Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Ponderosa Lemon

 When I was growing up in Arizona my father planted three "small" Ponderosa Lemon trees. He planted them to keep the neighbor's kids off the wooden fence that divided our properties. The "small" trees did the trick, because in no time at all those fragrant lemon branches were reaching as tall as the fence. The long thorns that lined the branches kept the neighbor's kids from scaling the fence. As the years went by the lemon trees flourish and produced the largest lemons of anyone around.

 The variety of Ponderosa Lemons has been around since the late 1800's. It is actually a hybrid of a lemon tree and a citron tree. The Ponderosa fruit is distinct by it's thick bumpy outside, plethora of internal seeds, and tart flavor. Despite all of these seemingly nasty attributes, however, this lemon makes the best lemonade! The trees produce hundreds of lemons, and the fruit unloads large amounts of juice. I just mix strained lemon juice with water and sugar. There is no particular quantity of ingredients. You just have to go with the taste of each batch!

Whenever we go to visit my parents in Arizona, my boys like to pick the lemons for a refreshing drink. Picking one at a time is taxing, so we end up shaking really hard. Of course there is some duck and cover action required for the shaking of the tree, but well worth the labor!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jamon Serrano & Jamon Iberico

 There is nothing more serious to the Spanish than their dried cured hams. There are entire stores on every corner dedicated to these meaty wonders. Museums dedicated to this delicacy. There are two types of cured ham; the more common Jamon Serrano & the expensive Jamon Iberico. The difference in the two hams is in the pig itself. The Serrano ham is made from a white pig. The Iberico ham is made from a free range pig that is fed upon acorns. The taste is more intense than the mild Serrano ham. Drying and curing Spanish ham has been in existence since the time of the Romans.

To cure the ham, the meat with bone still in is stacked and then covered in salt. It cures in a cool area for several days to draw out the moisture. After this process that ham is hung to completely dry in a drying shed that is in the cool mountains. Here they sit to cure for anywhere from 6 to 18 months.

To eat the ham the Spanish slice the meat razor thin. The full flavor is gained from doing this. They eat the ham on its own, paired with cheese and fruits, or on a sandwich. It makes a great snack, appetizer or meal.

 In many of the deli shops you can find small paper cones spilling with the ham to be eaten as a street food. Although it is difficult to find this delicacy in the United States there is an importer of the ham La Tienda is a Spanish Catalog devoted to bringing the finest of Spain cuisine right to your doorstep. So next time you are throwing a party or feeling adventurous, give the Spanish Jamon a try!

Friday, June 21, 2013

St. Paul de Vence

 On a recent trip abroad with my family, we decided to stop in Provence to enjoy another side of the fabulous French people. Rather than take in the normal Provencal cities, we gravitated to a small hillside town above the hustle and bustle of Nice. St. Paul de Vence sits towering on a hillside beckoning you to visit. Built in the middle ages, St. Paul officially became a town in 1388. It became a strong hold of the French Riviera with its fortified walls that surrounded the town. It is in fact the oldest medieval town on the Riviera.

 What impressed me about the little town, is the integrity to its historical roots is manicured nicely to the modern shops and art galleries. We did not find the tacky tourist souvenirs that one might find in some of the other towns. There were no products on the street, just nicely displayed windows. Doors opened so you could wander in and out of the stores with ease. The shop owners were kind and helpful. All the products in the stores were local and unique to the region of France. You did not have to worry about a retailer getting their goods from a third world country. The souvenirs were truly worth taking away from of St. Paul.

 I bought local jams, salts, and mustard that I would not have found here in the United States. I also bought lavender sachets tied up in the local Provencal cloth of the region. We did not have time to sit down and have a proper meal at a restaurant, but the smells emanating from the brasseries were divine! We did, however, find an ice cream store opened where we were able to enjoy the street life and cool weather. St. Paul de Vence is a must if you ever make it to the South of France!