Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In defense of imports

Over at Not Dabbling in Normal, there's been a long discussion of "Things I'll never give up" vis a vis Eat Real Food.

But I'd like to go at that from a more positive framework, and defend the import of things that can't be grown in my climate.

Coffee. Chocolate. Cumin. Raisins (although jury's out on that one, as there's Illinois wine, so why not raisins?) Cinnamon. Pepper. Whatever is in Garam Masalla. Mahlepi (okay, that one can be grown here, but do you know how to process cherry pits for grinding? Not on my "things to learn" list.) Clementines and oranges. Avocados.

Every since Oog discovered that he had seashells and no copper, and Mook discovered that she had copper but no seashells, human beings have traded over long distances. There is archeological evidence of trade roots thousands of miles long well back in prehistory.

So while I am making every effort to buy locally those things that I can, and to stay seasonal (I've pretty much always been seasonal, it used to drive my kids crazy-- "Why can't we buy fresh strawberries in October again?") I'm not going to knock myself out trying to recreate an idyllic human past that never existed. I'll buy these things from local merchants, and fair trade where I can, but some things you just don't have to live without.

We live in a marvelously interconnected, technological world. Let's use that interconnectedness intelligently and still be able to eat cinnamon scones in northern Illinois.

Cinnamon scones
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
>1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1T cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup half-half or milk
1/2 cup sour cream, plain or vanilla yogurt
½ cup cinnamon raisins

For glaze:
¼ cup yogurt
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it has the consistency of corn meal. Mix together milk and sour cream in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and stir gently until well blended. (Overworking the dough results in terrible scones!)

To prepare raisins, plump raisins. Place in a microwaveable container, just cover with water and heat them in the microwave on medium for about 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry, then coat with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon suger. Mix these into the scone batter.

Glaze with yogurt mixed with cinnamon

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop batter by generous spoonfuls. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops are golden brown, not deep brown.

Clementine-Mint Marmalade, and clementine syrup
1 cup thin strips Clementine peel (about 4-6 fruits)
4 cups cold water
Pulp and juice of 10-12 clementines
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 cups boiling water
2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon mint extract

Peel the clementines, slice 4-6 peels into narrow strips (until you have about a cup). Hold onto the extra peels for the syrup. Remove seeds and white membrane from all the peeled fruit, dice. Set aside the diced pulp. (Again, conserve any leftovers for the syrup.) In a heavy saucepan, combine the sliced Clementine peel and cold water. Bring to a simmer, covered, over moderate heat; continue to simmer until peel is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the water into the saucepan with the membrane and other extras.

Combine cooked peel, diced fruit, lemon juice and boiling water. Add sugar and blend thoroughly. Quickly bring to a boil and cook until mixture is thick and reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes. Decant into sterilized jars.

For the syrup, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the extra peel, pulp and water. Bring to a boil and keep it on a high simmer for ten minutes. Drain the liquid into a separate pot, then strain or mill the solids into it to wring every bit of yummy liquid out of it. Bring this back to a high simmer, reducing it to 2 cups (about 10-15 more minutes).


  1. These all sound great, Xan! I almost made marmalade a few weeks ago but let the citrus get a little too old. So much for "waste not want not".

  2. The syrup, a total experiment, was especially delicious. Slightly bitter like marmalade (fantastic with vodka and tonic).

  3. Chocolate, TEA!!!!!, and certain German and English products not available here (Stollen, digestives, mushy peas, Flakey, and many more). Maybe my life shouldn't be so much about food, but it is and I get much joy from it. You do what you can locally and enjoy some of the things the rest of the world has to offer. Jeder wie er kann!

  4. Dragee Keksies!