making fruit juice concentrate

fruit juice concentrate2

(I’m posting this Kitchen Help along with this one to prepare for a recipe I’ll be posting soon.)

Ever since I did a three-month fast from sugar (including maple syrup, honey, agave, and for the first two month, dried fruits), I haven’t had much desire to incorporate back into my diet. Not only did eliminating sugar eliminate a very annoying problem, I found it also drastically reduced my anxiety.

However, the challenge is finding new ways to sweeten recipes (which is why I enjoy this one so much). Fruit juice to the rescue!

White grape juice is especially sweet, but I’ve found it difficult to find it as a concentrate in the frozen foods section. Which leaves making my own. It’s a simple process and all you need is a little third grade math. It’s always best to use organic juices because of pesticides, but if your budget doesn’t allow for the splurge, use regular juice instead.

 

How to Make your own fruit juice concentrate

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1. Determine how much concentrate is require for your recipe and multiply by three. So if you need 1/2 cup of concentrate, you will need 1.5 cups of fruit juice.

2. Pour fruit juice into a pot and bring to a boil.

3. Simmer over medium-high heat until the liquid reduces by two-thirds. Therefore, if you started with 1.5 cups of juice, your goal is to boil away the water until you are left with 1/3 cup of concentrate.

4. Cool before using.

 

Notes:

(This really is an easy process but I share the following notes based on past experiencing of almost ruining a pot because I didn’t pay close attention as the juice was boiling.)

I recommend checking a few times during the reducing process to see how close you are to the desired concentrate amount as it’s easy to boil away too much water.  It’s best to pour the liquid into a metal measuring cup with a pie tin or other pot underneath it to catch any spilled liquid. If you need to further reduce the juice, simply pour all liquid back into the pan.

Watch the liquid carefully and stir occasionally, especially as the liquid approaches a concentrate since the sugars in the juice can burn.

I often will reduce a larger quantity of juice than my recipe calls for and will freeze the extra. However, reducing a larger quantity of juice takes longer and I suggest reducing the heat to medium low once your close to the concentrate stage to avoid burning the sugars in the juice.

 

 

toasting nuts

toasting nuts

I’ve burned many a thing in the kitchen either due to impatience or lack of attention…including my fingers.

And sometimes I forget to account for minor, yet important, details in recipes. Like roasted nuts.

Roasting brings out their flavor, adding new dimension to a recipe which is why it’s  a good idea to use roasted nuts when a recipe calls for them. To save time, you could buy pre-roasted nuts, but it often costs more to do so and it can be hard to find certain roasted nuts which are free of added salt and oil. Sooo…that leaves roasting them yourself.

Traditionally, nuts are roasted in the oven. When I’ve used this method, I found that it either took too long (and I was impatient because I forgot I needed to toast them in the first place) or I forgot about them and they burned.

Clearly, a new method was in order.

Ever since I started using the stove top to toast nuts, I’ve been pleased with the results. It’s quick and I’m less apt to forget about something that I can see. The following method is one I’ve used for almonds, pecans and walnuts and it takes less than five minutes. If you try other nuts or seeds (like pine nuts, sunflower or sesame seeds), you might need to adjust the cooking time.

5 steps for toasting nuts

1. Warm a pot over high heat.

2. Add nuts or seeds.

3. For the first minute or two, stir occasionally.

4. Once the nuts are fragrant, stir constantly until they are very fragrant (about another minute).*

5. Remove from heat and continue to stir for 30 second to 1 minute.

*Notes: If you’ve never toasted nuts before, you might want to stir frequently until you can tell (smell 🙂 ) the difference between slightly and very fragrant nuts. Rely on your eyes and nose more so than on the clock as nuts go very quickly from being delicately toasted to decidedly burnt.

Also, a pan with a thinner bottom will toast the nuts faster than a pan with a heavier bottom, such as a cast iron pan. So depending on the pan you use, cooking time may vary slightly.

keeping fresh herbs fresh

100_0574This cooking tip is one I learned from my mom.

Since a good number of my favorite lunch, dinner and dressing recipes call for fresh parsley and cilantro, but in smaller quantities than are available for purchase, I found I often was pitching copious slimy remains of unused herbs.

Mom to the rescue.

She suggested storing the herbs in a jar of water inside the fridge. It worked!

Now my herbs last one-two weeks, which gives me more time to use them up in recipes.

Since I still find I can’t use all the herbs before they wilt, my next goal it to explore how well they would keep in the freezer if I pesto them first and without using oil.