-track. And I’m revealing potential blog posts. Where’s the fun in that? Back to bacon.

The idea came from gchat (where all good ideas begin). My snickerdoodle recipe source, who has since moved back to California – so lame, I know – suggested doing our own cookie exchange. He and I also happen to be members of a bacon list-serve, started by another college friend. [Side note: to this day, I can’t remember how I became swallowed by the bacon- thread, but it’s entertaining, ridiculous, and a great way to keep in touch with those friends, so the carnivorous anti-kosher thread continues to feed the black hole also known as my inbox.]  Interestingly enough, Martha highlighted bacon recipes in one of her magazines last month. The only one that looked remotely appealing to me happened to be the one about bacon jam, probably because it involved maple syrup. As you can imagine, the combination of these three things – gchat cookie exchange conversation, bacon list-serve, and Martha’s recipe – fell perfectly into place.

But really, few things are more disgusting to me than frying bacon. The smell, sight, and texture of it trigger gag reflexes. Seriously. Just editing the pre-jam bacon photos made me feel sick to my stomach. I was also about one-hundred percent positive that I would be disgusted by the jam, and that I’d happily jar it and send it across the country. And then leave all the windows and doors open to air out the house as soon as scientifically possible.

I apologize to bacon-lovers out there for the bacon-bashing. But it’s how I truly feel; I don’t choose to be this way. I’m sure you feel the same about something that I may very well love (possibly goose liver pate or something from the spectrum of Filipino food).

Anyway, as shocked as I was, the jam turned out to be quite delicious. As in, I had to scrape up every last bit of self control to keep myself from going to town on the jam with a spoon.

Patrick, you are so welcome.

WHAT YOU NEED (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food):

2 lbs. lean bacon

1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced

2 to 3 cloves of peeled garlic, quartered
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¼ cup white vinegar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 cup brewed coffee

1 teaspoon cinnamon

WHAT TO DO:

Martha called for a slow cooker. I don’t have one of those, so I improvised. I also didn’t have cider vinegar, which I’m sure would have been great, but I improvised and changed quantities, and added some cinnamon.

First, slice the bacon into one-inch strips. Yes, all of the raw bacon. Usually, I’m slightly perturbed by the texture of raw meat. I might just be scarred from man-handling raw chicken livers. But the bacon was harmless, and somewhat satisfying. Bacon fat is not nearly as gooey as other types of meat – perhaps because of the curing process.

Anyway, slice up the bacon, and fry it in a large skillet until browned. Remove from heat, and let the bacon pieces cool down on a few paper towels. There’s no need for unnecessary grease when you’re going to be simmering bacon in a vat of syrup.

In a medium-sized saucepan, take 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease, and combine with the diced onions and the garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Then, combine the vinegar, sugar, syrup, coffee, and cinnamon. Heat on high until the sugar dissolves, and the solution boils. Add the bacon pieces into the pot. Stir, cover, and simmer on very low heat for 3 to four hours, until the mixture is syrupy. Then, remove from heat, let cool, and pulse grind in a food processor. Taste, then jar, then ship to California.

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