Sunday, April 25, 2010

From Afar

It got cold again. I feel like I complain about this a lot, but it's rather striking the way it happens here. One day, t-shirt weather. The next day, full on wool winter jacket and scarf. We made churros and hot chocolate. I´ve never made churros before, but man what a great invention. They´re one of the cheapest, fastest, and most satisfying snacks I´ve had in awhile, especially coming in from miserable early-evening early-winter drizzle (I was not pleased with the situation, as if that wasn´t already abundantly clear.) I tried to buy a star-shaped pastry tip to make them with, but three stores told me that they were out and were expecting a shipment the next day. I should have known better, but I went back to check the next day (all three stores are more or less in between my work and my house). Suffice it to say, we made churros without the star tip.

They were great anyway.

Before it got cold, when it was still Indian summer-y (is that still an acceptable term?) we went out to Tigre for the day. Tigre is two things: a municipality and a river. The river goes through the municipality, and turns into a delta with lots of small islands, only accessible by boat or catamaran. A friend of mine lived alone on one of these islands for a 6 month period once, getting supplies from the floating stores that pass by. When the weather is nice, the riverbanks fill up with groups of people drinking mate and lying in the sun.

The train from Retiro, one of the main transit centers of Buenos Aires, takes about an hour. You start seeing sprawling country homes and greenery and you begin it would be great to live out much calmer, so much prettier...the commute´s not even that bad, I could handle it...which is a total lie. Tigre, and many of the neighborhoods leading up to it, is beautiful. But an extra hour and a half of sleep every morning...who am I kidding. And the crazy crowded commute on winter mornings? Tigre and I are going to have to remain lovers from afar.

And before it got cold I made peach jam, from a recipe from another lovely place far, far away-- Big Sur, California-- which experiences equally drastic weather changes except they happen daily, the second the sun sets. It´s lovely, lovely, not-too-sweet but very brightly peachy stuff. It will have to last me for awhile. I can only claim that churros are an adequate breakfast and/or merienda (afternoon snack) every so often, and I have a good 4 months to go.

Peach Jam
      adapted from Big Sur Bakery

1 c. (200 g.) sugar
zest and juice of 2 oranges
½ vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped, or 1 tsp. natural vanilla extract
4 c. ½ in. diced, peel-on, peaches (about 2 pounds whole)

In a medium size pot and using a wooden spoon, mix together the sugar, orange zest and juice, and vanilla bean and seeds. Place a candy thermometer in the pot and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes, until it reaches 220ºF. Add the peaches and boil, stirring occasionally, until the peaches turn into a thick jam and the thermometer returns to 220ºF, 35 to 45 minutes. If you don´t have a thermometer, you´ll know it´s almost ready when the jam begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. At that point keep stirring for another 5 min., making sure it doesn´t burn. Remove the vanilla bean. Transfer the jam into sanitized glass jars. Put their lids on and let cool. Store in the fridge, and eat for breakfast with bread and butter and a big bowl of cafe con leche. (If you want to keep them outside of the fridge, you need to follow the canning sterilization process.)

Mermelada de Durazno
      adaptado del Big Sur Bakery

1 taza (200 g.) de azúcar
la cascara rallada y el jugo de 2 naranjas
½ vaina de vainilla, partida por la mitad y con las semillas sacadas con un cuchillo, o 1 cucharita de extracto de vainilla natural
4 tazas de duraznos, en cuadritos de 1 cm., con cascara (aprox. 1 kilo)

En una olla mediana con una cuchara de palo, mezcla el azúcar, la cascara y el jugo de naranja, y la vainilla y sus semillas. Si lo tenes, coloca un termometro para golosinas en la olla, y ponla sobre un fuego mediano. Ponla a hervir por unos minutos, hasta que el termometro indique 105ºC. Écha los duraznos y deja la mezcla hervir, revolviendo cada tanto, hasta que se espese y se vuelva a una mermelada espesa, y el termometro vuelva a registrar 105ºC, 35-45 minutos. Si no tenes un termometro, cocinalo hasta que la mermelada empiece a pegar al fondo de la olla. Cuando ya haga esto, segui revolviendo constantamente durante 5 minutos mas. Quitala del fuego y transladala a dos tarros de vidrio sanitizados. Tapalos al vacío, espera que se enfrien. Guardale en la heladera, y come en el desayuno con pan y mantequilla y un pocillo grande de cafe con leche. (Si queres guardarlos afuera de la heladera, tenes que seguir el proceso de sanitización.)

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